PERF No. 665: The Earliest Extant Manuscript Of The Sirah Of Prophet Muḥammad By Ibn Hishām

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First Created: 23rd February 2005

Last Updated: 9th March 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

PERF No. 665, recto side.

PERF No. 665, verso side.


First half of the 3rd century of hijra. This manuscript is believed to be transmitted by students of Ibn Hishām (d. 218 AH /834 CE), perhaps soon after his death.

Manuscript Number

PERF No. 665


Fine papyrus 11 x 13 cm. Central section of folio covering 16 lines.

Small well formed early cursive hand with marked angularity. Note especially the initial alif with its consistent bend to the right. The triangular head of the mim is particularly conspicuous in verso. Diacritical points or dots are sparingly used and only for the letters , thā, dāl with dot underneath, zain, nūn and .[1]

The text contained in the manuscript concerns with the second meeting of ʿAqabah.

According to Nabia Abbott:

It is, nevertheless, illustrative of the simple nature and limited extent of variants in the course of early transmission... The papyrus thus affords us, at one and the same time, the earliest text fragment and the earliest extant manuscript fragment of the famous Sirah.[2]


Austrian National Library, Vienna.


We are grateful to the Austrian National Library, Vienna, for providing us the manuscript.

And Allah knows best!

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[1] N. Abbott, Studies In Arabic Literary Papyri: Historical Texts, 1957, Volume I, University of Chicago Press: Chicago (USA), p. 61. Plate 5 in the end shows both recto and verso images.

[2] ibid., p. 64.

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