British Library to display rare sacred scrolls for first time

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The Independent Online

The rarest and most elaborate collection of religious manuscripts in the world, including one of the earliest Korans and a Torah from a lost community of Chinese Jews, is to be displayed at the British Library in a unique exhibition on the great religions.

Sacred texts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam are to be displayed side by side in an exhibition showing what the three great faiths have in common.

The exhibition includes one of the earliest surviving Korans, completed in the Arabian peninsula 160 years after the death of the Prophet Mohamed, and an elaborate book of fatwas.

Blasphemous and esoteric documents will also be on show. A 6th-century Christian text, suppressed by the church because it omits the genealogy of Christ, will be displayed, along with a Jewish manuscript containing an illustration of God's face - forbidden in Jewish tradition.

The Torah scroll used by Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, a remote community which no longer exists, is made of strips of sheepskin sewn together with silk thread, rather than customary animal sinews. Many of the manuscripts have never been publicly displayed, including an extremely rare 16th-century book of psalms in Arabic.

Manuscripts from collections around the world, including the Royal Library in Rabat, Morocco, will sit alongside texts in the British Library's own collection, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, considered the masterpiece of early Anglo-Saxon book production.

"At a time when religion and inter-faith relations feature prominently in Britain, we hope the Sacred exhibition will contribute to a greater understanding of these three faiths," said Rona Levin of the British Library. "This is the first time sacred texts from these three faiths have been displayed together side by side."

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