By Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan
In July of 2015 the University of Birmingham England has announced it has one of the oldest manuscripts of The Qur’an. Ever since this discovery there have been several articles and viewpoints ranging from the authenticity of document to the nostalgic reaction by the Muslim community.
Some even question the origin of this manuscript and how did it suddenly surfaced in the least expected of places; The University of Birmingham.
According to the University the manuscript is part of the “Mingana Collection”. Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean (branch of Christianity) priest who was born near Mosul, Iraq, but settled in England had donated this manuscript almost a century ago among other Middle Eastern manuscripts to the Birmingham University. It was misbound in other Quranic manuscripts which were of later dates until recently when a PhD student discovered that these two pages in question were, in fact, of earlier dates.
So after a detailed carbon test it was concluded that the student’s opinion was correct and the parchment was dated to between 568 and 645 CE and that the result was more than 95% accurate. At the same time one must bear in mind that Prophet Muhammad (SAS) lived between 570 and 632 CE and that he received revelations between 610 and 632 CE. Given the margin of error, the dates were quite consistent that these manuscripts were, in reality, either during the time of Muhammad SAS or shortly after his death.
Almost immediately after this news surfaced some sceptics pounced on the notion that these chapters were revealed much earlier and that Muhammad SAS copied them and added to “his collections of revelations” claiming that they were from God. In today’s term it is called plagiarism.
Nothing could be further from the truth than this reckless erroneous statement. In fact, anyone who has a little knowledge of Qur’an’s revelation would not say anything near to that. Do these sceptics think that Muslims had to wait for 1436 years for a carbon test to determine the authenticity of The Qur’an?
Quite on the contrary, every word that was revealed to Muhammad SAS was dissected by the disbelieving Quraish whose language and eloquence of the Arabic Language and poetry were unrivaled. They did not only reject his message out of their arrogance but they made several attempts to assassinate him. They engaged in several battles against him to stop this message to spread particularly when they realized that he could not have authored this Qur’an and indeed it was coming from The Almighty whom they reject.
So the question is: Does anyone think in his rightful mind that these Surahs (Chapters) were revealed before Muhammad’s time and only he knew about them and the pagan Quraish would be silent about that? Let alone he could not read nor write!
If they only had the slightest inkling that he got it from other sources it would have been their heyday of pride and arrogance and would have such solid proof to condemn him that the Makkans and Arab tribes would have run away from him almost immediately. As a little side note here, the manuscript contained part of chapter 20 which was the very portion that Umar, the Second Caliph, read and immediately became a Muslim while he was on his mad rage to assassinate Muhammad SAS.
The Qur’an’s authenticity is not the responsibility of any man. It is the responsibility of The Creator Himself and He says in The Qur’an 15:9 “Surely We revealed the Message, and We will surely preserve it”. From the very beginning The Qur’an was put to memory while simultaneously the writing was done on parchment, tree bark and even on animal bones. By 650 CE the parchments and other writing materials were collected and put into a book form as we know it today and later the invention of vowel-signs of diacritic points were added to distinguish similarly formed consonants.
While this article is not meant to list all the proofs and details of its authenticity suffice to say that after 1400 years no one has ever produced a Qur’an like unto this. Allah SWT challenges all mankind in a timeless manner:
Say: “If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” [Qur’an 17:88]
How about ten chapters:
Or they say, “He (Prophet Muhammad(P)) forged it (the Qur’an).” Say: “Bring you then ten forged surah (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!” [Qur’an 11:13]
Then at least ONE chapter:
Or do they say: “He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it?” Say: “Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!” [Qur’an 10:37-38]
Why would anyone make such a claim if he’s forging it? The fact is that yes Muslims are happy that a manuscript can surface after 1400 years and give added evidence of The Qur’an’s authenticity. But really The Qur’an itself stands as evidence of its authenticity and inimitability. As Muslims we don’t want 95.4% degree of accuracy to hold firm to our Scripture we already have 100% of certainty.
Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan is a graduate of The Islamic University Madinah, faculty of Shari’ah, specializing in Islamic Inheritance. He is a graduate of The University of Guyana in English and holds a Diploma of Education. Shaykh Khan is the former principal of the Guyana Islamic Institute, a position that he held for a period of eight years. He is the Imam and head of Islamic Studies at the Muslim Community Center of Greater Rockford, Illinois. Shaykh currently directs the national ICNA Tarbiyah Department. He is actively involved in the field of Da’wah (Religious Dialogue). Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan is the Chairman of ICNA Shari’ah Council and an executive member of the Fiqh Council of North America.