Camera IconUzbekistan is mostly Muslim but is home to scores of different nationalities. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
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Of all the countries that are home to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, the oldest Koran in the world lives here in Uzbekistan, which many consider the most secular Islamic country.
In an unimposing new Library of Spiritual Administration in the oldest part of Tashkent, a city of 350 sunny days a year, this Koran written by Othman, the third caliph (Muslim leader) between AD644 and AD646, not much more than a decade after Muhammad’s death, lies open for all to see.
Yes, here off Khast Imom Square, in an area dating to the 16th century, I am standing before the oldest Koran in the world, and so, right next to me, are a couple of girls in singlets and short Western skirts, with uncovered heads. A couple of chaps in shorts and sandals join us. “So that’s it, then,” one says.
Yes, that’s it, and the symbolism of this moment is enormous.
Camera IconWide streets and green parks are a hallmark of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian
Uzbekistan may sound strange, faraway, unknown, and uncomfortably too close to Afghanistan, and yet it shows us what a secular Islamist country looks like…