ABU DHABI, -- HRH the Prince of Wales has presented a digital replica of ancient Holy Quran fragments discovered by the UK's University of Birmingham, during his visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The copy of the manuscript is to be the centrepiece of the royal launch of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Cultural Collaboration. The original Quran fragment, possibly the oldest in the world, remains in the University of Birmingham and has been hailed as a major discovery.

Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended the launch in Abu Dhabi Emirate's second city of Al Ain earlier this evening (Monday, 7th November).

In a written foreword for The Ancient Quranic Leaves exhibition catalogue, HRH the Prince of Wales said, "As the British Patron of UK/UAE 2017, I could not be more delighted that the extraordinary Birmingham Quran Manuscript is being exhibited in the United Arab Emirates as a centrepiece of the year's events.

The University of Birmingham's find came when a manuscript which it had held since the 1920s was radio-carbon dated last year and found to be much older than anyone had expected.

The range of dates, established by tests carried out by the University of Oxford, showed that the manuscript was among the earliest surviving fragments of the Holy Quran and could be the oldest in existence.

The event in Al Ain is part of a year of collaborations promoting cultural and economic links between the UK and the UAE in areas such as the arts, education, sport and science.

It will also mark the symbolic return, at least in replica form, of a manuscript that was made in the Middle East in the earliest years of the Muslim faith.

An investigation into the likely origin of the Birmingham manuscript showed that it was related to a similar document held in Paris, which had been brought to Europe by a Vice-Consul of Napoleon.

The university's Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, said that the Birmingham manuscript was of "huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic study of Islam. It is my great pleasure to be supporting the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration by curating the first digital exhibition of the Birmingham Quran manuscript."

Jamal bin Huwaireb, Managing Director of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, an educational foundation set up by the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said that he believes the pages discovered in Birmingham are from the first Quran commissioned by Abu Bakir Al Siddiq, the first caliph after the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, who reigned between 632 and 634.

"I personally examined this ancient parchment. In my opinion, these fragments of the Holy Quran were neatly written on a special material and have been produced for someone important, such as the caliph," he said, in a report carried by the BBC News website.

Gavin Anderson, Director UAE at the British Council, said, "The UK and the UAE have a long history of collaboration and the preservation and display of this historic manuscript is the perfect example of how this collaboration continues to this day. We're delighted to support the University of Birmingham to bring this exciting digital exhibition to Dubai and Abu Dhabi as part of UK/UAE 2017, our exciting new year of cultural collaboration.

"The purpose of UK/UAE 2017 is to strengthen creative collaborations between the UK and the UAE in order to give a greater focus, depth and contemporary relevance to the long standing relationship between both nations."

UK/UAE 2017 is a year of creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, organised by the British Council, the UK's international organisation for education and culture, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of Wales. Throughout 2017, the British Council will collaborate with a wide range of British and Emirati partners to create a diverse programme that spans the arts, literature, education, society, sport, science and trade.

By exploring the ways in which the two nations' respective cultural heritage and contemporary creative expression inspire innovation in all sectors and all areas of society, UK/UAE 2017 will strengthen cultural and economic ties and identify major opportunities for future collaboration on both sides.

Source: Emirates News Agency