The history of the Qurʾānic text begins with the time of its revelation. The research on the Qurʾānic manuscripts is one of the main fields of textual studies of the Qurʾān. There have been many works done by both Muslim and Western scholars. Many museums and libraries around the world hold Qurʾān manuscripts. Each manuscript has its own characteristics such as orthography, calligraphy, decoration, and binding, number of the pages and the lines, and its dating. This article deals with 110 Qurʾān manuscripts found in the Vatican Library (Biblioteca Apostalica Vaticana) at the Vaticani arabi, Borgiani arabi, Barberiniani orientali ve Rossiani Collections. The dates of these Qurʾān manuscripts vary from 1/7th (?) and 13/19th centuries. The article aims to identify the features of Qurʾānic writing by studying chronologically some basic physical-content descriptions and characteristics of these manuscripts. It also examines the different names of the sūrahs and the knowledge on Meccan or Medinan sūrahs presented on the sūrah headings of manuscripts.
Summary: Each Qurʾān manuscript has its own characteristics. These features present significant insights into the field of history of Qurʾānic text. A manuscript becomes a source for the history of writing muṣḥaf in terms of physical and content features such as calligraphy, ink colors, binding, and explanations found in kataba page, the sūrah headings which contain the names of sūrahs, Meccan-Medinan knowledge, the numbers of āyahs, and the signs for juzʾ, ʿashr, ḥizb. The research on the names of sūrahs, Meccan-Medinan knowledge, and the number of āyahs contributes to the ʿulūm al-Qurʾān studies as well.
This article examines 110 Qur’an manuscripts located in the Vatican Library in the Vaticani arabi (73 MSS), Borgiani arabi (25 MSS), Barberiniani orientali (11 MSS), and Rossiani (2 MSS) collections. Each manuscript is individually studied. However, due to the limitation of the article, I include only some basic and significant physical and content features of these manuscripts. The catalogues prepared by Giorgio Levi della Vida (1886-1967) and Carlo Alberto Anzuini, are consulted for this study. I also study the sūrah headings which contain the names of sūrahs and Meccan-Medinan knowledge.
The most used calligraphy types of these manuscripts coming from different geographies are maghribī (19 MSS) ve nasikh-Ottoman (66 MSS). The basic features of maghribī MSS as follows: The text is written dark brown, vowel signs in dark red, shadda and jazm in blue, and hamza in orange ink (6-7/12-13th centuries). The āyah endings are in circle form and decorated (6-7/12-13th centuries). The same characteristics can be seen in the next centuries (8/14th and 9/15th centuries). The word sajdah is written in the same line with the sajdah ayah in Borg. Ar. 51 (6-7/12-13th centuries).
The main characteristics of nasikh-Ottoman MSS as follows: Vat. Ar. 195 (9/15th century) includes the āyah endings in two different figures: three dots in triangle-shaped in red ink or in inverse comma-formed (٬). The numbers of the āyahs are not written in this manuscript. On the other hand, the earlier features of the present muṣḥafs found in this manuscript as follows: Waqf signs are in red ink; the word sajdah is written in the same line with the sajdah āyah in black ink. The word ḥizb is in the margin of the pages. The sūrah headings hold the name of the sūrah, Meccan-Medinan knowledge, and the numbers of āyahs. The taʿqība word is at the end of the pages. Among these manuscripts, Barb. Or. 72 contains, for the first time, the prayer text after the reading the whole Qur’an (ḥatm) at the end of the muṣḥaf. This manuscript has different explanations for the Meccan and Medinan knowledge. It uses “نزلت بمكة” for “مكية”, and “نزلت بالمدينة” for “مدنية”. The figures of juzʾ are written in numerical form in Borg. Ar. 184. The divisions such as “ربع حزب, نصف حزب” can be seen in the manuscripts in 12/18th centuries.
The names of the sūrah in the sūrah headings can be different from their widely-known names. The 39 sūrahs have different names among the manuscripts examined in this article. The names of sūrahs which cannot be found in the relevant classical source as follows: al-khalīl for Sūrah Ibrāhīm; al-kharīr for Sūrah al-Sajdah; al-sayyāḥūn for Sūrah Sabaʾ; jādala for Sūrah Mucādala; al-ʿishār for Sūrah al-Takwīr; wa’l-layli iẕā yaghshā for Sūrah al-Shams; lumeze for Sūrah al-Humaza; miskīn for Sūrah al-Māʿūn; asrā for Sūrah al-Isrāʾ; al-maqābir and al-qabr for Sūrah al-Takas̠ur; salāsilā for Sūrah al-Insān; al-abrār for al-Muṭaffifīn.
The sūrah headings indicate the knowledge of Meccan-Medinan classification of the sūrahs. Each manuscript does not have this feature. However, the manuscripts have this feature may not include this knowledge for each sūrah headings. The disagreements about the Meccan or Medinan sūrahs in the ʿulūm al-Qurʾān literature can be seen in the manuscripts studied in this article. The manuscripts which have this knowledge present that the 47 sūrahs recorded only as Meccan, but the remaining ones both Meccan and Medinan. These manuscripts do not record a sūrah only as Medinan. There is, therefore, more disagreements about if a Medinan sura is Medinan or not.
There are manuscripts which present more detailed knowledge on Meccan-Medinan. Vat. Ar. 1484 (9/15th century) mentions not only whether a sūrah is Meccan or Medinan but also the exceptional verses if the sūrah has. For instance, the heading of Sūrah al-Anʿām reads that: “سورة الانعام نزلت جملة واحدة بمكة الا ثلث ايات انزلت بالمدينة قوله قل تعالوا أتل ما حرم ربكم عليكم لعلكم تتقون”. Among the sūrah headings which have this feature are al-Naḥl, al-Ḥajj, al-Shuʿarā, Luqmān, al-Sajdah, and al-Zumar. Vat. Ar. 1588 mentions only the numbers of exceptional verses. For example, the heading of Sūrah al-Isrāʾ says that “مكية و قيل مدنية غير ثلث ايات”.
Vat. Ar. 1597 contains details about the numbers of ayahs, words, and letters in the sūrah headings. For instance, for Sūrah al-Nisāʾ, it reads that “اياتها ق ع اختلافها ب كلماتهاغج ذ م ه حروفها غيول”. The Arabic letters in this explanation has a numerical value (abjad). According to this the number of āyahs is 170, the number of debated ones in merging with the previous and next verses is 2, the number of words 3.745, and the number of letters is 16.030.
There are corrections on the pages of the manuscripts. These corrections may be done through the writing process or during the check reading (muqabala) at the end of the writing. The writing of the text by heart and by looking to the other copy, and the similarities may cause these kinds of errors for the copyist.
Studying on the Qurʾān manuscripts reveals the different features of the writing of a muṣḥaf. Even though the numbers of the graduate studies gradually increase in Turkey, there is no a PhD dissertation which analyzes a Qurʾān manuscript, and a master thesis has been recently completed. Therefore, establishing graduate courses in the field of Islamic studies will strengthen Qurʾān and tafsīr studies.