London: An ancient copy of the Quran found at the University of Birmingham in July may have belonged to Abu Bakr, one of the world's first ever Muslims, British media reported today.
Radiocarbon dating carried out in July found the fragments to be at least 1,370-years-old, raising the possibility that it could be the oldest copy of the Islamic
holy book in existence.
Now Jamal bin Huwareib, managing director of the UAE's Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Islamic studies, has suggested that such an early document could have been commissioned by a very small number of people ? the most likely of them being Abu Bakr, The Independent reported.
Abu Bakr is widely understood to be the first person to convert to Islam outside the Prophet Mohammed's direct family.
He served as a friend and trusted advisor to the prophet and became the first ever Muslim caliph in 632, ruling for 27 months until his death 634.
The age of the Birmingham Quran means it is likely to have been created in Islam's very earliest years, when the
world's global Muslim population was only in the low hundreds. "I believe this is the Koran of Abu Bakr," bin Huwareib
told BBC News, adding: "It's the most important discovery ever for the Muslim world."
The quality of the Birmingham Quran's parchment and handwriting suggests the 200 leaf document could only have been created for an incredibly important figure, he said.
"This version, this collection, this manuscript is the root of Islam, it's the root of the Koran.... This will be a revolution in studying Islam," bin Huwareib said.
But everybody is not convinced that the Birmingham Quran was Abu Bakr's personal version on the holy book. David Thomas, Birmingham University's professor of
Christianity and Islam, said bin Huwareib's claims amounted to "a very big leap indeed", adding that he believes the radio carbon dating suggests the manuscript was actually created around 20 years after the first caliph's death.
While he concedes that "the person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad", Thomas believes too much emphasis has been placed on dating the document on "graphical evidence", such as handwriting trends.
But staff at Oxford University's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, which dated the parchment, are convinced their findings are correct, no matter how inconvenient.
Researcher David Chivall told the BBC that the accuracy of dating has improved in recent years, with a much more reliable approach to removing contamination from samples.
In the case of the Birmingham Quran, Chivall says the latter half of the age range is more likely, but the overall range is accurate to a probability of 95 per cent.
"We're as confident as we can be that the dates are accurate."
Prophet Muhammad is thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.