One of the main arguments against the Qur’anic historicity has ‘traditionally’ (orientalism-ally speaking) meant that for a long while the earliest extant copy of the Qur’an was Uthmanic. And this was wrapped up (negatively) in the supposed ‘politics’ of the Uthmanic time period or thereafter. The claims, therefore, were that the Qur’an we currently possessed did not correspond to the one from the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, the Qur’anic manuscript found in Birmingham has revised that old fossil of a critique.
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
When the Birmingham Qur’an discovery occurred, some responses were:
1) Dr Bart Ehrman:
Excerpt: “Those of you who follow the news have heard that a truly great manuscript discovery has been made public this week, coming out of the University of Birmingham, England…
It turns out that there is a 95% chance that these pages were produced between 568 and 645 CE. How good is that? The prophet Mohammed, who (in traditional Islamic teaching) was responsible for producing the Qur’an was engaged in his active ministry in 610-632 CE. These pages may have been produced during his lifetime or in a decade or so later.
In case anyone is missing the significance of that, here is a comparison. The first time we have any two-page manuscript fragment of the New Testament is from around the year 200 CE. That’s 170 years after Jesus’ death in 30 CE…
My historical question is this. If these pages of the Qur’an do indeed show that the text of the Qur’an is virtually the same in, say 630-40 CE as it is in 1630-40 as it is in 2015, that would suggest that Muslims are indeed correct that at least in some circles… scribes of the Qur’an simply didn’t change it. The made sure they copied it the same, every time, word for word…
And so back to my question. If Muslim scholars over the centuries – from the very beginning – made dead sure that when they copied their sacred text they didn’t change anything, why didn’t Christian scribes do the same thing???…
Christian scribes did not do the same thing. We have many thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament. They all have mistakes in them. Lots of accidental mistakes (hundreds of thousands) from times that scribes were inept, inattentive, sleepy, or otherwise careless; and even lots of mistakes that appear to be places that scribes altered the text to make them say something other than what it originally said.
You don’t appear to get that with the Qur’an…” LEARN MORE >
Isn’t it just the parchment that’s been dated, not the ink? Is there any reason to think that the writing is also old?
Yes, that’s right, just the parchment has been dated. It is very difficult to test the ink on such documents, because to do so requires you to destroy the ink! And it takes a good bit of it to be enough to be checked. So in theory the parchment could be from the 7th century, but the ink from, say, the 14th.
But in the judgment of most experts that would be highly unlikely… So more than likely the date of the parchment is pretty close to the date of the writing on it. As with all history, of course, this is simply a matter of probabilities, not certainties.” LEARN MORE >
2) Dr Jonathan Brown
Excerpt: “So, Holland makes a proposition: we should accept that, sometime within, and only within, the period between 568 and 610 CE pieces of parchment were produced from animal skin and then immediately used to write the text of the Quran, word for word as it would be adopted by Muslims decades later, along with verse and chapters divisions, which Muslims would then forget about when they issued their own official versions of the Quran (no doubt to cover of their reliance on earlier material). This would result in a startling, revolutionary scholarly discovery: the Quran actually predates the career of Muhammad!
I have another proposition, one that I think requires fewer leaps of faith: that pieces of parchment were produced from animal skin sometime between 568 and 645 CE, probably later rather than earlier, and that sometime in the decades after the Prophet’s death in around 632, after the chapter and verse divisions of the Quran had been to be formalized and written down in copies of the holy book, someone used these pieces of parchment to write down a copy of the Quran. This would involve absolutely no interesting scholarly development. It would mean that the Quran, which Western scholars have long generally held dates from around the time of the Prophet and certainly before 692 CE.
I think this is a much more reasonable proposition. Unless… the Quran comes from the future…” LEARN MORE >
3) Inayat Bangawala
Excerpt: “Back in the late 1970’s, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (who both went on to occupy prestigious roles at Princeton University) published a book called Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, which called for a radical revision of the traditional Muslim narrative and insisted that the Qur’an took shape in the 8th century to fulfil a need of the growing Arab empire. The authors claimed at the time that “…There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century…”
Well, as it happens, Crone (who passed away earlier this month) later changed her mind about this as evidence began to accrue that supported the Muslim narrative, but the revisionists’ influence continues to be felt…
It was only over 300 pages into [Holland’s] book that you found out Holland’s actual conclusion about the Qur’an:
“The text of the Qur’an itself does seem to derive authentically from the Prophet’s lifetime…it is true, the Qur’an records a very specific moment in history: a moment that internal evidence, as well as tradition, identifies with the early decades of the seventh Christian century.” (p310-315)
So, after that intriguing build up, we were told that the Muslim narrative about the history of the Qur’an was accurate.
Interestingly, Tom Holland did not mention this rather vital fact in his C4 documentary. Why not? This was surely important and relevant in a documentary seeking to look at the historical foundations of Islam?…
Personally, I can’t help but feel that the more likely reason Holland did not mention this was because it would have severely undermined his entire thesis for the C4 documentary.” LEARN MORE >
Excerpt: “…There is a peculiar story published in The Times claiming that the Birmingham fragments “may predate the Prophet Muhammad” thereby calling into question the entire traditional account of the history of the Qur’an and Islam. By all accounts, this is a very serious claim, but what is the evidence behind these claims? Let’s take a look…
The straw the two historians appear to clutch at is that the earliest date in that range (568 CE) is just before the Prophet Muhammad was said to have been born (circa 570 CE). However, carbon dating is not an exact science which is why a range of dates is almost always presented by scientists when using the method to date objects. Secondly, the dating is of the parchment not the actual text of the Qur’an it contains. The parchment is logically bound to have been produced prior to the ink being written on it.
So, the story is really a non-story.” LEARN MORE >
4) The Muslim Debate Initiative
Excerpt: “Tom Holland’s ‘opinion’ (as a Greco-Roman history scholar?!) was then sought by many UK media sources, for his comment on this – to which (reading from the same news sources available to everyone else) he used this apparent result to claim that the Quran pre-dated Muhammed (saaw)! His first documentary claimed that Islam came after Arab conquests, then he argues that ‘Islam’ came before Muhammed (saaw)! Apparently, he wants Islam to come anytime the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) wasn’t around!” LEARN MORE >
5) The Birmingham Qur’an may Have Belonged to Abu Bakr (May Allah be Pleased with Him)
- BBC: Birminhgam’s Ancient Koran History Revealed
- The Independent: Ancient Koran Found at Birmingham University May Have Belonged to Prophet Muhammad’s Friend Abu Bakr
6) Further Information
- A: Is the Original Qur’an Preserved?
Interviewing: Dr Joseph E. B. Lumbard, Professor at The American University of Sharjah in the Department of Arabic and Translation Studies
- B: The Sana’a Manuscript
Some detailed conclusions after uncovering the Sana’a manuscripts:
7) The Old Arguments against the Qur’an is eloquently charted here:
The qur’an has been preserved in the way Muslims have always claimed (which has been empirically, scientifically, rationally, logically proven).
Those that insist – despite the rigorous and extensive evidence – that there must have been some ‘other’ history – base their entire project on obstinate and insistent distrust (which necessarily makes their project unempirical, unscientific, emotional and illogical). But these are just my words. We should let the evidence speak for themselves. But are you even listening?
سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين
Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.