The Ma’il Qur’an is one of the very earliest Qur’ans in the world.

Why is it so important?

It dates back to the 8th century, some 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. As far as can be ascertained, it was produced in the Hijaz region of Arabia where the Prophet hailed from and where the holy places of Mecca and Medina are. It contains over two-thirds of the Qur’an text, making it an almost complete codex and one of the oldest Qur’ans in existence. There is evidence that it was a complete text but the rest has been lost over time. Its importance cannot be overestimated as it provides important evidence of the early development of the written recording of the Qur’an.

The manuscript

The text is penned on vellum, a writing material prepared from calf skin. It is written in an early style of Arabic script called ma’il, meaning ‘sloping’. This style is one of a number of early Arabic scripts collectively named Hijazi after the region in which they were developed. It is notable for its lack of diacritical marks, the spelling symbols that distinguish between letters of similar shape. As in other ancient fragments, there are no vowel signs or other aids to pronunciation, and the end of each verse is indicated by six small dashes in two stacks of three. The chapter headings in red ink have been added later in naskhi script.


Explore this manuscript in full on our Digitised Manuscripts website.