Why the Oldest Qur’an Is So Important for Muslims
By Nafees Syed

The most important miracle in Islam is located in Birmingham, United Kingdom. On Wednesday, the headline of the New York Times and BBC was that researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered fragments from the oldest copy of the Holy Qur’an. In one of those rare accidental discoveries, a PhD student found the fragments buried in a university library. An Oxford laboratory found the manuscript to be at least 1370 years old, dating it to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The timing is impeccable, following just a couple of days after Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims believe that the Qur’an was sent to Angel Gabriel to reveal to mankind. Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam, and Nadir Dinshaw Professor of Interreligious Relations at the University of Birmingham, said in explaining the discovery: “These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.” Professor Thomas has sharply noted why this is discovery is so monumental for Muslims. It appears to affirm what Muslims to believe is the greatest miracle of Islam – that it is unchanged from its point of revelation and to the end of time. In Islamic tradition, God sent miracles to his prophets as a specific response to their people. For example to the Pharaoh and his Egyptian subjects, who revered magic, God sent Prophet Moses and his brother Prophet Aaron to show them that God’s power overwhelms man’s. When the Pharaoh set up a public competition pitting his greatest magicians against Moses, Moses’s miracles literally swallowed up that of the magicians. Recognizing that what Moses revealed must be a miracle of God and not a man-made illusion, especially brought by one not trained in the arts, there is a beautiful image of the magicians immediately falling down in prostration saying defiantly to the Pharaoh, “We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.” [Qur’an 20:70]. Similarly to the Romans at the time, who revered medicine, Prophet Jesus cured the blind and the leper, and raised the dead to life, with God’s permission. [Qur’an 5:110]. Like Moses his divine miracle was contrasted by his own lack of experience in the art of healing. The Qur’an is the final and greatest prophetic miracle in this chain. To the Arabs who first received the message, sophisticated poetry was their greatest talent. The words of the Qur’an dazzled them so much that they accused the Prophet Muhammad of being a magician – there was no other way words of such perfection, of knowledge that was not yet known to man, could be from a human. The miracle was contrasted with the Prophet’s inability to read or write. To Muslims, the greatest gift of the Qur’an is that it is unadultered, the only revelation that is the same now as it was at its source. Letter to letter, it is the same across human tongues across time. It is telling that a verse of the Qur’an is actually called an ayah, or miracle. For centuries, scholars and laypeople have been studying its literary, scientific, historical, sociological, and predictive miracles. The Qur’an even mentions that there will be critics, there will be believers, and there will be nonbelievers. Man is created to choose. For all, the University of Birmingham’s recent discovery is an ayah of historic proportion; an insight into what is dear to the hearts of its 1.6 billion believers. (The writer is a lawyer and a former Congressional staffer. Courtesy Huffington Post)