pp. (1 leaf, written on both sides). Oblong (13 x 20 cm). A single leaf from a Quran, containing surah 8, verses 72-75 and surah 9, verses 1-11, written in dark brown and red ink on parchment, in an early upright kufic hand with higazi influences, with 17 lines per page, with the title to surah 9 and the (possibly later) vowel points in red.
The only surviving fragment of one of the earliest known Qurans, probably from the Umayyad Caliphate: a single leaf containing on the recto surah 8:72-75 and surah 9:1-3, and on the verso surah 9:4-11, with the heading for surah 9 written in red ink, and with red dots as vowel points. The Corpus coranicum includes it among the forty or so earliest surviving Quran fragments and classifies its Arabic manuscript hand as kufic, a style that originated in what are now Iraq and Syria toward the end of the first century AH (in the late 600s CE), but it shows influences from the higazi or hijazi hand used in Mecca and Medina in the 600s CE and possibly even from serto Syriac hands. The script is fully upright with a strong horizontal line but very little contrast between thick and thin.
Islamic tradition indicates that the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) began revealing the Quran to Muhammad in 610 and completed it before he returned to Mecca in 628 CE. Before his death in 632 CE (11 AH) it was always transmitted orally, but parts were written down soon after his death and the whole Quran was codified around 650 CE (around 30 AH). No complete Quran is known to survive until 393 AH (1002/03 CE) and the earlier fragments are nearly all undated: only one dated fragment is known from the first century AH (622-719 CE) and only two from the second (719-816 CE). The extremely rare early fragments have therefore generally been dated by comparing their writing with dated papyri containing other Arabic texts, sometimes supported by radiocarbon dating. But the dating is also subject to political, religious and scholarly controversy. There are thought to be surviving fragments of about 35 Qurans from the first century AH in about 25 collections around the world, about half in Europe, but few of them include the present verses. The Corpus coranicum and Islamic-awareness.org record only five other early manuscripts containing the present verses, all in higazi hands: British Library, London: Ms. Or. 2165; Bibiliotheque Nationale, Paris: Ms. Arab. 330g; Russian National Library, St Petersburg: Marcel 18; Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul; and Al-Maktaba al-Sharqiyya, Sana, Yemen: codex Sana I (for some of these, parts of the same manuscript are in other collections).
The present fragment has been radiocarbon dated, but the results give a rather broad range of possible dates: 690-877 CE (70-264 AH) for a 95% probability. But the strongest peak falls around 730 CE putting the most likely date in the period around 715-740 CE (96-123 AH). The fact that its manuscript hand still shows influences from the higazi hand of the late 600s CE supports this early date. Although we have found no manuscript whose hand closely resembles the present one, the best matches also seem to support an early date, such as a series of Egyptian papyri from 91 AH (710 CE) in the Egyptian National Library, Cairo: inv. nos. 333-336. The present fragment therefore seems likely to date from the first quarter of the second century AH, but could possibly date from the last quarter of the first century AH or later in the second century AH. It is in any case one of the earliest surviving Quran fragments. Moreover, as the only surviving leaf of an early Quran it is of the greatest importance for both Quranic textual studies and studies of the development of Arabic manuscript hands. Comparable Quran fragments almost never come on the market. - From the collection of Mark Mersiowsky in Stuttgart. With the upper outside corner lost, affecting the ends of the first five lines on the recto and the beginnings of the first five lines on the verso, a chip at the foot affecting a few words in the last line, and some much smaller gaps or breaks slightly affecting an occasional word. An extraordinary ornament to any collection of Islamitica.
Corpus coranicum manuscript 526 (corpuscoranicum.de/handschriften/index/sure/8/vers/72/handschrift/526 & ...sure/9/vers/4/handschrift/526); Tobias J. Jocham, "Ergebnisse der C14-Probe Privatsammlung Mark Mersiowsky" (report dated 19 March 2015); for 1st century AH quran fragments and links to many illustrations, see also: www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/hijazi.html.