This eighth century calligraphic fragment from the collections of the Library of Congress is most likely the oldest Islamic text in North America, one that could have been touched by the youngest companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The fragment includes verses 53-54 of the 34th chapter of the Qurʼan entitled Surat Saba' (Sheba), as well as the first ten verses of the 35th chapter of the Qurʼan entitled Surat al-Fatir (The originator). Surat al-Fatir is an early Meccan surah that deals with the mystery of creation and angels. A verse marker in the shape of a red flower appears at the end of the last two verses of Surat Saba' on the folio's recto. Immediately following the end of this surah appears the bismillah ("In the Name of God") of Surat al-Fatir. The surah's title and number of verses, typically given in a chapter heading, have been omitted. The text on the recto has been executed on the hair side of the parchment and thus is better preserved than the text on the verso, which has worn off substantially. A red dot between verses 9 and 10 on the fragment's verso seems to have been added at a later date to facilitate the separation of verses, as were the words al-mala'ika (the angels) and rusulan (messengers, in the accusative), inscribed in black ink immediately above the text line to which they correspond.
Place: Middle East and North Africa; Saudi Arabia
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 21.6 x 30.3 centimeters