Fierce competition at Qur'anic 'Olympics'

More than 80 young Muslim men from several countries, including Iran, Iraq and the U.S., competed for the Dubai International Holy Qur'an Award, one of the most prestigious recitation competitions in the Islamic world, the International Herald Tribune rep

Fierce competition at Qur'anic 'Olympics'

The annual competition, open to males 21 and younger, gives the contestants a chance to display their talent in reciting the Qur'an from memory, and thus earn the respect of devout Muslims and win invitations to recite Islam's holy book during international religious gatherings.

Dubai's ruler, Sheik Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, sponsors the contest and offers the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in prize money, including a top prize of almost $70,000.

Reciting the holy Qur'an from memory, a practice known as 'tajweed'; the rules that dictate what letters should be stressed, elided or silenced, plays a key role in helping Muslims understand their faith.

"Olympics"

The contest, which began at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, is very popular in Dubai that the awards ceremony is often attended by top officials and prominent Islamic scholars.

Contestants should be able recite the holy book - estimated to contain more than 77,000 words - in full. They are judged first on their fidelity to the text, then on the quality of their reading and finally on their voices.

"This is the Olympics of Qur'an 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."

The competition also contains a separate program for detainees in Dubai who could have their jail sentences reduced if they proved that they can learn the Qur'an.

Although memorizing the whole of the Qur'an can deduct 20 years from the prisoners' time in prison, this program isn't open for those facing the death sentence or guilty of murder.

"Proud"

The competition held its final round on Tuesday night. Eight contestants from different countries must now wait until Thursday before the final winner is announced.

Reports suggest that the contestants from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are leading the pack.

"All my friends and sheiks will be watching me on TV back home, and I intend to make them proud," said Ahmed Khorshid, 15, who represents the United States.

The competition's youngest contestant, nine-year-old Australian Abdullah al Zahabi, impressed the audience last week when he took the stage to begin his recitation.

"My brother and I memorized the Koran at an early age and with help and support from my parents," said Abdullah, who wants to be a Muslim scholar when he grows up.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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