The End - 2000 to 2009

The Olympics of Quranic Recitation

  • Author: MR
  • Filed under: Islam, News
  • Date: Oct 10,2006 | 11:19 AM

Khubaib Muhammad, a 10-year-old Kenyan, recited the Koran during the contest. He does not speak Arabic, but has memorized the text by rote.
This is really amazing, mashaAllah! I never knew about this and it’s the 10th one.

Young Muslims Compete in a Different Kind of Recital
By Hassan M. Fattah
Published: October 10, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 8 — With its big-budget sets, promise of large cash prizes and surly judges who grimace at the slightest slip-up, the contest might seem like yet another made-for-TV talent show.

But the competition being beamed by satellite across the Muslim world this Ramadan is no “American Idol.” The winners, judged the best at reciting the Koran from memory, won’t become the objects of breathless gossip in glossy magazines. Instead, they will become stars of a different sort, earning the respect of devout Muslims and invitations to recite the text during religious gatherings.

The competition, the Dubai International Holy Koran Award, is open to males aged 21 and younger, and this year more than 80 young Muslim boys and men faced off in more than two weeks of nightly performances that end Tuesday. The contestants came from around the world to represent their countries, including Iran, Iraq, Brazil, Australia and the United States.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, sponsors the competition, one of the most prestigious Koran recitation contests in the world, to encourage young Muslims to understand the essence of their faith. He provides the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in prize money, including a top prize of almost $70,000.

The contest, in its 10th year, is one befitting a place like Dubai, with its penchant for glitz and glamour. Dubai marketers have plastered the city with ads that push it as must-see TV, and it is popular enough that the awards ceremony attracts dignitaries and prominent personalities.

The scene inside the competition hall is reminiscent of classic American spelling bees. The young contestants, primed from years of study, squirm in their seats while the audience sits in hushed anxiety.

“This is the Olympics of Koran reading,” said Ahmad al Suwiedi, head of the competition’s organizing committee. “So whoever goes up there on that stage has to make us and his country proud.”

Late Thursday night, 10-year-old Khubaib Muhammad walked on stage in his tennis shoes and traditional Kenyan dress, sat in an oversize chair that engulfed his slight frame and prepared for his chance at fame and fortune.

Khubaib has spent hours each day for the past three years memorizing the Koran. He competed in local reading competitions in his native Nairobi to qualify for this contest. “It was hard work, but ultimately it was worth it because I got here,” he said just before taking the stage. “I’m not nervous. I’m ready and prepared.”

Being prepared means being ready to recite the Koran in Arabic — starting anywhere the judges want and for as long as they want. The judges choose the section at random, recite the beginning, then expect the contestant to pick up where they left off. The contestants must know the text well enough to quickly recognize the section the judge is reading.

After Khubaib took the stage, one of the five judges began reciting text. At the judge’s signal, Khubaib took over, his high-pitched voice filling the crowded recital hall.

For the next 15 minutes, the boy carried on the recitation by heart, his eyes closed in deep concentration, his legs swinging several inches off the ground. At one point, one of the judges rang the bell, indicating Khubaib had made a mistake. For a moment, the boy was silent, but he quickly corrected himself and continued.

To Muslims, the Koran is the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. In the contest, it is supposed to be read in a melodic chant that follows rules known as tajweed, which dictate what letters should be emphasized, slurred or silent. The best reciters are legendary, their tapes sold across the Muslim world.

This year’s Dubai champion will ostensibly join their ranks someday.

During a reporter’s visit last week, the young men exhibited a camaraderie built around faith, leaving the problems of the region outside the performance hall. “This is a positive thing happening in a difficult world,” said Ahmad Nasser Rabbah, 15, a third-generation Brazilian.

The contestants are judged first on their accuracy to the text, then on the quality of their reading according to the rules of tajweed, and finally on the quality of their voices. Some of the readers, including Khubaib, do not speak Arabic, but have memorized the text by rote.

Ahmed Khorshid, 15, who represents the United States, was impressed by his competitors’ skill level. Ahmed, who lives in Oak Lawn, Ill., said that he initially balked when he was invited to Dubai; he did not want to miss out on his football games. But he decided to give up his position as running back at his school’s homecoming game to come.

“All my friends and sheiks will be watching me on TV back home, and I intend to make them proud,” he said.

By Friday, it had become increasingly obvious who the likely winners would be, with the contestants from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia leading the pack. “I was really nervous as I walked up to the stage, but as soon as I sat down all the fear was gone,” said Mohammed Lawa Muhammed, 20, the Nigerian contestant.

For all the dreams of scholarly fame, few of the contestants said they will seek a life as a cleric. Mr. Muhammed aspires to be a doctor. Ahmed Khorshid, the American, wants to be a basketball player.

Khubaib Muhammad, the Kenyan, hopes to be a pilot for the Red Cross. “I would like to win,” he said. “It would be a blessing from God.”

Source: New York Times


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  • 12 Responses for "The Olympics of Quranic Recitation"

    1. anon October 10th, 2006 at 3:43 pm

      Subject: Help Stop Islamophobe at Columbia

      On Wednesday night, the Columbia College Republicans (the same group which hosted last week’s imfamous riot) are hosting Walid Shoebat and Zak Anani, two former-Muslim Islamophobes who teach that Islam is a
      violent religion and that Muslims are neo-Nazi’s.

      “You see who did Sept. 11 and the Towers—that’s real Islam,” said
      Zachariah Anani, a former Lebanese militia fighter. “The rest are not real Muslims.”

      “The most Islamic fundamentalism education I received was not in Palestine. America is ground zero for fundamentalism,” said Shoebat, whose voice rose in a powerful crescendo as he railed against the idea
      of America pulling out of Iraq. “Pull your military out of Iraq and Islam will win.”

      DO YOUR PART TO DISRUPT THIS EVENT:

      Book out all the tickets by RSVPing at http://cugop.com/events/speakout/.

      Jazakullah Kheyr!

    2. anon October 10th, 2006 at 3:45 pm

      On Wednesday night, the Columbia College Republicans (the same group which hosted last week’s imfamous riot) are hosting Walid Shoebat and Zak Anani, two former-Muslim Islamophobes who teach that Islam is a violent religion and that Muslims are neo-Nazi’s.

      “You see who did Sept. 11 and the Towers—that’s real Islam,” said Zachariah Anani, a former Lebanese militia fighter. “The rest are not real Muslims.”

      “The most Islamic fundamentalism education I received was not in Palestine. America is ground zero for fundamentalism,” said Shoebat, whose voice rose in a powerful crescendo as he railed against the idea of America pulling out of Iraq. “Pull your military out of Iraq and Islam will win.”

      DO YOUR PART TO DISRUPT THIS EVENT:

      Book out all the tickets by RSVPing at http://cugop.com/events/speakout/.

      Jazakullah Kheyr!

    3. cricketgal October 10th, 2006 at 6:45 pm

      awww mashallahh!!
      that pic is so cute.

      Islam channel in the UK are having a smiliar-ish thing, not really represneting countries but just a comp and the youngest recitor was 4 years old mashallahhhh he rocked it like a qari! awww and when he was asked what his ambition was, he said to be the imam of haram sharif, makkah! awwwww mashallahhhh

      the olympic style representing thing is good though!

    4. Tasbeeh October 11th, 2006 at 12:43 am

      Mashallah. It’s nice to see this kind of thing happening, young kids so immersed in Islam. My mom watches the competition when she can on satellite. If I can get away from my bio hw this year, maybe I will too…

    5. Farha October 11th, 2006 at 6:08 pm

      Khubaib has spent hours each day for the past three years memorizing the Koran. He competed in local reading competitions in his native Nairobi to qualify for this contest. “It was hard work, but ultimately it was worth it because I got here,” he said just before taking the stage. “I’m not nervous. I’m ready and prepared.”

      MashaAllah…So inspiring…at only 10!..

      PS: Im from Kenya myself..so im soooo proud of little Khubaib!:)

    6. Amr W. October 12th, 2006 at 8:47 am

      Mashala… I agree it is very inspiring
      It is very nice to find people like Khubaib memorizing the quran at such a young age. May all the children of Islam follow in his path.

      Listen to this young boy.. Very beautiful recitation
      http://www.islamicvideos.net/component/option,com_mtree/task,viewlink/link_id,461/Itemid,32/

      MJ i think you will find this video very interesting
      http://www.islamicvideos.net/component/option,com_mtree/task,viewlink/link_id,460/Itemid,32/

    7. Salman October 13th, 2006 at 1:57 am

    8. Taliba al ilm October 14th, 2006 at 11:30 am

      Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
      Brother MR, could you tell me where you got the Nasheed ‘Mawlaya’ from Muhammad Al-Husayn from? I cannot find it anywhere. Where can I download it? Jazakallaahu khairan!

    9. Doa October 14th, 2006 at 6:26 pm

      Wa alaikum assalaam wrwb
      Taliba, i’m sure MR can help you with downloading it insha Allah…but if you just want to listen to it, it’s playing on the background of this intro to islam video.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpNz57cUJjY
      salaam

    10. Taliba al ilm October 14th, 2006 at 6:32 pm

      Jazakumullahu Khairan for the kind information. May Allah Ta’ala grant all of you a high rank in Jannah :)

    11. Doa October 14th, 2006 at 6:33 pm

      And as long as we’re on the subject of inspiring Muslims memorizing Qur’an, i think this brother definitely deserves to be way up there! Masha Allah!!! His recitation can bring you to tears.

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6376859517267823150&q=beautiful+noor&hl=en

    12. Taliba al ilm October 19th, 2006 at 12:55 am

      SubhaaanAllah…

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