A fragment of a Qur’an in the University Library may be dated back to the 7th century
Experts have recently studied three samples of a fragment of a Qur’an, which has been in the University Library in Tübingen since the end of the 19th century. Their conclusion is that the parchment with a 95.4% statistical probability can be dated to the period between Ad 649 -675. It thus seems to have been written 20 – 40 years after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Such an early date is really a world record. The date has been established through modern C14 – radiocarbon – analysis at a lab in Zürich.
The study has been undertaken in connection with a wider research project funded by the German Research Society (DGF) and the corresponding French institution: Agence National de la recherché (ANR). The project aims to study the Qur’an as a material object. Focus is – apart from technical studies like these – on palaeographic analysis.
The Tubingen manuscript with the signature Ma VI 165 belongs to a collection of more than 20 Qur’an fragments in the holdings of the University Library: The parchments are inscribed in Kufic script, one of the oldest forms of writing of Arabic. The handwriting had attracted the attention of scientists because of its characteristic style and format. It is characterised as a very early script variant (ḥiǧāzī); however, the dimensions of the letters are quite small in comparison to what is common in other early manuscripts. Hence the very early date has surprised the experts. Another early manuscript is the so-called Sana’n-fragment, which has been determined too be earlier than AD 671.