Symposium Old and Rare Manuscripts of the Quran

Speakers at the Symposium were Dr. Bashir Bin Hassan Al-Humayri, a manuscript expert, specialist in Qur'anic studies, and an assistant professor in the Department of Qur'anic Studies at Taiba University; and Professor Saleh Bin Sulayman Al-Hajji, Director of Manuscripts at King Saud University. The Symposium was run by the Deputy General Supervisor of the Library, who welcomed the participatants, presented a historical overview of the manuscript museums and the cultural role played by the Library in enriching the landscape of knowledge with many diverse cultural products, which are available to researchers from all parts of the world. Attention was drawn to the fact that the Islamic world possesses two million manuscripts of the Qur’an copied over the last fifteen centuries, while it was explained that the Holy Qur’an has had very high status since the emergence of Islam. These manuscripts were not copied on a commercial basis or as a gift, but rather as a means of establishing Shari’a and Islam, and to enable the Muslim to apply his religion.
The deputy general supervisor of the library also confirmed that the more than half of the Islamic manuscripts from east to west relate to the Holy Qur’an. The manuscripts are written in different scripts, and contain decorative designs even from the beginnings of Islam to the present.
During the Symposium, the two guests spoke about the history of the printing of the Qur’an, the most prominent manuscripts of the Qur’an copied throughout Islamic history, the most prominent scripts that they were written in, and the international and Islamic libraries that possess the most prominent manuscripts of the Qur’an.
Professor Saleh Al-Hajji reviewed a series of pictures of manuscripts copied in different eras, and whose originals are preserved in King Saud University, including a piece of parchment with verses of Surat al-Furqan written on both sides of it, and a copy of a manuscript of the Qur’an from the 9th century AH (copied in 898 AH). The names of the surahs were written in gold leaf at the beginning of each surah, and the edges of the pages were trimmed with decoration.
He also presented a manuscript copied in 1651, containing 500 pages, showing that the common denominator between the different manuscripts is decoration, gold leaf and the script used. One of the things that he presented was a photograph of a rare copy of some pages from a manuscript that was written on 31 pages, each of whose lines began with an alif. It is a rare manuscript, called the Alif Version.
Dr. Bashir Al-Hamiri wondered: Why do we study the manuscripts in the Islamic world? He opined that this has a historical dimension, to enable us to read the changes in writing and copying, as well as to establish the pillars of religion. He also opined that the manuscripts had suffered great hardships in the course of processing and manufacturing the inks, and that the scribe was writing with his spirit and not just with his hand.
He displayed a collection of pictures of rare manuscripts, and types of writing on decorative and gilded pages. He pointed out that there was a technical symmetry in the writing of verses in terms of starting and ending with certain letters. The writing was without dots or diacritics, and Muslims relied on memorization rather than writing. He also presented a page from a manuscript kept at the University of Cambridge.
The seminar was accompanied by an exhibition of sample pictures of manuscripts kept in the Library. The Library possesses a rare collection of manuscripts, a number of which were on display, which had been copied in a number of Arab and Islamic countries.