The writing of the two folios (with text corresponding to chapters 18-20 in the modern Quran) has been placed somewhere between 568 and 645 CE, which is very close to the conventional dating offered for the Prophet’s ministry, 610-632 CE.
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This new discovery may be dismissed by such voices as part of the global conspiracy to give Islam’s self-created narrative more credence than it deserves.
But for academic historians of early Islam, the early stabilisation of Quranic text is one of the few areas which a broad spectrum of scholars agree on.
On the whole, palaeography (the study of handwriting) and carbon-dating have worked side-by-side to offer a clearer picture than ever of the date-range of various textual materials for ancient and medieval history.
But historians schooled in palaeography or philology (the study of historical language) can often find the evidence furnished by carbon-dating to be unfeasibly early.
Clearly, Quranic verses with a very close match to the version we have today were being transcribed during or soon after the Prophet’s lifetime.
So historians of early Islam have good reason to feel excited, if not gratified, by this discovery.
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For researchers in Islamic studies, historical evidence dating the Quran back to Islam’s foundational era has proved elusive.
This has led to hotly contested academic debates about the early or late canonisation of the Quran, with a small handful of scholars claiming that the book is a product of a much later (mid-eighth century and after) age of compilation or even confabulation, when ‘Abbasid-era scholars rationalised and expanded the Muslim religious corpus.
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