One of the earliest surviving copies of the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, is displayed in the Faith in Birmingham Gallery. Known as the Birmingham Qur’an
, it is a globally important manuscript. The animal skin, or parchment, on which the text is written, has been dated through radiocarbon to the period between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4% accuracy. This result places the manuscript pages close to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him), who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.
Consisting of two pages, or leaves, the Qur’an manuscript contains parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20. These are written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi. Named after the region of Hijaz, in western Arabia, this type of writing developed in an area that encompasses the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The Birmingham Qur’an was brought from the Middle East in the 1930s for chocolate magnate Edward Cadbury. It is part of a collection of more than 3,000 Middle Eastern manuscripts purchased on his behalf. The collection includes many religious texts representing a variety of different faiths and is now cared for by the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library. As a Quaker, Cadbury was interested in helping others and in education. He acquired this collection to raise the status of Birmingham as a centre for religious study.
Free. In the Faith in Birmingham gallery.
Images: © University of Birmingham Cadbury Research Library