Last month, fragments of a Koran were discovered within the pages of another Koran from the late seventh century in the library of the University of Birmingham in England.
Experts at Oxford University examined and carbon-dated the pages, and they determined that they were produced some time between 568AD and 645AD, according to The Times.co.uk.
That means that those pages could predate the founder of Islam himself, as the dates typically ascribed to the Prophet Mohammad are between 570AD and 632AD.
"It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged -- and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions," Tom Holland, a historian, told The Times.co.uk.
The fragments were written in ink on parchment paper made from animal skin. Though the discovery has been widely touted as “the world’s oldest Koran,” the pages contain only parts of the Suras, or chapters, 18 to 20.
The shocking discovery may actually lend support to other less-common theories on the origins of the Koran – namely, the idea that “Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from the heaven,” according to Keith Small from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
That theory has been strongly rebuked by Muslim scholars, however. This new discovery may instead support an even more traditional account of the Koran’s origins. Supposedly, the Koran was originally memorized and recited orally, but after Muhammad’s death, a leader of the Muslim community ordered the material to be written down.
According to that account, the final written form was not completed until 650AD.
This startling discovery is sure to continue to evoke new questions -- and possibly answers -- about the founding of Islam.