CARBON DATING THE EARLIEST FOLIOS – WHAT IS ITS SIGNIFICANCE? (Jay Smith – Pfander Centre for Apologetics) The Birmingham fragments (folios) claimed by BBC in July 2015, suggested that their two folios have been dated, using Carbon 14 dating, from 568 - 645 AD, and since these dates roughly cover the life of Muhammad (according to Islamic Tradition: 570 - 632 AD), these folios must be the oldest Qur’anic material in existence, due to the fact that they are from Muhammad's lifetime. There are a number of problems with this claim. Here are a few: 1) Islamic tradition (from Al Bukhari 6:509-610) is very clear that there was no Qur'an written during the lifetime of Muhammad, that he could not read nor write himself, and thus it was preserved on stones, bark, leaves, and within the memory of his companions. Islamic Tradition also tells us that it was first compiled by his secretary, Zaid ibn Thabit, during the time of Abu Bakr (632-634 AD), and then had to be rewritten again during the time of the Caliph Uthman (around 650 AD), and that 4 or more copies of this recension were then sent to four cities (Medina, Basra, Baghdad, and Damascus). Muslims claim that it is these final copies of the Qur'an which exist today. Therefore, there should be no manuscripts of any Qur’an from before 650 AD, since this is the date that the first canonized text was created. 2) These two folios in Birmingham were compiled (according to the Carbon 14 dating, at the Oxford laboratory), between 568 - 645 AD, which is five years before the Qur'an was supposedly compiled. There are other laboratories which are now giving us similar dates for other folios (primarily taken from the Sana'a manuscript). Note the median dates (516 AD, 593 AD, 606 AD, 662 AD). Except for the Tubingen MS, they all predate, not only Uthman, but also the ministry of Muhammad, who, according to Islamic Tradition, only began to receive Qur’anic material from 610 AD: -Arizona Laboratory (USA) & Lyon Laboratory (France) = 443 – 599 AD: median date = 516 AD -Arizona Laboratory (USA) & Lyon Laboratory (France) = 543 – 643 AD: median date = 593 AD -Birmingham MS, Oxford Laboratory (UK) = 568 – 645 AD: median date = 606 AD -Tubingen MS, Zurich Laboratory (Germany) = 649 - 675 AD: median date = 662 AD So, what are these folios (or fragments)? Could they be examples of pre-Qur’anic, or even preMuhammad manuscripts? 3) We do know that there are quite a number of stories within the Qur’an which are similar, and in some cases almost identical to pre-Islamic apocryphal Jewish fables, and Christian Syriac sectarian writings. For instance, here are a few examples: -S. 5:27-32 (Cain & Abel) = the Targum of Jonathan-ben-Uzziah, and the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 -S. 21:51-71 (Abraham & the Kabah) = the Midrash Rabbah (& Jonathan Ben Uziel’s mistake of UR) -S. 7:171 (Mt. Sinai) = the Abodah Sarah -S. 27:17-44 (Solomon and Sheba) = the II Targum of Esther -S. 3:35-37 (Mary, Imran and Zachariah) = the Proto-evangelion’s James the Lesser -S. 19:22-26 (Jesus, Mary and the Palm Tree) = the Lost Books of the Bible -S.3:46 (Baby Jesus talking) = the first Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ -S.3:49 (Jesus creating birds from clay) = Thomas’ Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ Could it be stories such as these which are found within these folios? They are all from the 2nd – 5th centuries, thus all pre Islamic, pre-Muhammad, and certainly pre Uthman. Conclusion: It is possible that the carbon datings might later be proven false, since the dates are so inexact, and this is still a rather new science. Regardless, whether these folios are early or late, they are still problematic, not only because they are too early to be Qur’anic, but they are not complete (they only include portions of Suras), and they show examples of manuscript variants (words and phrases which do not correspond with the Qur’an we have today).
We are still waiting for a complete mid-7th century Qur’an (i.e. all 114 Suras, inclusive), which is exactly like the current canonized 1924 Caireen Text used today. That has yet to be found. Consider next the much larger Qur'anic manuscripts we do possess, and their dates, all of which are much later than these folios. This is indeed problematic as well. You will note that not one of them is from the time of Uthman, nor (except for possibly the Ma'il MS), even from the same century! Nor are they complete. What's more, they all have corrections, some of which continue up to the 9th century! Unlike the earlier folios, the larger manuscripts should be complete, and unchanged from the current Qur'anic text. The fact that none of them are, including those which were written over a century after Muhammad, suggests that they were all created by later Muslims, borrowing and incorporating much of the earlier Jewish (apocryphal) and Christian (sectarian) stories found in the earlier pre-Qur'anic folios now being dated in laboratories around the world. Both the early dates for the folios and the late dates for the manuscripts prove that the Qur'an we have today is not eternal, nor is it from Muhammad, nor from Uthman, but possibly nothing more than a man-made document written and compiled much later, and redacted back to a man named Muhammad, in order to give the Arabs the identity they craved, providing them with a 'book and a man', much like the Jews and Christians already had. OVERVIEW OF THE MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE: BnF Arabe 328 (ab) CODEX PARISINO-PETROPOLITANUS (BN PARIS): -46 leaves in the Russian National Library -2 leaves in the University of Birmingham Library (Dated in Oxford at: 568-645 AD, med = 606AD) -1 leaf in the Vatican Library (Khalili Collection) -Deroche says the Manuscript only includes 26% of the Qur’an -Written by 5 different copyists, 1 and corrections have been made to the text 2
-It disagrees with the Caireen text in 93 places, 3 including erasures and additions. 4 -These later changes were intended to bring it in line with the canonical text. 5 BnF Arabe 328 (c) CODEX PARISINO-PETROPOLITANUS (BN PARIS): -16 leaves bought by Jean-Louis Asselin de Cherville (d.1822) from Fustat -They include Suras 10:35 – 11:95; 20:99 – 23:11
Tübingen manuscript -(Ms M a VI 165), has been carbon dated to between 649 and 675 (Median = 662AD) Topkapi Manuscript (Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey) -It is dated by Altikulac & Ihsanoglu from early to mid 8th c. 6 -Contains around 99% of the Qur’an, but only 78% is readable Deroche 2009:172 Deroche 2009:173 3 Deroche 2009:174 4 Deroche 2009:175 5 Deroche 2009:178 6 Altıkulaç, ‘Al-Mushaf al-Sharif’ 2007:81 1 2
-There are over 2,270 manuscript variants within the 78% readable portion. 7 Samarkand Kufic Qur’an (Tashkent, Uzbekistan) -Dated to the 8th or 9th c. using paleographic studies and carbon dating. -Radio-Carbon dating = 95.4% probability between 795AD-855AD (Median = 825AD) -Only includes the first 43 Suras. -Contains: Undisciplined spelling, scribal mistakes, copyist mistakes, written by an amateur 8 Ma’il Manuscript (BL 2165 – British Library, London, England) -Dated late 7th - early 8th c. -Only includes the first 43 Suras (or 53% of the Qur’an) Sana’a Manuscripts (House of Manuscripts, Sana’a, Yemen) -Calligraphic dating points to 710AD – 715AD 9 -New, unpublished studies suggest there are layers of text underneath, thus a palimpsest -Puin suggests it has different numeration and Sura arrangements
Altıkulaç, ‘Al-Mushaf al-Sharif’ 2007:81 Altıkulaç, ‘Al-Mushaf al-Sharif’ 2007:71-72 9 Saifullah, M S M; Ghali Adi; ʿAbdullah David (2008-11-08) 7 8
Mankind should turn to the real Truth! The One who became incarneted. He is!