Two pages of a Quran manuscript believed to be 1,370 years old were discovered by a Ph.D. student in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.
Radiocarbon dating of the pages showed that they existed from A.D. 568 to A.D. 645, implying that they were nearly as old as Muhammad, who lived from A.D. 570 and A.D. 632, according to The Guardian.
The radiocarbon analysis was conducted by Oxford University and was 95 percent accurate, Christian Science Monitor reports.
Susan Worrall, University of Birmingham's director of special collections, said they did not expect the manuscript leaves would be so old.
"We knew it was going to be a good date, but when we actually got the dates it was just an 'oh my goodness' moment," Worrall said, The Guardian reports.
David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the university, said the Quran leaves may very well "take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam" based on the Muslim tradition that the prophet Muhammad was enlightened by the revelations written in the Quran during the years A.D. 610 and A.D. 632, according to BBC.
"The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad," the professor said. "He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him personally - and that really is quite a thought to conjure with," Thomas said, BBC reports.
The Quran pages had actually been sitting in the library since the 1920s. They were part of a collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts gathered by Alphonse Mingana, a theologian and Chaldean priest. Their place of origin is unknown.
The leaves had escaped discovery for many years because they were kept together with another manuscript written in a similar writing, but that was 200 years younger.
A Ph.D. student, Alba Fedeli, who had been studying the Mingana collection stumbled upon the two leaves. Fedeli noticed that they were actually from another manuscript.
"When she brought this to us and said she thought two leaves came from another manuscript, and we looked closely at them, we could see that she was right," Worrall said. "At first glance they look identical to the other pages, but ... you can see that the text does not flow."
The two leaves contained part of chapters 18 to 20 of the Quran, which were written in an ancient Arabic script called Hijazi.
The contents of the Quran were originally passed on to others by memory until Caliph Abu Bakr, the leader who came next after Muhammad, ordered that all Quranic materials be gathered and produced into book form. However, it was not until the time of the third Caliph, Caliph Uthman, that the book was completed.
The Quran pages, which Thomas said are "a treasure second to none," will be put on display in the university's Barber Institute in October, according to the BBC.