The world’s oldest manuscript of parts of the Quran have been found in Birmingham University Library. The testing, which is said to be more than 95% accurate, has dated the parchment on which the text is written to between 568 and 645 AD, the researchers claimed. If this is true, it means it was created close to the time of the Messenger of Allahﷺ and quite possibly it was written by a Sahabi. Ofcourse once this news broke, Muslims all over the world nearly mass spammed the internet and went cuckoo over the fact that this manuscript matched word to word as can be read to the current mushaf. Though I could myself feel the excitement but there was something worrying me at the back of my head. What were we exactly so happy about? Was it the discovery of the manuscript or the fact that it matched word to word that we celebrating. This discovery should infact be a booster for our belief in the promise of Allah. If its the latter then we should be ashamed at the state of our Ummah that we even slightly had a doubt over this fact.
Allah has blessed us with scholars and in all these fireworks, Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad and Sheikh Assim Al Hakeem asked THE major question. Yes, this might be the oldest find in history but what about authenticity. Authenticity and verification is one thing that has kept us above all those nations that were destroyed before us.
We have experts on our side like, Al Halouji said that experts should have examined the ink used in writing the chapters of the holy book. He said the hide, or animal skin, on which the text was written could be as old as the researchers suggest, but that does not prove the text was written at that time.
Saudi archaeologists asserted that the red ink used to separate between chapters was not used during the era of Prophet Muhammadﷺ . Moreover, writing the words ‘Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem’ [in the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate] was not written either in red ink.
“The manuscript might possibly be from the time of Uthman Bin Affan who became Caliph many years after the death of the Prophetﷺ, during the time of the Prophetﷺ, the Qur’an was not organized or put in its present day form. Also, there were no colors used.” archaeologist Adnan Al Sharif, dean of libraries at Umm Al Qura University said.
Lets see how and why the Quran is the most authentic book in history of mankind and the nature of this finding.
The Quran is the pure word of Allah. It is not created like the rest of creation rather it is the speech of the Almighty. There is not a single word therein that is not divine. In it is eternal guidance, rules, motivation for the heart and soul, and in short it is the perfect manual for living life to its maximum potential. Allah over the ages out of his mercy and justice has sent his messengers and revealed books to them for the guidance of mankind. Allah revealed the Torah to Musa, the Zabur to Daood, the Injil (Gospel) to Isa (Jesus), and finally the Quran to our beloved Messenger Prophetﷺ. Man due to his corrupt ways and inclination to sin did the unthinkable and after the passing away of their Prophets modified and added to the words of Allah out of their desire and attributed these vile additions to the Most High. Without a doubt this brought down the wrath of Allah and the people who attributed things out of their desires and lack of knowledge to Allah and his Messengers were destroyed. But as Prophet ﷺ was the seal and the final Messenger, Allah took it upon himself and guaranteed to the Prophet ﷺ that the Quran would be preserved by Allah against any false additions and lies such that had become a part of previous revelations.
Allah says in the Quran in Surah Hijr,
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.
Now that the Quran was protected, how could Shaitan lead the sons of Adam astray? Just like the previous generation he whispered to the sons of Adam but this time with a twist. As the wordings of the Quran could not be changed he deviated the people from the meanings and interpretations of the Quran as per the understanding of the Sahaba and pushed people to speak and attribute to the Messengerﷺ just as were the traits of the destroyed nations before. How often is it that we see people who don’t have an ounce of knowledge walk up to podiums and give eloquent speeches based on their personal understanding of a topic and people fall for those honey words and wrong themselves. Verification and a search for truth is a trait that we are losing fast amongst ourselves and this is giving Shaitan a free hand over us.
Speaking of verification, people arose throughout these 1400 years trying to defame and undermine the authenticity of the Quran. Some called it the poetry of Muhammad and some called it the work of his followers. Many tried to make something like it but failed miserably because Allah himself mentions in the Quran in Surah Yunus,
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۖ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
Or do they say [about the Prophet], “He invented it?” Say, “Then bring forth a surah like it and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah , if you should be truthful.
بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِمَا لَمْ يُحِيطُوا بِعِلْمِهِ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِهِمْ تَأْوِيلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَانْظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الظَّالِمِينَ
Rather, they have denied that which they encompass not in knowledge and whose interpretation has not yet come to them. Thus did those before them deny. Then observe how was the end of the wrongdoers.
The Quran has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Prophet Muhammadﷺ. From the time the Quran began to be revealed, the Prophetﷺhad dictated its text to the scribes the most prominent of them being Zaid ibn Thabit. Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi-Sufyan, Khalid ibn Al-Waleed and Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awwam. The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder bones of animals) and the stalks of date palms The written text was then read out to Prophetﷺ, who, having satisfied himself that the scribe had committed no error of recording, would put the manuscript in safe custody. The Prophetﷺ used to instruct the scribe about the sequence in which a revealed message was to be placed in a particular Surah. In this manner, the Prophetﷺ continued to arrange the text of the Quran in systematic order till the end of the chain of revelations. This was of course not just random placement but from Allah as we see Jibreel revising the Quran with our Prophetﷺ every year in a particular order and verifying it word by word. Many of the Sahaba learned the whole text of the Quran, every syllable of it, by heart and then it was taught accordingly to their kids and so on.
The codification of the Quran was done soon after the Battle of Yamamah during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Many companions became martyrs in that battle, and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire revelation was produced, large parts of the Quran might be lost with the death of those who had memorized it. Therefore, at the suggestion of Umar, to collect the Quran in the form of writing, Zaid ibn Thabit was requested by Abu Bakr to head a committee which would gather together the scattered recordings of the Quran and prepare a mushaf which bore the entire revelation on them. To safeguard the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material which had been written down in the presence of the Prophet himself, and which could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually heard the Prophet recite the passage in question. Once completed and unanimously approved by the Prophet’s Companions, these sheets were kept with the Khalifa Abu Bakr, then passed on to the Khalifa Umar, and then Umar’s daughter and the Prophet’s wife, Hafsa. The third Khalifa Uthman requested Hafsah to send him the manuscript of the Quran which was in her safekeeping, and ordered the production of several bounded copies of it. This task was entrusted to the companions Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair, Sa’eed ibn Al-’As, and Abdur-Rahman ibn Al-Harith ibn Hisham. Upon completion, Uthman returned the original manuscript to Hafsah and sent the copies to the major provinces of the Ummah so that the Ummah could be unified.
Three of the original manuscripts of the Quran prepared 1400 years ago still exist today; one is in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, the other, one of the copies sent out by Uthman lies in the Museum of the City of Tashkent in Uzbekistan and perhaps the one even older than the recent Birmingham find lies in Sana’a at the heart of the Houthi war. According to Memory of the World Program, UNESCO, an arm of the United Nations, ‘it is the definitive version, known as the Mushaf of Uthman.’ in Tashkent, Russia. All of these are identical in content with the Quran available all over the world today.
And how can one expect any discrepancy, when there have existed several million “Huffaz” (someone who has memorized the entire Quran, word for word, cover to cover) in every generation since the time of the Holy Prophetﷺ and in our own time. Should anyone alter a syllable of the original text of the Quran, these Huffaz would at once expose the mistake.
In the last century, an Institute of Munich University in Germany collected forty two thousand copies of the Glorious Quran including manuscripts and printed texts produced in each period in the various parts of the Islamic World. Research work was carried out on these texts for half a century, at the end of which the researchers concluded that apart from copying mistakes, there was no discrepancy in the text of these forty-two thousand copies, even though they belonged to the period between the 1st Century to the 14th Century of the Islamic era and had been procured from all parts of the world. This institute, alas, perished in the bombing attacks on Germany during World War II, but the findings of its research project survived.
This makes it the only religious scripture that is still completely retained and understood in its original language. The Quran has been preserved in both oral and written form in a way no other book has, and with each form providing a check and balance for the authenticity of the other. Indeed, as Sir William Muir states, “There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries (now fourteen) with so pure a text.”
Allah has caused this Quran to be preserved and protected no matter how. If the Muslims have fallen so low that they cannot respect their book enough then Allah uses even the non believers who are against it to preserve it for in his hands lies all the power and might to fulfill his promise of preservation.
Another interesting aspect of this whole situation that I found was the actual text of the Quran in the manuscript.
مَآ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ لِتَشْقَىٰٓ
إِلَّا تَذْكِرَةً لِّمَن يَخْشَىٰ
تَنزِيلًا مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ ٱلْأَرْضَ وَٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ ٱلْعُلَى
ٱلرَّحْمَٰنُ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ ٱسْتَوَىٰ
لَهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَمَا تَحْتَ ٱلثَّرَىٰ
وَإِن تَجْهَرْ بِٱلْقَوْلِ فَإِنَّهُۥ يَعْلَمُ ٱلسِّرَّ وَأَخْفَى
ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ لَهُ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ
وَهَلْ أَتَىٰكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَىٰٓ
إِذْ رَءَا نَارًا فَقَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ ٱمْكُثُوٓا۟ إِنِّىٓ ءَانَسْتُ نَارًا لَّعَلِّىٓ ءَاتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِقَبَسٍ أَوْ أَجِدُ عَلَى ٱلنَّارِ هُدًى
فَلَمَّآ أَتَىٰهَا نُودِىَ يَٰمُوسَىٰٓ
Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’ān unto you (O Muhammad) to cause you distress. But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah). A revelation from Him Who has created the earth and high heavens. The Most Beneficent (Allah) Istawa (rose over) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and all that is between them, and all that is under the soil. And if you (O Muhammad) speak (the invocation) aloud, then verily, He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden. Allāh! Lā ilāha illā Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). To Him belong the Best Names. And has there come to you the story of Mūsā?
The timing of Allah is perfect. He knows what we need and at what time even when we don’t know that we need it. Allah is reminding us that the solution to all our problems is with the Quran. The eternal guidance, a book that transformed the world from darkness to light. At a time where the Ummah is at the lowest of the low its time we don’t look for answers elsewhere in prose and poetry when the very solution to all our problem is lying in dust on our bookshelves. Ramadan is the month of the Quran and that does not mean that it should be recited only therein, rather it is a constant guide to us from the Almighty. This Quran created and molded a generation, which was the lowest of the low and raised them to be the best of those that walked the face of this Earth.
As Umar rightly said, “Verily, we were a disgraceful people and Allah honored us with Islam, so if we seek honor from other than Islam, then Allah will humiliate us”. Today we see Muslims from amongst ourselves trying to water down the religion so that it can be accepted and they can fit in and live alongside others. Our job is to explain the true message of Islam, we have no right to change or interpret Islam as per our desires because if we see the course of history this is what caused the nations before us to be destroyed as Allah reminds us again and again in the Quran. The Quran and Islam itself has stood the test of time and remains even today whereas those that challenged it have perished and hardly any traces of them remains. Islam and the Quran do not need to give any justification to the world. It is the Muslims, ourselves who are failing to embody and embrace this beautiful message and the teachings of our Messengerﷺ.
Just as once a vase is broken, it can be fixed back but it loses its beauty, we are breaking the vase of Islam fragment by fragment in the eyes of the world by portraying an Islam and a way of life that was not taught by our beloved Prophet Muhamamdﷺ. This is giving a wrong picture to the people and instead of drawing them close to Allah and Islam is repulsing them away. Its high time we return back to the rope of Allah, which is ever ready and ever strong so that we can climb back to the pedestal of greatness that the Ummah of Muhammadﷺ deserves. Once we achieve that, that’s a justification enough on why Islam and Quran is the truth and our Ummah won’t have to look for answers or try and change the beauty that is Islam.
Don’t just KNOW Islam and its Heroes, FOLLOW them!