Caliph Abu Bakr, the first leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad, ordered the collection of all Qur’anic material in the form of a book.The final, authoritative written form was completed and fixed under the direction of the third leader, Caliph Uthman, in about AD 650.Dating of artifacts from the era in question is often more accurate than dating material from the last few hundred years, Dr. Graham Bench, director of the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, concurred, and added a caveat: “You’re dating the parchment,” he said. You’re making the assumption that the parchment or vellum was used within years of it being made, which is probably a reasonable assumption, but it’s not watertight.”It’s no doubt an understatement of Biblical — I mean Qur’anic — proportions to say that Muslim scholars are displeased.A Qur’an that may be the world’s oldest made a splash in July, when carbon dating at the University of Oxford placed it at about 1,370 years old — the era of Muhammad.The “Birmingham Qur’an,” named after the English university where it resides, was heralded as proof that modern texts have remained true to Muhammad’s original words. That’s not only very, very old, it’s quite possibly If the dating is correct, the “Birmingham Koran” was produced between AD568 and AD645, while the dates usually given for Muhammad are AD570 to AD632…it could date back to Mohammed’s childhood, or possibly even before his birth. Trouble with a capital “T.” That rhymes with “P” and that stands for, um, pissed Muslims.(If you don’t get the reference, please remedy that grievous shortcoming immediately.)The probability that this date range is correct was placed at over 94%.
the creation of the Birmingham Qur’an — so before Muhammad was born or while he was a child.
Some pretty credible people are using some pretty dramatic language about this turn of events. Keith Small noted that though the parchment, not the ink was tested, he “believes that the dates are probably right and may raise broad questions about the origins of Islam,” adding: This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran’s genesis, like that Mohammed 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 Mohammed receiving a revelation from heaven.
It’s a narrow window of time, to be sure, and at first blush you might think the potential overlap could preserve the story of Islam’s origins. David Thomas of the University of Birmingham explains: According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur’an, the scripture of Islam, between the years AD 610 and 632, the year of his death…At this time, the divine message was not compiled into the book form in which it appears today.
Instead, the revelations were preserved in ‘the memories of men.’ Parts of it had also been written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels…
Jeff Speakman, director of the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, who was not involved with the research, said the dates and accuracy sounded reasonable.“Oxford is one of the premier radiocarbon laboratories in the world,” he said.