All praise be to Allāh and may our salāh and salām be upon the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
When I first read the news about the findings of what may be considered the world’s oldest manuscript of the Glorious Qur’ān in Birmingham University Library, I was not so excited nor was I bothered very much. For me, the infamous talk by David Cameron that was delivered less than 24 hours was more important news. 
Also read, Plotting of Cameron, of al-Rahman & the discovery of a Qur’an by Z A Rahman.
I had a casual conversation with one of the young boys about it and I said to him, what does it mean? It does not mean very much for me. He was very surprised. In this article, I will disclose my thoughts about it as I found myself compelled to do so after the wide coverage of this finding and the excitement of so many Muslims and non-Muslims about it.
Why do many Muslims feel excited about this discovery? If it is because of the prospect of having something written potentially by a beloved companion of the Messenger of Allah (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), then that is a good thing out of their love for the companions, which is a sign of Īmān. If, however, people are feeling excitement for other reasons then we need to be careful.
The key question being asked is: is it authentic or not? But no one has asked why we need to be concerned about its authenticity. Is it because they are viewing these findings solely from an archaeological perspective? Or is it from an ideological perspective? Does it add value to the authenticity of the Qur’ān? Does it raise questions or doubts about the authenticity of Quranic script? Does it have some words that are different to the Qur’ān as was the case with some of the archaic Yemeni manuscripts that that were found in 1972? Should Muslims be happy as yet another proof for the authenticity of the Qur’ān has been found?
In all honesty, such findings should not have any value for Muslims from any Islamic perspective. It should not increase their belief in the authenticity of the Qur’ān, nor should it decrease it irrespective of its contents. In fact, one who believes such “news” increased his belief should feel a certain sadness as this is likely a sign of weak belief in Islām and in the Qur’ān. Furthermore, the “Islamic excitements” of so many Muslims about the “news” raises more important questions for me. Does this mean that many Muslims are so inferior about their faith to a degree that they are looking for any “proof concerning the authenticity of the essence of their faith; al-Quran?” This should not be the case.
The fundamental question for me is: what is the methodology we as Muslims should follow to verify anything related to our religion? There are many reasons why I consider this the central question. Imagine if this copy, after it has proven that it is authentic from a scientific perspective, included some different words to the Qur’ān. What will be our position? A similar phenomenon occurred when German and other western scholars studied the Yemeni scripts. I remember discussing the analysis of the Yemeni manuscripts with an academic Muslim brother. He argued that we as Muslims need a sophisticated methodology to respond to these findings that lead to either the possibility that there were different “Qurans” or that there were some mistakes in writing the Qur’ān. I was shocked, emphatically assuring him we already have a very sophisticated methodology to respond to these allegations. He asked what it was; and my answer was: ‘Whoever wrote the Yemeni ones, provided that it was proven they were genuine and authentic, might have made a mistake when he wrote it or instead, he might have deliberately forged it as is mentioned in the following story.’
In his tafsīr of 15:9 “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian,” Imām Al-Qurṭubī has reported an event from the court of the ‘Abbāsī Khalīfah, al- Ma’mūn. He, the Khalīfah, was used to hosting occasional debates on intellectual issues at his court where all scholars were welcome. It so happened that a Jew came to attend one of these debates. By his looks, dress and manners, he seemed to be an elegant person. Then, his address during the debate was eloquent and intellectually bright. When the meeting was over, al-Ma’mūn called for him and asked him if he was an Israelite, which he confirmed. Al-Ma’mūn asked him to become a Muslim in which case he could hope to have the best possible treatment from him.
He said that he was not willing to leave the religion of his forefathers which was his religion too. The matter ended there. That person went away. Then, after a year, the same person returned as a Muslim and made a very distinct contribution in the court meeting on the subject of Islamic jurisprudence. After the session was over al-Ma’mūn called for him and asked him if he was the same person who had come last year. He said: “Yes, I am.” Al-Ma’mūn asked: “At that time you had refused to accept Islām. Tell me what made you accept Islām now.” He said:
“When I went back from here, I decided to do some research on contemporary religions. I am a scribe. I write books and sell them. They bring a good price. This time I wanted to perform an experiment. First, I wrote three manuscripts of the Torah in which I made some additions and deletions of my own. I took these manuscripts to the Synagogue. The Jews found them interesting and bought them. Then, I did the same thing with the Injīl. I wrote three manuscripts, complete with my additions and deletions, and took them to the Church where the Christians were pleased with these manuscripts and bought them from me. After that, I tried the same thing with the Qur’ān. I wrote three good-looking manuscripts of the Qur’ān, of course with the usual additions and deletions of my own. When I went out to sell them, I faced a problem. Every buyer I went to would take the manuscript, look into it to determine if it was correct or not, and when he would notice additions or deletions made into it, he would throw it back at me. From this episode, I learnt my lesson that this Book is protected, and protected by Allāh Ta‘ālā Himself; therefore, I embraced Islām.”
In conclusion, we need to tighten our methodology and process of verifying anything attributed to our Islām. If we do not tighten this methodology, which is a branch of what might be called epistemology, then we will always search for answers to any doubt about Islām and whenever we give an answer, a new doubt will continue. We will be constantly firefighting and, more dangerously, be in a defensive position which leads to an inferiority complex. Our faith and Dīn will be always be at stake. Surveying the Qur’ān confirms that Allāh does not like this attitude whatsoever.
In fact, the first few verses of the first chapter after the opening of the Qur’ān confirm that true believers will have a firm belief that does not accept doubts in their faith.
“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allāh – Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, and who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muḥammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.” 
Allāh also said,
“The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allāh and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allāh. It is those who are the truthful.” 
What is the methodology/process to confirm any matter related to Islām?
It is amazing that Islām can be explained in one minute, and yet, despite this, it is the religion with the largest number of books that explain its details. Such is the case with the process or methodology applied to confirm whether something is part of it or not. This process can be so sophisticated, yet it can be explained in a few lines. It is the concept of the unanimous agreement of the Muslim Ummah throughout history that makes things Islamic. In other words, mainstream Islām is what Islām is. Mainstream Islām is what the vast majority of Muslims accepted since the time of the Prophet until now. The Prophet said “My Ummah would never agree on errors.” 
Allāh commanded us in Sūrah Fātihah, which is the most repeated Sūrah in the Qur’ān, to follow the straight path which was defined as “The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger nor of those who are astray.” It is impossible that Allāh will allow millions of sincere, righteous people to practice something that is wrong or not pleasing to Him.
If there is any dispute about what was accepted, then we should check the mainstream position of the best of all Muslims, the Muslims of the first three generations. They are the companions, their students and the generation after them which end with the four Imāms; Abū Hanīfah, Mālik, Shāfiʿī and Imām Aḥmad. Imagine, Allāh said that He would not allow His beloved Prophet to change anything from Qur’ān, then how would He allow people to change it. Let us read these strong verses:
“[That] indeed, the Qur’ān is the word of a noble Messenger. And it is not the word of a poet; little do you believe. Nor the word of a soothsayer; little do you remember. And if Muḥammad had made up about Us some [false] sayings, We would have seized him by the right hand; Then We would have cut from him the aorta. And there is no one of you who could prevent [Us] from him.” 
If we apply this to the Qur’ān, then we find that the entire ummah has accepted the Qur’ān that we know of; nothing less, nothing more and nothing different. Will any sane person accept that Allāh, the all-Seeing, all-Hearer, all-Wise, would be unable to preserve His final revelation, allowing billions of people to read other than His words while attributing them to Him?
Therefore, if hypothetically speaking we found a copy of the Qur’ān and all scientific methods confirmed that it was a copy that was written by the Prophet’s scribe of revelation, Zayd ibn Thābit, and it was found that it includes words or statements that are different to the Qur’ān we know, then we will reject that and we will throw it away. We should not be in the slightest bit concerned with analysing what it says and finding answer for the “discrepancies” that might arise from it. It is simply not Qur’ān. On the other hand, if it includes the words of Allāh that we know of accurately, then it should not add to our faith in the authenticity of the book of Allāh. Feeling spiritual upliftment due to these findings is one thing, but an increase in the belief in the authenticity of the Qur’ān should not be influenced as seems currently to be the case.
“Indeed, those who disbelieve in the message after it has come to them… And indeed, it is a mighty Book. Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it; [it is] a revelation from a [Lord who is] Wise and Praiseworthy.” 
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:2-5
 Al-Qur’ān, 49:15
 Al-Qur’ān, 69:40-7
 Al-Qur’ān, 41:41-42