The Osman's Koran
Famous Muslim Relic
The famous Uthman Qur'an (Tashkent Qur'an or Osman's Koran) dating back to the 7th century is kept in the library building, in a special safe with fixed temperature and humidity.
In Islamic history it is believed that the original and uncreated Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad by Allah through Archangel Gabriel. In Muhammad's life time there was no urgent need to have the written text of the Qur'an, since it was always possible to get oral clarifications on any issue from Muhammad. But already at the time of true caliphs the Muslim community started to have disagreements and delusions. Especially because the number of people, who personally heard and remembered the sermons of the founder of Islam, was dramatically decreasing due to aggravation of jihad, war for dissemination of Islam.
In 650 the Third Caliph, Uthman, instructed Muhammad's adopted son, personal secretary and scrivener, Zaid ibn Sabit, to collect all the records of the prophet's sermons in a single Book. Simultaneously four more of his aides collected records and interviewed people thus compiling four more versions of the Qur'anic text. Afterwards all the texts were thoroughly compared and compiled into one book which was canonized. Only several copies of that compiled book were made while all the other versions as well as drafts were burned.
Compilation of the text of the Qur'an was completed more than on time. In 656 crowds of rebels, who came to Medina under the guise of pilgrims, burst into the caliph's palace and slaughtered him with swords. According to a legend at the time of his death Uthman was reading one of the copies of the canonized Qur'an and his blood stained the pages of the book.
The creation of the unified text of the Qur'an was one of Uthman's important services to Islam. Having collected the texts of Muhammad's sermons from his disciples and associates Uthman compiled a consolidated text with the help of Zaid ibn Sabit, removing what, in his view, was in contradiction with the idea of Muslim unity and could cause strife. All the other texts and records were destroyed and, as Muslims believe, five copies of the unified Qur'an were made and sent to Mekka, Medina, Damascus, Kufa and Basra. Uthman kept the original. The pages of this very original copy were stained with caliph's "sacred blood".
This copy of the Qur'an disappeared, but some time later several copies (possibly even several dozens) of the Qur'an with blood-stained pages appeared in the Muslim world and they all claimed to be the original Uthman Qur'an. It is probable that one of those copies was really the original one, belonging to Uthman and stained with his blood, but, alas, it is impossible to prove it. Not that the Muslim world was interested to get such evidences. To doubt the relic's authenticity was blasphemous.
One of the copies of the relic was fated to find itself in Samarkand, where it was held in the mosque of Khodja Ahrar, sheikh of the sufi order, who lived in the 15th century. We can see clear brown spots on its pages covered with one of the most beautiful arabic scripts - Cufic. The keepers claimed those spots to be Uthman's blood. Numerous pilgrims visited the mosque to venerate Uthman's Qur'an and to ask for blessings. On high holy days the Qur'an was taken out of the mosque to be shown to the people.
We know several versions of the story of how the Uthman Qur'an could be brought to Samarkand. The explanations can be found in the publications of researchers, A.L.Kun, A.F.Shebunin, V.V.Lunin, N.S.Sadikova, T.A.Stetskivich, who studied the issue. Version one: the Qur'an was brought from Baghdad in the tenth century by theologian Abu Bakr Kaffal ash-Shashi. Version two: Khodja Ahrar's disciple and follower went on pilgrimage to Mecca, on his way back while staying in Constantinople he cured through God's grace the sick caliph and begged him for the Uthman Qur'an as a reward. Version three: the one that the majority of researchers believe to be the most probable and according to it the Uthman Qur'an was taken into possession by Timur during his wars of conquest somewhere in Syria or Iraq. Later the Qur'an was held in Timur's library and due to some circumstances found itself in the mosque of Khodja Ahrar.
In 1868 Samarkand was seized by tsarist troops and became part of the Russian Empire's Turkestan General-Governorship. When Chief of the Zerafshan military district, Major General Abramov, learned about the existence of the unique manuscript of the Qur'an, he "took steps" and for the reward of 500 kokans (equal to 100 roubles) got the Qur'an in his possession. He then forwarded it to Tashkent, to Turkestan Geneal-Governor, Kaufman. On October 24, 1869 the latter presented it to the Imperial Public Library in Saint Petersburg and was awarded the status of its honorary member for that. Kaufman believed that the Qur'an was not an object of worship and that it was of no interest to anybody but the emirs of Bukhara and that nobody could read it anyway.
It is known that Uthman Qur'an was given away not quite "voluntarily". It was hidden, every effort was made to avoid its issuance to the Russian administration, but it was all futile. When in the Manuscripts Department of the Public Library of Saint-Petersburg the Qur'an became the object of researchers' examinations. Arabist A.F. Shebunin was the first to give its palaeographic description, to date it and to compare to the copies held in Paris, Berlin and Mekka. He established that the manuscript belonged to the beginning of the eighth century, that it was made on the territory of Iraq and, obviously, was made from the copy of Uthman Qur'an which had been sent to Basra after compilation of the unified text. As for blood stains on its pages, in the researcher's opinion, they were made artificially and rather roughly. First, blood ran symmetrically on each of the stained pages. It is obvious that the pages were folded when blood was still fresh. Second, blood stains for some reason were seen only on every second page. Muslim theologians, advocates of the Uthman Qur'an's authenticity, never challenged or refuted the conclusions made by Shebunin, they just never mention this fact.
However, it was not the end of the Uthman Qur'an's story. On December 1 (14), 1917 the Territorial Muslim Congress of the Petrograd National District applied to the People's Commissariat on National Affairs to request to return "the holy relic" to Muslims. Exactly in five days, on the 6th (19th) of December the Council of People's Commissars took in relation to the issue the following decision "To Issue Immediately", followed by relevant order to the People's Commissar on Education, A.V. Lunocharskiy, who was in charge of the State public Library.
The Qur'an was presented to the All-Russia Muslim Council, which at that time was located in Ufa.
In 1924 the Qur'an was transferred to Tashkent and later to Samarkand where it was again kept in the mosque of Khodja Ahrar for a while. Since 1941 it had been permanently held in the Museum of History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
In the early nineties after Uzbekistan gained independence the relic was handed to mufti by Islam Karimov on the square of Hast Imam in the presence of the vast confluence of people.