Earliest Islamic Inscription: Issue of Quran's Diacritical Marks

A photo of an inscription etched by an Arabic traveler. The traveler engraved his name on the block of red sandstone over 1,300 years ago in a location northwest of Saudi Arabia. The inscription reads, "In the name of Allah/ I, Zuhayr, wrote (this) at the time 'Umar died/year four/And twenty." [Ali ibn Ibrahim Ghabban and Robert Hoyland]

Excitement spreads among historians as an important archeological discovery is made: inscription on a block of redstone by an Arabic traveller, which is over 1300 years old, older than the earliest copy of Quran, making it the earliest dated Arabic inscription! And the surprising thing about it is that it uses diacritical marks, something which are completely absent in the early copies of Quran. The absence of diactrical marks makes the text vulnerable to multiple interpretation. The inscription on the rock does not include punctuation or vowel marks, however it does contain markings to distinguish consonants that are identical in shape, proving that such a system of marks was already in use before the earliest known copies of Quran were written down. So, the big question arises: why doesn't Quran contain these diacritical marks?

Discovery News reports: Ghabban now believes Muhammad's close associates and early followers "stripped Qur'ans of diacritical marks" in order to permit "Muslims to read the Qur'an as it was revealed to Muhammad in the various dialects of the Arabs, and allowing the skeleton of the word to bear all the meanings which appear in it."

This discovery can also potentially solve the issue of when the Second Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab actually die.

Read the full report at Discovery.


robertryu said…
its awesome!mind blowing.
ahmad said…
I think its a very important discovery, but i think, the issue is too established to be solved by a single inscription, which not related to Koran directly as well. A name on a wall, wants to change our understanding of history of Arabic language, i am rather skeptic. The existing theory that Arabic was not a very developed language when Koran was revealed, explains a lot. Why Koran was stripped of the important guide marks , escapes my understanding, especially when we knew there was a bitter conflict between companions on "what is Koran".
Ill wait for a better explanation
Awais said…
@ ahmad

I agree with you. This issue is far from solved yet.