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The historic discovery of the Birmingham Qur’an manuscript formed the centrepiece of a special digital exhibition in the United Arab Emirates attended by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The four leaves of parchment, discovered last year to date close to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, attracted visitors to the University from around the world when they were put on display.

As part of the launch of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Cultural Collaboration at Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain, the Prince of Wales presented an exclusive copy of the Birmingham Qur’an manuscript, printed on vellum, to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

In a written foreword for The Ancient Qur’anic Leaves exhibition catalogue, the Prince of Wales said: ‘As the British Patron of UK/UAE 2017, I could not be more delighted that a digital version of the extraordinary Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is being exhibited in the United Arab Emirates as a centrepiece of the year’s events.

‘These remarkable leaves, which are amongst the world’s oldest Qur’anic fragments, represent a sacred document of immense religious and cultural significance to people across the globe.

‘At a time when so much of mankind’s cultural heritage is being deliberately destroyed or threatened, we can only be heartened by the discovery of a previously unrecognised treasure.’

Radiocarbon analysis of the parchment leaves dates the text to the period 568-645 with 95.4% accuracy, leading experts to conclude that the manuscript was among the earliest written textual evidence of the Islamic holy book known to survive.

The manuscript is part of the University’s Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, held in the Cadbury Research Library. The collection was funded by Quaker philanthropist Edward Cadbury to raise the status of Birmingham as an intellectual centre for religious studies.