Uthmani script and one of the world’s oldest copies of Qur´an.
A PhD student at the University of Birmingham studies in the library. He searches for information in books and documents of the Middle East. He reads, looks and suddenly realizes that the pages he is reading are different. He decides, then, to submit them to a radiocarbon analysis. The result is surprising. The young man has in front of his eyes a fragment of the “oldest” Quran in the world.
This true story happened in 2015 in the United Kingdom. According to specialists, the manuscript was over 1300 years old and was written in Hijazi, during the period of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, when copies of the final version of the Quran were distributed.
When Prophet Muhammad died, the Muslims gathered all the manuscripts they had about the teachings they had learned. The differences in the interpretation of the texts were corrected by the caliph Uthman ibn Affan. This uthmani script did not include vowels, so I could be interpreted and read in several ways. Today is in disuse, but it can be kept in the bookshelf as a collector’s item.
Who was Uthman ibn Affan?
The Holy Quran was transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad, who later taught it to his companions. They wrote his teachings in different materials such as leaves, stones and even bones. Others learned the writings by heart.
When Muhammad died all the manuscripts and memories were gathered, but there were various interpretations. Then, Uthman decided to put them all together in a single copy and make an authentic, standard and reliable edition. To achieve that goal he took a first written version of the Holy Quran of Hafsa, wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Uthman made a copy and sent to burn all the manuscripts that had been used so far.
This standard version was authorized and distributed in all countries where Muslims lived to teach the sacred scriptures. The final compilation took six years to be completed.
Uthman (God be pleased with him) was the third Umayyad caliph and ruled for almost 12 years, until he was killed. He married two of Muhammad’s daughters and became a governor after being elected to his opponent Ali ibn Abi Talib.
The disputes during his caliphate were constant, however he managed to extend his domains. Caliphate troops managed to reach territories in North Africa, Asia Minor and Iran.
As it was told, tensions were evident among the Arabs themselves; also among those who had acquired religion after being conquered. For his part, Ali ibn Abi Talib had gathered an important group of Muslims who criticized the way in which Uthman ruled. These followers claimed that the caliphate should be in the hands of Ali, because of his blood ties with the family of the Prophet Muhammad. In 656, a group of faithful who supported Ali’s aspirations entered in Uthman’s house and killed him, while he was reading the Quran.
Uthman is remembered for his generosity with people who were poor. He was also considered a gentle and kind man, who lived according to the scriptures of the Holy Quran.
After his death, Ali ibn Abi Tálib led the so-called fourth caliphate. He was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law and ruled until 661. During his government, Ali was recognized as a great leader, although there were groups that were against his leadership. He was killed while he was praying in the great mosque of Kufa.
Ali is considered a great writer and promoter of various disciplines such as theology and exegesis. His knowledge extended to calligraphy, numerology, grammar and Arabic rhetoric. His sermons, lectures and quotes were compiled in several books.
The Uthmani Script
Uthman’s consonant text was composed according to an ancient writing style, which did not include vowels. For this reason, the writing could be interpreted and read in several ways. This first version with the Uthmani Script was called Rasma and today it is the basis of various forms of recitation. To avoid problems with the pronunciation of the words diacritical marks were added near the year 700.
At the present, the most widespread text of the Holy Quran is the one that was approved by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, in 1922.
However, publications that use the Uthmani Script are maintained. For example, the Holy Quran is available in this version. An exquisite piece to have in the bookshelves for any collector or student of religious texts or foreign languages. On the other hand, there are texts available in Uthmani Script with Islamic prayers, traditions and observances.
The Holy Quran is a guide for the religious and intellectual life of all Arabs and its main objective is to be aware of the wonders created by God. Its learning and interpretation is really important, as its recitation. This is another of the legacies of Uthman, because the investigations around the interpretation of the sacred writings began during his caliphate.
The first versions of the Quran were distributed through copyists and calligraphers. The pages of the book did not have illustrations, because they were banned by Muslim tradition. The words, on the other hand, had beautiful decorations and were accompanied by abstract figures, which were known as arabesques. The inks used were colored or golden.
The first printed Quran was published in 1801. Today, Muslims use different versions of the sacred scriptures. Around the world, there are publications in various sizes and colors. Many of them are bilingual editions in Arabic and in the native language of the country.
The Quran was translated into many languages and that allowed the spread of religion and lifestyle in an easier way, not only for Muslims but also for anyone interested. However, translations are not taken as authorized copies but as interpreted text. Having an original copy at home allows anyone to have a more direct and accurate contact with faith. Also, the texts in Uthmani script are pieces with a very important historical and emotional value for the faithful and the scholars.