Quran fragments at University of Birmingham: Manuscript from the time of Muhammad discovered.

Ph.D. Student in England Finds Quran Fragments From the Time of Muhammad

Ph.D. Student in England Finds Quran Fragments From the Time of Muhammad

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July 22 2015 1:20 PM

Ph.D. Student in England Finds Quran Fragments From the Time of Muhammad

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A Quran mauscript from the University of Birmingham is said to be from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in England said Wednesday that they had discovered part of what is likely one of the world’s oldest manuscripts of the Quran. The fragment is said to be at least 1,370 years old, which would mean it was written within a few years of the founding of Islam. As David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham told the BBC, it is likely that the author would have known the Prophet Muhammad.

A Ph.D. student, Alba Fedeli, discovered the pages when, according to the New York Times, she noticed that the calligraphy was different than the other pages with which it was bound.* The two parchment leaves that were found contain parts of surahs 18 to 20. The university had them radiocarbon dated and determined that they are from the period between 568 and 645. 

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While it’s always exciting for researches to find previously unknown manuscripts, this one has particular significance in a longstanding debate among Muslims. Many believe that the Quran was completed by the time Muhammad died in 632, while others argue it was expanded upon in the century after his death. According to Professor Thomas, the text of the fragments correspond closely with the text of today’s Quran, which would likely support those who believe the holy text was completed by the time the prophet died.

Correction, July 22, 2015: This post originaly misidentified the Ph.D. student who discovered the pages of the Quran as male. She is female. The post has been updated to include her name, Alba Fedeli.

Miriam Krule is a former Slate assistant editor.