Manuscript evidence is a major problem for Islam and its claims for the Qur'an. Aside from some of the manuscripts discovered in the loft of the Great Mosque in Sanaa in 1972, no manuscript fragment of the Qur'an can be dated earlier than first quarter of the 8th century A.D. - nearly 100 years after Muhammad. (Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, Annemarie Schimmel, 1984, p.4)
Muslims attempt to get around this problem by claiming that there are two "Uthmanic recensions", or original copies of 'Uthman's Codex of the Qur'an : the Samarkand Manuscript, in the Tashkent library, Uzbekistan and the Topkapi Manuscript, in the Topkapi Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey.
The flaw in this claim is that these documents are written in the Kufic Script which, according to Qur'an scholars Martin Lings and Yasin Hamid Safadi, did not appear until the late eighth century (Lings & Safadi 1976:12-13,17; Gilchrist 1989:145-146; 152-153).
Therefore, both the Samarkand and Topkapi Codices could not have been written earlier than 150 years after the 'Uthmanic Recension was [supposedly] compiled - at the earliest during the late 700's or early 800's since both are written in the Kufic script (Gilchrist 1989:144-147). This is a serious problem because we have a period of 150 years between the death of Muhammad and the earliest Qur'an. Could there have been changes, or even an evolution of the text of the Qur'an prior to the Umayyad period?
Nevertheless, the Samarkand Codex is one of the oldest extant manuscripts of the Qur'an. This fact makes it valuable for comparison with the today commonly printed texts. There are several very interesting textual differences between the "modern Qur'an" and the Samarkand Codex which can be compared.
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