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Scholars catch up to Robert Spencer, realize ancient Qur’an challenges Islam’s origins

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This is big international news today — but my colleague Robert Spencer was saying it over a month ago.

Oldest Quran 2

“Scholars catch up to Spencer, realize ancient Qur’an challenges Islam’s origins,” by Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, August 31, 2015:

“Fragments of the world’s oldest Koran, found in Birmingham last month, may predate the Prophet Muhammad and could even rewrite the early history of Islam, according to scholars.” That’s the lead paragraph of the story below, which is dated today. The implication is that the text existed before it became part of the Qur’an — which would completely demolish the Islamic claim that the Qur’an was delivered in perfect form through Gabriel from Allah to Muhammad, and wasn’t based on any source texts at all.

On July 22, I wrote this about the same Qur’an manuscript: “So if this is a fragment of the Qur’an as it now stands…and yet it could date from as far back as 568, two years before Muhammad is supposed to have been born, it might not be a fragment of the Qur’an at all. It could instead be a portion of some source that later became part of the Qur’an…”

On July 27, I wrote that “this could be a portion of a pre-Islamic source for the Qur’an.”

Glad to see the academics catching up.

birmingham quran

“The ‘Birmingham Koran’ fragment that could shake Islam after carbon-dating suggests it is OLDER than the Prophet Muhammad,” by Jennifer Newton, MailOnline, August 31, 2015 (thanks to all who sent this in):

Fragments of the world’s oldest Koran, found in Birmingham last month, may predate the Prophet Muhammad and could even rewrite the early history of Islam, according to scholars.

The pages, thought to be between 1,448 and 1,371 years old, were discovered bound within the pages of another Koran from the late seventh century at the library of the University of Birmingham.

Written in ink in an early form of Arabic script on parchment made from animal skin, the pages contain parts of the Suras, or chapters, 18 to 20, which may have been written by someone who actually knew the Prophet Muhammad – founder of the Islamic faith.

The pages were carbon-dated by experts at the University of Oxford, a process which showed the Islamic holy book manuscript could be the oldest Koran in the world.

The discovery was said to be particularly significant as in the early years of Islam, the Koran was thought to have been memorised and passed down orally rather written.

But now several historians have said that the parchment might even predate Muhammad.

It is believed that the Birmingham Koran was produced between 568AD and 645AD, while the dates usually given for Muhammad are between 570AD and 632AD.

Historian Tom Holland, told the Times: ‘It destabilises, 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 history of Muhammad and the Companions.’

Keith Small, from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, added: ‘This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran’s genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven….

Or alternatively, some other individual or group used texts that were already in existence and shaped them to fit their own political and theological agenda, as I show in Did Muhammad Exist.

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