Scholars in the United Kingdom believe that the fragments of an ancient copy of the Quran may have been written even before the time of the Prophet Muhammad and could potentially alter the history of Islam.
The fragments were discovered by researchers from the University of Birmingham bound within the pages of another copy of the Quran from the seventh century. The older pages are considered to around 1,448 to 1,371 years old.
The text of the ancient Quran were written in early Arabic script using ink and placed on parchment consisting of goat or sheep skin. The pages of the book feature parts of the Suras (chapters) 18 to 20, which some consider may have been written by an individual who may have known the Prophet Muhammad.
Experts from the University of Oxford conducted carbon-dating on the pages, revealing that the ancient manuscript may have been written between 568 and 645 AD. This makes the newly-discovered pages possibly the oldest copy of the Quran in existence.
The Prophet Muhammad, who is recognized as the founder of the Islamic faith, was said to have received the revelations that eventually came to form the Quran. He lived around 570 to 632 AD.
The dating of the Birmingham Quran has led some historians to believe that it could even pre-date the Prophet.
This assumption would contradict most known accounts of Muhammad's life and legacy and may significantly alter the tradition of Islam.
If the years provided by the carbon-dating are correct, the Birmingham Quran was written even before the first formal text of the Islamic holy book is supposed to have been organized.
This is equivalent to discovering a copy of Christian gospel sayings that pre-date the infancy of Jesus.
The dates would also make the existence of the Birmingham Quran contradictory to many beliefs held by Islam's Salafist branch.
According to historian Tom Holland, there is mounting evidence that suggests that traditional accounts regarding the origins of Islam are either wrong or unreliable.
Keith Small, an expert from Oxford, said the newly-discovered copy of the Quran could potentially mean that the Prophet Muhammad did not actually receive heaven's revelation.
He said that if the dates revealed by carbon-dating are indeed correct, this means the Quran, or portions of the Islamic holy book, pre-dates the Prophet.
Muslim scholars strongly contest the historians' claims.
Mustafa Shah, a scholar from the School of Oriental and African Studies asserted that the manuscript found by the University of Birmingham contain a collection of traditional accounts regarding the origins of the Quran.