Scientists at the University of Oxford had already revealed that the parchment was among the oldest known Koranic texts in the world, but now several historians say it could be so old that it pre-dates the Muslim prophet, thus contradicting traditional accounts of his life and radically altering “the edifice of Islamic tradition.” The dating reveals the text to have been written between AD568 and 645, while the dates of Mohammed’s life are traditionally given as AD570 to 632.
This means that at the very latest it was written before the first formal texts were supposed to have been collated, and at the earliest it was written before or shortly after Mohammed was born.
Radiocarbon dating carried out in July found the fragments to be at least 1,370-years-old, raising the possibility it could be the oldest copy of the Islamic holy book in existence.
Now Jamal bin Huwareib, managing director of the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Islamic studies, has suggested that such an early document could only have been commissioned by a very small number of people – the most likely of them being Abu Bakr.
The authorities in Saudi Arabia have begun dismantling some of the oldest sections of Islam’s most important mosque as part of a highly controversial multi-billion pound expansion.
The timing of his tour has been criticised by human rights campaigners after the Saudis shot seven men in public earlier this week despite major concerns about their trial and the fact that some of the men were juveniles at the time of their alleged crimes.
The age of the Birmingham Koran means it is likely to have been created in Islam’s very earliest years, when the world’s global Muslim population was only in the low hundreds.
“I believe this is the Koran of Abu Bakr,” Mr bin Huwareib told BBC News, adding: “It's the most important discovery ever for the Muslim world," The quality of the Birmingham Koran’s parchment and handwriting suggests the 200-leaf document could only have been created for an incredibly important figure, he said.
Many of the Ottoman and Abbasid columns in Mecca were inscribed with intricate Arabic calligraphy marking the names of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions and key moments in his life.
One column which is believed to have been ripped down is supposed to mark the spot where Muslims believe Muhammad began his heavenly journey on a winged horse, which took him to Jerusalem and heaven in a single night.