Birmingham Qur'an: digital exhibition in Abu Dhabi for first time

Birmingham Qur'an exhibition at Sharjah International Book Fair

The University of Birmingham continues the UAE tour of its major interactive digital exhibition telling the fascinating story of the Birmingham Qur’an to Abu Dhabi for the first time.

The exhibition takes place at Umm Al Emarat Park, Abu Dhabi, from 20 to 29 November and will move to Atrium 6 at D3 in Dubai’s Design District from 19 April to 3 May 2018.

More than 14,000 people visited the exhibition earlier this month at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), where they explored the manuscript in digital form as well as viewing a detailed replica of the holy script.

One of the oldest surviving Islamic manuscripts, the Birmingham Qur’an is considered a global treasure. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, viewed the exhibition in Sharjah after chairing an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at SIBF where the UK is Guest of Honour in celebration of the UK UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration.

His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, The Ruler of Sharjah and Member of the UAE Supreme Council visited the exhibition with Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, as part of the opening of SIBF.

The Birmingham Qur’an exhibition forms a highlight of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration, held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales.

The University of Birmingham is working closely with the British Council and the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development as strategic partner to bring the unique exhibition to the UAE.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is of huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic study of Islam. We are immensely proud to host such a treasure at the University of Birmingham.

“Following the success of this interactive digital exhibition in Sharjah, where it was visited by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and thousands of people, we are honoured to offer the people of Abu Dhabi an opportunity to find out more about this extraordinary manuscript.

"Together with the development of our campus in Dubai, this exhibition symbolizes the University’s deep commitment to working with partners in UAE to enhance academic opportunities and cultural understanding.”

Immersive exhibition soundtrack

Electro-acoustic music experts at the University combined a choir of Quranic recitation with sounds inspired by the night sky at the first encounter between Prophet Mohammad and angel Jibreel into the exhibition’s soundtrack.

Researchers Tasawar Bashir and Scott Wilson used a piece of specialist computer software to discover what the night sky would have looked like on 24 August 610. They then turned the brightest elements of the firmament into the music that now accompanies the Birmingham Qur’an digital exhibition. Certain Maqqata’at and verse 109 from Surah Al Kahf are referenced throughout this work – entitled ‘The Revelation’.

Calligraphy workshops for children

The exhibition features a range of Birmingham Qur’an-related education activities for young people, including exhibition tours. In Abu Dhabi, there will be free creative workshops for young visitors, aged eight to 18, who can join calligraphy workshops led by Narjes Nourreddine and Bassem Zbeeb from Gallery Arabesque. Schools can email to book places.

Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections at the Cadbury Research Library, said: “This excellent free workshop will allow children to learn how to produce calligraphy similar to that found in the Birmingham Qur’an and other ancient manuscripts. Students will also learn more about the University’s Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts and their relevance to the 21st century. The workshops promise to be a valuable complement to a fascinating and ‘hands-on’ exhibition.”

Free online course about the Birmingham Qur’an

It will also be possible for people to discover the story behind the treasured manuscript, thanks to an innovative and free online course developed by the team looking after the manuscript at the University’s Cadbury Research Library.

The four-week course, ‘The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands’ is now open for registration and begins on 20 November 2017. Visit the website for more information. Topics covered include:

  • How the manuscript came to the University of Birmingham.
  • How the Birmingham Qur’an relates to development of the Arabic written tradition
  • The Arts of Qur’an manuscripts and Islamic manuscript culture
  • Conservation and care of historic manuscripts
  • The value of primary historic sources as a valuable resource for research
  • Other historic manuscripts of the Mingana collection
  • The ethics of collecting from different cultures

This course is designed for anyone who has an interest in the history of religious texts, the study of Islam, manuscript culture, Islamic arts, how historic collections are cared for, and their value for research.

Participants will learn with experts including Susan Worrall, Director of Special Collections; Neelam Hussain, Curator of The Mingana Collection of Islamic Arabic Manuscripts; Sarah Kilroy, Head of Conservation; Robin Johnson, Education Consultant and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

The digital exhibition was a key feature of the launch of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Cultural Collaboration, in November 2017, when their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain.

ENDS

For more information, please contact: Samantha Dancy, Footstep Communications on 055 5711006, 

Listen to the exhibition soundtrack.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. Founded in 1900, it was England’s first civic university, where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis.
  • The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is a remarkable fragment of history. Part of the University’s Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, it consists of two leaves containing parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20 and dates back to the seventh century. It is written in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script.
  • UK/UAE 2017 is a year of creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, organised by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for education and culture, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales. The purpose of UK/UAE 2017 is to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the UK and the UAE, giving it greater focus, depth and contemporary relevance. 
  • The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year it reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. It makes a positive contribution to the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 it is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. It receives 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.