Muslims Reject Claims that Quran Predated Prophet

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SHAFAQNA - Claims by scientists at the University of Oxford that the copy of holy Quran discovered in Birmingham last month predates Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been widely rejected by Muslim scholars, who questioned the accuracy of historians’ numbers.

“We already know from our sources that the Koran was a closed text very early on in Islam, and these discoveries only attest to the accuracy of these sources,” Shady Hekmat Nasser, from the University of Cambridge, told The Times on Monday, August 31.

Last month, fragments of what is thought to be the world’s oldest Quran was found in the University of Birmingham, with experts saying the manuscripts date back to the era of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),  some 1370 years ago.

The announcement followed radiocarbon analysis which proved that it was written in the period between 568CE and 645CE, with 95.4% accuracy.

The unique copy will be examined by the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) in Istanbul to verify its actual date.

While many hailed the discovery as a confirmation that the Quran had been faithfully preserved for more than 1,350 years, some historians sparked fresh debates by claiming that the parchment appears to be so old that it contradicts most accounts of the Prophet’s life and legacy.

According to their claims, the Birmingham Quran was produced between AD 568 and AD 645, while the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was from AD 570 to AD 632.

Tom Holland, the historian and author of In The Shadow of the Sword, said evidence was mounting that traditional accounts of Islam’s origins were unreliable or even wrong.

“It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged — and that in turn has implications for the historicity of Mohammed and the Companions [his followers],” Holland said.

Not Accurate

Confessing that the carbon dating was not always reliable, Keith Small, from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, said that dates announced last month applied not to the ink but to the parchment.

The provenance of the text is also unclear and its calligraphic script is characteristic of later inscriptions.

“If the [radio carbon] dates apply to the parchment and the ink, and the dates across the entire range apply, then the Qur’an — or at least portions of it — predates Mohammed, and moves back the years that an Arabic literary culture is in place well into the 500s,” Dr Small said.

Questions surrounding that accuracy of the carbon analysis were raised earlier by Saudi and Turkish scientists.

Saudi scholars and archaeologists refuted Birmingham claims about discovering the Quran oldest copy, asserting that the red ink used to separate between chapters was not used during the era of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Therefore, they suggested that the manuscript might possibly be from the time of Othman Bin Affan who became Caliph many years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Halit Eren, General Director of the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), raised similar concerns.

Mustafa Shah, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, in London, said it was important to be wary of revisionist claims.

“If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Quran’s origins,” he said.

The Quran is a revelation from God, the creator of the worlds, so He is the original author.

There is only one Qur’an which is in Arabic, with many of its translations in several languages.

There could be multiple translations by different authors in the same language such as English.

The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through the archangel Gabriel who helped the Prophet memorize the Quran, as reported in several authentic Hadith narrations.

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