What may be the world's oldest fragments of the Koran have been found by the University of Birmingham, after they had remained unrecognized in the university library for almost a century, reported the BBC Wednesday. The report did not say where the fragments had come from and how they came into the possession of the British university.
Tests showed with a probability of more than 95% that the fragments, written on sheep or goat skin, were from between 568 and 645 CE.
"They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam," said David Thomas, the university's professor of Christianity and Islam. “According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Mohammed received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death."
"The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Mohammed. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with," he added.
Prof. Thomas explained that some of the passages of the Koran were written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels – and a final version, collected in book form, was completed at about 650.
Jerusalem surrendered to Muslim invaders in CE 637. This was followed by the construction of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. In 691, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik commissioned the construction of the Dome of the Rock at the location where the Jewish Temples stood for a millennium.
The IDF liberated the Temple Mount in 1967, but only in recent years have large numbers of Jews begun to seek the right to pray on the Mount. The government of Binyamin Netanyahu has clamped down harshly on this movement, which Netanyahu warned could cause a large scale religious war in the Middle East and drag Jordan, with which Israel is at peace, into the conflict.
Netanyahu has preferred to give the Muslim Waqf, under Jordanian sponsorship, complete ascendancy on the Mount. Jews who try to ascend the Mount are routinely jeered at and harassed by Muslims while police avoid confrontations with the Muslims. Jews are strictly forbidden by police from praying on the Mount.