Cover image from Mashable
Timing is everything. On the heels of Dr. Bill Warner’s latest political islam video, which may be 20 minutes long, but it’s the most informative and entertaining one he’s done in a while, comes the news from the University of Birmingham that they’ve had a really old manuscript carbon dated and the date the fancy machinery came up with for when the animal skin on which the words were written was produced is around 645 AD (the BBC says at least 1,370 years old, and this writer did the math). And it turns out that the book in question happens to be a fragment of a really old Quran (Koran, Quran…muslims call it a holy book).
Why this is breathless news from across the pond is that being that old, this particular Quran is quite possibly the oldest known copy of the book itself, even if it is incomplete. Why? Actually, Dr. Warner gave the answer on his Q & A video in the 18th minute:
Is there any archaeological evidence that corroborates early Islam as per the sira?
BW:Out of all the questions asked, this is the one that goes the deepest, and I’ll give you the shortest answer. NO. How Islam came about is a self-myth. It turns out that there is not a single reference in any historical document that is contemporary to Muhammad that even mentions him. Does it mention anything about any rise to power of any religion in Arabia? The first time we run across historical evidence of Islam is about 150-200 years after the death of Muhammad.
The first historical Quran was about a hundred and fifty years after his death. Now, there are mythical, earlier Qurans, but we don’t have any historical evidence. Archaeology is cruel to Islam. And as a matter of fact, Muslims don’t really care for archaeology at all because the first 200 years of Islam are simply nowhere to be found in any history book.
One of the documentaries I would like to do…is called “The Invention of Islam” because we do have some real historical facts here, but none of them agree with what Islam says.
We are told that the Quran is the perfect word of God, and has no variation and is therefore not corrupt.
BW: This is part of the self-myth of Islam. Hate to break it to you, but there is variation in the Quran. We have found historical Qurans that are quite old, and they are not quite the same as the Quran we have today. As a matter of fact, the creation of the Quran, its self-myth, is that after Muhammad died, there was variation. And so, all of the Qurans that were known and all of the pieces that were written were brought into Uthman, the third Khalifa. And he had a secretary, Zaid, prepare what is known as the Quran today. Now, the reason they made the Quran we have today is that they were worried about variation. Do you know what Uthman did with all the original documents? He had them burned. Now, why would you burn the original Qurans? Simple. They were filled with variations.
Dr. Warner will have to revise his statements as now there is one Quran, at least, in existence from the contemporary period of Muhammad. One of those mythical early Qurans has surfaced even if it is not supposed to exist after the official one was compiled. It was supposed to have been burned. Even the scholars at the University of Birmingham admitted that.
However, finding this particular text in the midst of a Middle Eastern collection of rare books is cause to celebrate among Muslims. These words to the Quran are very close to the contemporary period of Muhammad, and may well have been written by someone close to him. Whether or not they bear likeness to the modern Quran is a different story. The account a professor from the British university gives is the historical party line that Dr. Warner disputes. Even among history professors there’s a lot of disagreement when the documentation is incomplete.
It seems that archaeology and the historical spotlight have swung back to Islam. If only the followers were literate enough to understand what that means. (Watch the full Dr. Warner video for the rest of that story.)