'Global treasure' Koran fragments on display in Birmingham

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image copyrightJohn James
image captionThe university will display the manuscript until 25 October at its Edgbaston campus

Fragments of a Koran believed to be one of the oldest ever found have gone on public display in Birmingham.

The University of Birmingham announced its discovery in July and revealed the manuscript is at least 1,370 years old.

Susan Worrall, from the university, described the manuscript as being "a global treasure".

It is on display at the university's Edgbaston campus until 25 October and tickets are free.

The pages of the Muslim holy text had remained unrecognised in the university library for almost a century, the library said.

media captionThe ancient manuscript was found in the University of Birmingham archives

One visitor said: "This manuscript could have been handled by the Prophet Muhammad or the best men in our religion... I am just standing next to it - it is really amazing."

"Finding out we had one of the oldest fragments of the Koran in the whole world has been fantastically exciting," said Ms Worrall, who is director of special collections.

Birmingham's Muslim community leaders have expressed their delight at the discovery.

Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said: "When I saw these pages I was very moved.

"There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes.

'Hushed and reverential'

At the scene: Amy Coles, BBC Midlands Today

image captionThe first visitors found it to be quite an emotional experience

About 2,000 tickets to see the scripts have been taken up and the university expects a lot more to be used before the exhibition ends.

The display area was relatively busy but the tickets are timed so people can get to spend time at the display. I would say there are about ten people in at a time.

The atmosphere is quite hushed and reverential - it seems to be quite an emotional experience for some people.

"And I'm sure people from all over the UK will come to Birmingham to have a glimpse of these pages."

It was discovered by PhD researcher, Alba Fedeli, who decided to carry out a radiocarbon dating test.

The tests provided a range of dates, showing that, with a probability of more than 95%, the parchment was from between 568 and 645.

"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 Muhammad received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death," he said.

The manuscript, written in Hijazi script, an early form of written Arabic, has become one of the oldest known fragments of the Koran.

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