By Daniel Brubaker
The earliest Qur’āns represent a tangible anchor to the early history of Islam. Some of the manuscripts we have today are very early, in one case having been radiocarbon-dated with 99.2% probability to 675.5 AD or earlier. In my forthcoming doctoral dissertation, I explore the range and types of scribal change that exist in eleven early Qur’āns or groups of manuscripts, including some discussion of the type of textual treatment I mention below.
The monumental and early Cairo muṣḥaf al-sharīf (recently published in facsimile by IRCICA, ISBN 9789290631972, 2vol.) contains in places what appears to be tape covering lines or portions of text. The purpose of this tape is unclear; one possibility related to me recently is that it may have been applied to strengthen the pages at points where overly-acidic ink had eaten through the page.
On page 147 (verso), there is a single instance: the last word of line 7, kalāla of Q4:176, has been taped over in this way. There is no damage to the page evident from the facsimile on the reverse side of the page.
This particular taping has left exposed the tops of the upward-extending letters, namely, the two presumed lams and the upper tip of the presumed ta’ marbuta. This codex is written with formal and evenly spaced letter forms most similar to those of Déroche’s B.II category.
An interesting feature here is that the space between what appear to be the first and second lam is at least ten times the standard spacing between consecutive lams throughout the pages of this manuscript written by this scribe. There are two other instances of consecutive lams on this page; both are consistent with the standard spacing, which maintains a distance between consecutive lams of about one-third to one-half the width of the nib.
The kalāla of 4:176 is one of two instances of the word kalāla in the Qur’ān; the other is at verse 12 of the same sura. The word kalāla at 4:12 of this muṣḥaf (page 102 verso, possibly the work of a different scribe) is intact and original. The distance between its lams is slightly more than one nib-width.
The overwriting of kalāla at Q4:12 in BNF 328a has been noted by David Powers and forms a basis for his theory concerning the development of the doctrines of inheritance and adoption. The possibility exists that what is under this tape could shed further light on Powers’ theory.
This type of taping is rare in Qur’ān manuscripts. I have encountered it so far in only one other codex, the Sana‘ā’ muṣḥaf al-sharīf, also available in a quality facsimile edition from IRCICA (ISBN 9789290632351). The taping, unlike most scribal corrections found in the earliest Qur’ān manuscripts, appears to be a relatively modern phenomenon, perhaps within the last two-three centuries.
I was received warmly and hospitably at IRCICA in Istanbul by its Director, Dr. Halit Eren in November 2011. Dr. Eren was gracious and pleased to see scholarly interest in these early Qur’āns. In the days following my visit, I noted with curiosity the existence of these taped portions throughout this facsimile, which I had obtained from IRCICA on that trip, but did not have the opportunity to look more closely at that time. More recently, I have inquired of IRCICA about the taping in this muṣḥaf; whether the experts there know when it may have occurred or by whom, as well as whether the text underneath is known to be intact.
In addition to the two maṣāḥif mentioned above, two other early monumental Qur’ān codices have recently been published in facsimile editions by IRCICA and ISAM:
Topkapi muṣḥaf al-sharīf (ISBN 9789290631675)
Istanbul muṣḥaf al-sharīf, (ISBN 9789753895231)
These manuscripts are treasures and scholars working in early history of the written Qur’ān will want to be aware of them.
DANIEL A. BRUBAKER, RICE UNIVERSITY
 Benham Sadeghi and Uwe Bergmann, “The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qur’ān of the Prophet,” Arabica LVII, no. 4 (2010): 353.
 Tayyar Altıkulaç, Al-Mushaf Al-Sharif Attributed to Uthman Bin Affān: The Copy at Al-Mashhad Al-Husayni in Cairo / Edited by Tayyar Altıkulaç; Foreward by Halit Eren.– Critical Ed., 2 vols. (Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), 2009).
 Dr. Keith E. Small, from his personal conversation with Prof. Déroche
 François Déroche, The Abbasid Tradition : Qur’ans of the 8th to the 10th Centuries Ad, ed. Julian Raby, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (London: Nour Foundation, 1992). 38-39.
 David S. Powers, Muḥammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
 Tayyar Altıkulaç, Hz. Ali’ye Nisbet Edilen Mushaf-I Şerîf: San’â Nüshası / Yayına Hazırlayan Tayyar Altıkulaç; Önsöz Halit Eren.– İncelemel Bs. (Istanbul: IRCICA, 2011).
 Tayyar Altıkulaç, Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharif Attributed to Uthmān Bin Affān: The Copy at the Topkapı Palace Museum / Prepared for Publication by Tayyar Altıkulaç; Translated into Arabic by Salih Sadawi and into English by Semiramis Çavoşoğlu; Preface by Ekmeleddin İhsanoğl; Forward by Halit Eren.– Critical Ed. (Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), 2007).
 Tayyar Altıkulaç, Hz. Osman’a Nisbet Edilen Mushaf-I Şerîf (Türk Ve İslâ Eserleri Müsezi Nüshası), 2 vols. (Istanbul: ISAM, 2007).
Altıkulaç, Tayyar. Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharif Attributed to Uthmān Bin Affān: The Copy at the Topkapı Palace Museum / Prepared for Publication by Tayyar Altıkulaç; Translated into Arabic by Salih Sadawi and into English by Semiramis Çavoşoğlu; Preface by Ekmeleddin İhsanoğl; Forward by Halit Eren.– Critical Ed. Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), 2007.
________. Hz. Osman’a Nisbet Edilen Mushaf-I Şerîf (Türk Ve İslâ Eserleri Müsezi Nüshası). 2 vols. Istanbul: ISAM, 2007.
________. Al-Mushaf Al-Sharif Attributed to Uthman Bin Affān: The Copy at Al-Mashhad Al-Husayni in Cairo / Edited by Tayyar Altıkulaç; Foreward by Halit Eren.– Critical Ed. 2 vols. Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), 2009.
________. Hz. Ali’ye Nisbet Edilen Mushaf-I Şerîf: San’â Nüshası / Yayına Hazırlayan Tayyar Altıkulaç; Önsöz Halit Eren.– İncelemel Bs. Istanbul: IRCICA, 2011.
Déroche, François. The Abbasid Tradition : Qur’ans of the 8th to the 10th Centuries Ad The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Edited by Julian Raby. London: Nour Foundation, 1992.
Powers, David S. Muḥammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
Sadeghi, Benham, and Uwe Bergmann. “The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qur’ān of the Prophet.” Arabica LVII, no. 4 (2010): 93.
© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2013. All rights reserved.
Mr. Daniel Brubaker,
Thanks for this post. There are two issues.
First, there’s a significant error in the second sentence. It says a manuscript was “radiocarbon-dated with 99.2% probability to 675.5 AD.” Not true. That is the probability of the MS being ** older ** than 675.
Compare with this: This is like saying that the probability that the MS dates to 2015 AD is 100% percent. No, the probability that the MS is ** older ** than 2015 AD is 100%. I hope you see how your wording turns things upside down.
As for the taped manuscript having implications for Powers’ theories, that is not true either. The script of the manuscript you’re showing clearly is too late to have any relevance for Powers’ theories, especially in light of the fact that there are a number of earlier manuscripts that have the word kalala in them, written in the usual way.
Dear Mr. Nasirou,
Thank you for your comment. Your first observation is absolutely correct and I ought to have said that the test indicates a probable terminus ante quem, as this is indeed the meaning of the results.
As to the script, I would suggest that the dating of styles until now has been a combination of art and science, the necessary reliance upon educated guesses-I cannot speak for him but suspect that Prof. Déroche would admit as much-since it has rarely been possible to submit these manuscripts to radiocarbon dating. As more manuscripts become dated, perhaps the theories about the dates of the scripts themselves will be either vindicated or adjusted and refined. However, even with a later date on this and the existence of earlier manuscripts with kalala intact, I believe it would be hasty to conclude that an anomaly at kalala in a manuscript such as this would be of no consequence or relevance to Dr. Powers’ theory. These manuscripts show evidence of textual transmission – that is, of being copied from previous manuscripts rather than being written from memory. Therefore, even if the current manuscript was later, it is not impossible to imagine a scenario in which it could have been produced by copying from an earlier manuscript that (accepting for the sake of argument that Power’s theory is true) did not yet conform to the form of kalala that is today standard.
This said, there is very little reason to go so far except to acknowledge a range of possibilities. All we have on this manuscript page is a piece of tape of a sort which may have been used in some of these manuscripts to strengthen the page but happens to cover a word that has elsewhere been corrected in 328. We do not actually know what lies under this tape apart from what can be seen along the edges, and elsewhere in this same muṣḥaf, as I note in my article, the word kalala is written without striking irregularity.
One further general comment and caution against placing too much confidence in radiocarbon dating in these manuscripts: I refer interested readers to Prof. Déroche’s excellent recent book “Qur’ans of the Umayyads,” in which he at one point notes instances of manuscripts of known ages being quite wrongly dated – even at the high levels of “probability” by the radiocarbon dating method.