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First Islamic inscription may help solve Qur'an mystery.

Byline: ANI

Washington, Nov 19 (ANI): The first Islamic inscription, dating back to 1,300 years, may help solve a mystery about the Qur'an that has vexed historians for hundreds of years, namely the reason behind the text being seemingly written without diacritical marks.

Diacritical marks, which include accent marks, tildes, umlauts and other notations, help to distinguish one letter from another and aid in pronunciation. When added or removed, they can completely change the meaning of a word or sentence.

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 a report in Discovery News, the Islamic inscription, which predates the earliest known copies of the Qur'an, was made by an Arabic traveler who engraved en·grave  
tr.v. en·graved, en·grav·ing, en·graves
1. To carve, cut, or etch into a material: engraved the champion's name on the trophy.

2.
 his name on a block of red sandstone (Geol.) See under Sandstone.
a name given to two extensive series of British rocks in which red sandstones predominate, one below, and the other above, the coal measures.
 1,300 years ago.

Analysis of the recently found sandstone inscription, determined that it reads, "In the name of Allah/ I, Zuhayr, wrote (this) at the time 'Umar died/year four/And twenty."

"It is an immensely important find, since it is our earliest dated Arabic inscription," according to researcher Ali ibn Ibrahim Ghabban, who, with his wife, discovered the 644 A.D. inscription northwest of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia (sä`dē ərā`bēə, sou`–, sô–), officially Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, kingdom (2005 est. pop. .

Ghabban, a member of the Supreme Commission for Tourism, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, added that it also "shows evidence of a fully-fledged system of diacritical marks."

Robert Hoyland, a professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, explained the significance of Ghabban's determination to Discovery News.

"Whether the Qur'an was originally written in a script that contained diacritical marks is very important because Western Qur'an scholars generally say that it wasn't and therefore feel free to make some amendments to the Qur'anic text by changing the diacritical marks to give it a different meaning," he said.

Although the earliest Islamic inscription, which is also the world's second oldest evidence for written Arabic, does not include punctuation or vowel vowel

Speech sound in which air from the lungs passes through the mouth with minimal obstruction and without audible friction, like the i in fit. The word also refers to a letter representing such a sound (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y).
 marks, it does contain markings to distinguish consonants This is a list of all consonants, ordered by place and manner of articulation. Ordered by place of articulation
Labial consonants

Bilabial consonants

  • bilabial click [ʘ] 
 that are identical in shape.

This proves such a marking system was already in place before the earliest known copies of the Qur'an, which date to sometime between 652 and 680 A.D., Hoyland indicated.

According to Ghabban, Muhammad's close associates and early followers followers

see dairy herd.
 "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 would mean that Western scholars would have less excuse to change the text as we have it now," Hoyland added. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Dec 3, 2008
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