Images from an Arabic and Latin Koran: Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi 44/32 (8th century) and Mark of Toledo's translation (1210 AD) in the Paris MS, Bibliothèque nationale, Lat. 14503 (14th century)

The Multilingual Historical Koran


17.08.2018 - 10:15 to 31.12.2018 - 12:00

This research seminar series is organized by the MF Centre for the Advanced Study of Religion (MF CASR) in cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Philology (PHI). During this seminar we read the Koranic text in its original language (the Arabiyya) and in the earliest known translations to Greek (870 AD), Persian (10th century), Turkic (11th century) and Latin (11th century), as witnesses to the history of the text and its influence.

Time: Fridays 10:15-12:00. Venue: MF, Gydas vei 4, Majorstuen.

Our aim is to study the text both as a historical document in its pre-Islamic Near Eastern context, and as a religious document in its subsequent history when it had become a foundational text for the religion of Islam. There are three long-term aims of the project: 
(1) To present a complete multilingual historical edition of the Koranic text with the most ancient translations into Greek, Persian, Turkic and Latin, published at:; 
(2) To investigate the nature of the Koranic religion in a Late Antique Near Eastern context; 
(3) To gain new insights into the linguistic status of the Koranic language, the Arabiyya, and its position vis-à-vis other Semitic languages (like Hebrew and Aramaic, Ancient South Arabian and Ancient North Arabian) and other "Arabic languages" (or "Arabic dialects").

The Koran is an ancient religious text from the Late Antique Middle East, written in a special variety of the Arabic branch of the Semitic languages, the so-called Arabiyya. Since the 7th century AD it has come to be regarded as the “holy book” for the major monotheistic world religion of Islam. The text is known from a small number of manuscripts dated to the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and from a large number of manuscripts dated to later centuries. It is also, crucially, preserved in a particularly resilient oral tradition, a tradition which arguably is as ancient as the manuscript tradition.

The Koran – in more technical publications also written Quran or Qurʾān – is a famous book. It is also a controversial book, object of high reverence by some, and outright hate by others. For the organisers of this seminar, the Koran is first and foremost an ancient text and a valuable document from an extremely interesting historical period. Both the historical context of the Koranic text itself, and the later impact of the text as a holy text for a community of believers, is a truly fascinating story and a story which ought to be common knowledge amongst believers and non-believers alike – no less so in this divisive day and age.

In addition to an embarrassingly large quantity of secondary literature (an embarrassment mainly to the project organisers, who will have to sort the wheat from the chaff), the material for the seminar are the following texts:

1. Koranic standard textus receptus (with minor variants), a.k.a. the 1924 Cairo Edition or the 1984 King Fahd Edition.
2. Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi 44/32. A copy of the Qurʾān attributed to ʿUthmān and kept in the Topkapı Saray Library. The date of this muṣḥaf remains unclear. It is without any doubt a copy of the 8th century AD which is related to the Umayyad tradition.
3. Fragments of the Byzantine Greek translation (sometime before 870 AD). 
4. Two or three of the earliest Persian translations (976 AD and 10th century). 
5. The earliest interlinear Turkic translations (11th century).
6. The two earliest Latin translations (1143 og 1210).

For questions, contact: