Fragments of what is believed to be the oldest Koran in the world were found last month
Pages of what is believed to be the oldest Koran in the world were discovered in Birmingham last month, sparking intense interest among academics and believers across the globe.
They were then carbon-dated by experts at the University of Oxford, who predicted that it was more than 1,350 years old.
But now several historians have suggested that the parchment appears to be so old, that it could have even existed BEFORE the Prophet Muhammad.
If the timings are correct, the Koran found in Birmingham was made between 568AD and 645AD, while the dates usually given for the life of Muhammad are between 570AD and 632AD.
The pieces could be found to predate the Prophet Muhammad
Historian Tom Holland, told the Times: "It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged - and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions."
Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, added: "This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven."
He went to suggest that if the dates are correct, "then the Koran, or at least portions of it, predates Muhammad".
It destabilises the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged
Tom Holland, historian
Several Muslim scholars have fiercely disputed these claims, and suggested that first Koran in book form was completed in 650AD.
Mustafa Shah from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London also told the paper: "If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Koran's origins."
The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have founded Islam sometime after 610AD, although the origins of the Koran remain unclear.
Many suggest it was passed down orally rather than in writing, meaning the discovery is of particular significance to the early strands of Islam.
The discovery in Birmingham last month contained pages from parts of the Suras, or chapters, 18 to 20.
It was written in ink on parchment made from animal skin.
The claims have been disputed by several Muslim scholars
Professor Nadir Dinshaw, who studies interreligious relations at the University of Birmingham, said the discovery could "take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam".
When it was found last month he said: "According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur'an, the scripture of Islam, between the years AD 610 and 632, the year of his death.
"At this time, the divine message was not compiled into the book form in which it appears today. Instead, the revelations were preserved in 'the memories of men'.
"Parts of it had also been written down on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels.
"Muslims believe that the Koran they read today is the same text that was standardised under Uthman and regard it as the exact record of the revelations that were delivered to Muhammad.
"The tests carried out on the parchment of the Birmingham folios yield the strong probability that the animal from which it was taken was alive during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad or shortly afterwards.
"These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed."