The “Qur'ān Of ʿUthmān” At Tashkent (Samarqand), Uzbekistan, From 2nd Century Hijra

Islamic Awareness

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First Composed: 1st July 2004

Last Updated: 5th September 2008

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

(e)

A display of the manuscript of the Qur'an in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, attributed to Caliph ‘Uthman. (a) The manuscript is very fragile and is placed in a cupboard to prevent further damage, (b) a closer view of the manuscript inside the cupboard, (c) a facsimile copy is available for consultation by readers, (d) Christie's 1992, Lot 225, and (e) Christie's 1993, Lot 29; folios from the same manuscript that came from North Africa.

Date

2nd century hijra or 8th century CE.

Shebunin dated this manuscript to the early second century hijra.[1] On the basis of the orthography as observed in the 1905 facsimile edition prepared by S. I. Pisarev,[2] Jeffery dated it to the early ninth century.[3] More recently, Déroche had assigned a date to the second half of the eight century.[4] The carbon-dating of a folio from this manuscript was carried out at Oxford. The result showed a 68% probability of a date between 640 CE and 765 CE, and a 95% probability of a date between 595 CE and 855 CE.[5] Commenting on this result, Rezvan noted that the paleographic dating of this manuscript also indicated a date at the turn of the eight / ninth century CE.[6]

Although the dates generated by the radiocarbon dating at either confidence level do not rule out the possibility that this manuscript was produced in ʿUthmān's time, palaeographic studies suggest an 8th century (2nd century hijra) date.

Size & Folios

68 cm x 53 cms. The text is 55 cm x 44 cm. Depending on the folio, length and width of the text can vary by several centimetres. The material used for writing is thick, strong parchment.

Total number of folios: 360 = 353 (Pisarev's facsimile edition) + 4 (Christie's Lot nos. 225, 225A, 29 and 30) + 2 (Sam Fogg's catalogues, Volumes 22 and 27) + 1 (Sotheby's 2008, Lot 1). Out of 353 folios in the facsimile edition, 69 torn out, or lost folios are substituted by paper leaves of equal size. Of the 353 folios, only 15 are complete, the rest are more or less damaged and mended with paper.

History Of The Manuscript

Approximately one third of the Qur'an from which these massive folios originate - “the ʿUthmān Qur'an” - is housed in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Late in the 19th century the manuscript was in St. Petersburg , Russia, where it was studied by the Russian orientalist A. Shebunin.[7] He gave a detailed account of the codex and examined the peculiarities of its orthography. So great was the interest in this codex that in 1905 Pisarev (or Pissareff) was encouraged to publish the facsimile edition,[8] which he did by photographic process after having carefully inked in those places on some of the folios where the writing had been almost obliterated by the hands of the faithful stroking the pages. It has been recognized that Pisarev's reinking of the text in the dulled folios resulted in some mistakes but the charges of deliberate changing of the text are not based on sound grounds.[9] It appears that only fifty copies of the facsimiles were made, of which only twenty-five were offered for sale.

As mentioned earlier, this codex is incomplete and it is not surprising that a number of folios have appeared under the hammer at Christie's[10] with some folios appearing in Sam Fogg's collection of Islamic art. These folios came from North Africa. The extra-ordinary size of these folios from this Qur'an is unparalleled in publications in the Western world. Folios from the Tashkent manuscript were sold at Christie's (London) as lot nos. 225, 225a on 22nd October 1992; and lot nos. 29, 30 on 21st October 1993. In the years 2000 and 2003, a couple more folios appeared in Sam Fogg's Islamic Manuscripts / Islamic Calligraphy catalogues.[11] A folio from this codex was also sold at Sotheby's in 2008.[12]

In 1940, Mendelsohn published notes on the Columbia University facsimile copy of the Tashkent (Samarqand) Qur'an.[13] Couple of years later, Jeffery and Mendelsohn discussed the orthography of this manuscript.[14]

So, the big question now is whether this is the Qur'an that belonged to the third caliph ʿUthmān? The answer is no. There are good number of other Qur'ans [such as the one at St. Petersburg, two in Istanbul (Topkapi Library and TIEM), and two in Cairo (al-Hussein mosque and Dār al-Kutub)] having at times turned up in different parts of the Islamic world, all purporting to show the traces of the blood of the third caliph ʿUthmān upon certain pages, and thus the genuine ʿUthmānic Qur'an, the imām, which he was reading at the time of his death. Moreover, the writing in the manuscript clearly shows the large, straight, beautiful and rigidly proportional Kufic script which was during and after the time of Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik (compare the script in this manuscript with the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock). Furthermore, this manuscript was also briefly discussed by Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-Munajjid who did not consider it to be from the time of caliph ʿUthmān.[15]

Script & Ornamentation

Kufic.

It is a massive Qur'anic manuscript on vellum showing a well-formed kufic script without diacritical marks and ornamentation. The verse endings are marked by small panels of diagonals lines; the tenth verse is marked with a square medallion illuminated in blue, green, red and manganese with a stellar design. The parchment has become very brittle with age. There is a restriction on free access and the manuscript is protected from light. Instead, a facsimile copy is available for consultation.

Contents

The table below is reproduced from Shebunin's work[16] and we have added other folios which appeared under the hammer at Christie's and Sam Fogg's catalogues.

Folios Qur'anic Surah / Ayah Image Publication Comments
1 - 32 2:7 - 2:177 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 1 - 2r, 8, 13 - 15
33 - 34 2:179 - 2:187 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 33 - 34
35 2:213 - 2:217 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaf
36 2:231 - 2:233 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaf
37 - 42 2:256 - 2:273 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves
43 - 45 2:282 - 2:286 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves
46 - 57 3:36 - 3:92 Pisarev, 1905  
58 3:97 - 3:102 Pisarev, 1905  
59 - 67 3:105 - 3:148 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 59 - 63
68 - 89 3:154 - 4:29 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 76, 88
- 4:2 - 4:5 Christie's, 1993, Lot 30 Picture in catalogue
90 - 92 4:33 - 4:43 Pisarev, 1905  
93 - 94 4:72 - 4:77 Pisarev, 1905  
95 - 97 4:81 - 4:90 Pisarev, 1905  
98 - 112 4:92 - 4:145 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 100 - 102
113 - 189 5:85 - 7:106 Pisarev, 1905 Paper leaves ff. 120, 124, 129 - 130, 142, 150 - 165, 168 - 170, 179, 181 - 182
190 - 204 11:47 - 11:121 Pisarev, 1905  
205 12:19 - 12:23 Pisarev, 1905  
206 14:39 - 14:44 Pisarev, 1905  
207 - 213 15:7 15:86 Pisarev, 1905  
214 - 229 16:7 - 16:101 Pisarev, 1905  
230 16:114 - 16:119 Pisarev, 1905  
231 - 236 17:1 - 17:48 Pisarev, 1905  
237 - 257 17:56 - 18:77 Pisarev, 1905  
258 - 260 18:82 - 18:105 Pisarev, 1905  
261 - 265 19:3 - 19:44 Pisarev, 1905  
266 - 286 19:52 - 20:135 Pisarev, 1905  
- 21:69 - 21:76 Sam Fogg, 2000, Volume 22 Picture in catalogue
- 21:103 - 21:111 Sam Fogg, 2003, Volume 27 Picture in catalogue
- 22:6 - 22:12 Christie's, 1992, Lot 225 Picture in catalogue
- 22:12 - 22:17 Christie's, 1992, Lot 225a Picture in catalogue
- 23:68 - 23:75 Sotheby's, 2008, Lot 1 Picture in catalogue
- 25:62 - 25:74 Christie's, 1993, Lot 29 Picture in catalogue
287 - 290 26:63 - 26:117 Pisarev, 1905  
291 26:130 - 26:142 Pisarev, 1905  
292 - 295 26:155 - 26:202 Pisarev, 1905  
296 - 299 27:1 - 27:22 Pisarev, 1905  
300 27:28 - 27:34 Pisarev, 1905  
301 - 306 27:44 - 27:80 Pisarev, 1905  
307 - 321 36:12 - 37:75 Pisarev, 1905  
322 - 332 37:91 - 38:29 Pisarev, 1905  
333 39:6 - 39:8 Pisarev, 1905  
334 40:4 - 40:7 Pisarev, 1905  
335 40:51 - 40:57 Pisarev, 1905  
336 - 338 40:67 - 40:83 Pisarev, 1905  
339 - 345 41:5 - 41:39 Pisarev, 1905  
346 - 353 42:21 - 43:11 Pisarev, 1905  

Location

Tashkent, Uzbekistan and some folios in private hands.

Acknowledgements

We thank "Memory Of The World", UNESCO, for the pictures of the manuscript.

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References

[1] A. Shebunin, "Kuficheskii Koran Imp. SPB. Publichnoi Biblioteki", Zapiski Vostochnago Otdieleniia Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva, 1891, Volume 6, pp. 69-133, especially the conclusions.

[2] S. Pissareff, Coran Coufique de Samarcand: écrit d'après la Tradition de la Propre Main du Troisième Calife Osman (644-656) qui se trouve dans la Bibliothèque Impériale Publique de St. Petersbourg, 1905, St. Petersberg.

[3] A. Jeffery & I. Mendelsohn, "The Orthography Of The Samarqand Qur'an Codex", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1942, Volume 62, p. 195.

[4] F. Déroche, "Note Sur Les Fragments Coraniques Anciens De Katta Langar (Ouzbékistan)", Cahiers D'Asie Centrale, 1999, Volume 7, p. 65.

[5] Islamic Art, Indian Miniatures, Rugs And Carpets: London, Tuesday, 20 October 1992 at 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., Thursday, 22 October 1992 at 2.30 p.m., 1992, Christie's: London, p. 88 (Lot 225). Also see F. Déroche, "Manuscripts Of The Qur'an" in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an, 2003, Volume 3, Brill: Leiden & Boston, p. 261; Islamic Calligraphy, 2003, Catalogue 27, Sam Fogg: London, p. 12. Sam Fogg's catalogue contains a typographical error here. It reads 640-705 CE instead of 640-765 CE.

[6] E. A. Rezvan, "On The Dating Of An “‘Uthmanic Qur'an” From St. Petersburg", Manuscripta Orientalia, 2000, Volume 6, No. 3, p. 19.

[7] A. Shebunin, "Kuficheskii Koran Imp. SPB. Publichnoi Biblioteki", Zapiski Vostochnago Otdieleniia Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva, 1891, op. cit., pp. 69-133.

[8] S. Pissareff, Coran Coufique de Samarcand: écrit d'après la Tradition de la Propre Main du Troisième Calife Osman (644-656) qui se trouve dans la Bibliothèque Impériale Publique de St. Petersbourg, 1905, St. Petersberg.

[9] A. Jeffery & I. Mendelsohn, "The Orthography Of The Samarqand Qur'an Codex", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1942, op. cit., p. 176.

[10] Islamic Art, Indian Miniatures, Rugs And Carpets: London, Tuesday, 20 October 1992 at 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., Thursday, 22 October 1992 at 2.30 p.m., 1992, op. cit., p. 88 (Lot 225); Islamic Art, Indian Miniatures, Rugs And Carpets: London, Tuesday, 20 October 1992 at 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., Thursday, 22 October 1992 at 2.30 p.m., 1992, Christie's: London, p. 89 (Lot 225A); Islamic Art, Indian Miniatures, Rugs And Carpets: London, Tuesday, 19 October 1993 at 10.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., Thursday, 21 October 1993 at 2.30 p.m., 1993, Christie's: London, p. 20 (Lot 29); Islamic Art, Indian Miniatures, Rugs And Carpets: London, Tuesday, 19 October 1993 at 10.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m., Thursday, 21 October 1993 at 2.30 p.m., 1993, Christie's: London, p. 21 (Lot 30).

[11] Islamic Manuscripts, 2000, Catalogue 22, Sam Fogg: London, pp. 8-9; Islamic Calligraphy, 2003, Catalogue 27, op. cit., pp. 12-13.

[12] Arts Of The Islamic World, Session 1: Wednesday 09 Apr 2008 10:00 AM (Sale: L08220), Sotheby's: London, pp. tba (Lot 1).

[13] I. Mendelsohn, "The Columbia University Copy Of The Samarqand Kufic Qur'an", The Moslem World, 1940, pp. 357-358.

[14] A. Jeffery & I. Mendelsohn, "The Orthography Of The Samarqand Qur'an Codex", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1942, op. cit., pp. 177-195.

[15] S. al-Munajjid, Dirāsāt fī Tārīkh al-Khatt al-‘Arabī Mundhu Bidayatihi ilā Nihayat al-‘Asr al-Umawi (French Title: Etudes De Paleographie Arabe), 1972, Dar al-Kitab al-Jadid: Beirut (Lebanon), pp. 50-51.

[16] A. Shebunin, "Kuficheskii Koran Imp. SPB. Publichnoi Biblioteki", Zapiski Vostochnago Otdieleniia Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva, 1891, op. cit., pp. 77-79; For a similar table also see A. Jeffery & I. Mendelsohn, "The Orthography Of The Samarqand Qur'an Codex", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1942, op. cit., pp. 177-178.

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