Discovery of ‘oldest’ Quran fragments could resolve history of holy text

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Source: CNN

BY Fozia Bora

Fozia Bora is a lecturer in Middle Eastern History and Islamic History at University of Leeds. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.

 

(CNN)For the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, the idea that the Quran is a seventh century text disseminated by Islam’s founder, the Prophet Mohammed, is neither news, nor particularly controversial.

 

But in academia the history of this holy text is much more opaque.
For researchers in Islamic studies, historical evidence dating the Quran back to Islam’s foundational era has proved elusive. This has led to hotly contested academic debates about the early or late canonization of the Quran, with a small handful of scholars claiming that the book is a product of a much later (mid-eighth century and after) age of compilation or even confabulation, when ‘Abbasid-era scholars rationalized and expanded the Muslim religious corpus.
Recent scholarly work on early manuscript fragments of the Quran such as those discovered in Sana’a, Yemen in 1972 gave us portions of Quranic text carbon-dated to a few years after the Quran was officially standardized by one of Mohammed’s early successors, the caliph ‘Uthman, in around 650 CE. But there has been little clinching evidence to settle the debate about the dating of the text from a scholarly rather than devotional perspective.

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