Muslim tradition says the prophet received the revelations of the Koran between 610 and 632 — but it wasn't written down immediately. The first leader of the community after Muhammad's death, Caliph Abu Bakr, ordered the book to be written and it was completed by the third leader, Caliph Uthman, in 650.
Radiocarbon dating indicated that the parchment folios were at least 1,370 years old, which would make them one of the earliest written forms of the Islamic holy book in existence.
The manuscript was part of the university's collection of 3,000 Middle Eastern documents which was acquired in the 1920s by Alphonse Mingana, a Chaldean priest born near Mosul in Iraq.
His trips to acquire the manuscripts were funded by Quaker philanthropist Edward Cadbury, whose family made their fortune in chocolate, to raise the status of Birmingham as an intellectual centre for religious studies.
"The parts of the Koran that are contained in those fragments are very similar indeed to the Koran as we have it today,"David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam, said.
"This tends to support the view that the Koran that we now have is ... very close indeed to the Koran as it was brought together in the early years of Islam,"
"(These fragments) give us glimpses into potentially how something which we now call the Koran might have been used in this early period and how it might have been recorded,"
said Sajjad Rizvi, Director of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.
The leaves, held in the university's Mingana Collection, contain parts of chapters 18 to 20, written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi.
"This is indeed an exciting discovery,"
said Muhammad Isa Waley, lead curator for Persian and Turkish manuscripts at the British Library in London.
"A lot of people from Birmingham and all over the country will love to see it,"said Muhammad Ali, the administrator at Birmingham Central Mosque.