By Nick Hallett
Fragments of an early Koran found in a Birmingham library may rewrite Islamic history after carbon dating revealed they could be older than Mohammed.
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.
Some academics now say that the impact of the text could be comparable to finding a copy of the Gospels dating back to before the time of Christ.
Historian Tom Holland told the Sunday Times that evidence was now mounting that traditional accounts of Islam’s origins are wrong.
“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 historicity of Muhammad and the Companions [his followers],” he said
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