skip to content

Cambridge University Library

Article: A Survey of Personal-Use Qurʾan Manuscripts Based on Fragments from the Cairo Genizah

T-S Ar.38.8
T-S Ar.38.8 (recto): this Qur'anic leaf was folded vertically six times, most likely to be carried as a talisman.
Nick Posegay
Thu 8 Jul 2021

GRU researcher Dr. Magdalen Connolly and I have just published an article about Genizah Qurʾan fragments in the Journal of Qurʾanic Studies, titled “A Survey of Personal-Use Qurʾan Manuscripts Based on Fragments from the Cairo Genizah.” In it, we identify 25 separate manuscripts of the Qurʾan – the holy book of Islam – in Cairo Genizah collections, including many in Cambridge. These manuscripts span the entire Genizah period and raise questions about medieval and pre-modern Jewish peoples’ engagement with the Qurʾan. Why would Jews own manuscripts of the Qurʾan, and why would they store them in genizot?

The second half of the article utilises this Genizah material as a novel corpus for studying Qurʾanic transmission and changes in Arabic orthography over time. This is the first time such a study has been attempted with Genizah fragments and provides particular insight into the production of small “personal” Qurʾan manuscripts in the Genizah society.


Spill the beans, why did they have manuscripts of the Koran in your opinion?

It seems like lots of different reasons. Some of the Qur'an fragments were used to make the bindings for other books (a common practice in the Middle Ages), but others seem to have been carried as talismans. A few are parts of Arabic writing exercises, though whether they were copied by Jews or Muslims, we can't be sure. It is possible that some Jews converted to Islam, acquired copies of the Qur'an, and later returned to Judaism, leaving those copies in their personal libraries which were then all stored in genizot upon their deaths. We also think it is likely that some Jewish scribes, particularly Karaite scribes, used Qur'an manuscripts as exemplars for formatting their own manuscripts of the Bible.

Add new comment



Share this post