Ramadan: The Qur’anic Recitation Competitions
In the name of Allah who states, “those to whom We have given The Book, study it as it should be studied; they are the ones that believe therein; those who reject faith therein, the loss is their own” Q2:121
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His noble servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
Congratulations to the Ummah on the advent of Ramadan, the great month of open blessings, mercy and forgiveness. Fasting was basically prescribed for the attainment of self-restraint. “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous” Q2: 184
Looking at the significance of the month and the rationale behind it, the relevance of various forms of worship cannot be overemphasised. With my emphasis on the general Qur’anic recitation last week, I wish at this juncture to draw our attention on the Qur’anic recitation competitions. Of the significant aspects related to the Book, especially in some Mid-eastern countries are the Qur’anic recitation competitions. The competitions are organised by the states, schools and organisations. Before I draw attention to the most important point in this regard, however, it is imperative to go through the Shi’ah belief regarding the Book as recorded in Aqa’idul Imamiyyah by Sheikh Muzaffar -the great Islamic scholar from a prominent home of letters in Iraq, as translated by a group of scholars, in contrast to the hitherto circulated rumours.
Doctrine 21: Belief In The Qur’an
We believe that the Qur’an was divinely inspired, and revealed by Allah on the tongue of His honourable prophet, making clear everything, an everlasting miracle. Man is unable to write anything like it because of its eloquence, clarity, truth and knowledge, and no alteration can be made to it. The Qur’an we have now is exactly what was sent to the prophet, and anyone who claims otherwise is either an evil doer, a mere sophist or else a person in error, and all of them have gone astray, because it is the speech of Allah, and; “falsehood cannot come at it from before it or from behind” Q41:42
One of the testimonies to the miraculous nature of Qur’an is that, as time moves on and the arts and sciences advance, it remains as fresh and harmonious as ever, its supreme aims and ideals preserved. There can be no grounds for dispute with it, nor does it contradict true scientific facts, and there is nothing in it contrary to positive philosophical thinking. On the contrary, it is the books of scientists and even the greatest of philosophers at the pinnacle of learning, which contain at least a few trivialities and contradictions and even incorrect assertions. Moreover, with advances in scientific research and with modern scientific theories, even the greatest philosophers of Greece such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, whom all those who have come after have recognised them as fathers of science and masters of thought have been shown to have made some errors. We also believe that we must respect and give dignity to the Glorious Qur’an, and this in both words and deeds. Therefore, it must not be defiled intentionally, not even one of its letters, and it must not be touched by one who is not tahir. It is said in the Qur’an: “None can touch it save the purified” Q56:79
This subject is dealt with in the books of Islamic law. Neither is it permitted to burn it or to be impious towards it by any behaviour which is deemed to be insulting, such as throwing it, making it unclean, or putting one’s foot on it; nor is it permitted to be put in a filthy place. If anyone does any of these things or anything similar, he is not a believer in the Qur’an and its sanctity, and he is considered to be an unbeliever. In fact, he has rejected the Lord of all the worlds”
Back to the topic, the recitation competition was started some decades ago with a view to improving general Qur’anic sciences! More than any other time, the competitions organised in categories are generally promoted at various levels from local to international. In Nigeria, it is organised from local government to national level. The successful competitors in various categories emerge from the usual stages, mostly sponsored by governments. However, non-governmental organisations and philanthropists, also engage in the exercise. Generally, the winners are honoured with various prizes such as hajj opportunities, cars and houses among others. The rationale behind the incentives is to serve as inducement to students and other stakeholders. Schools are generally relative and comprise of ordinary and advanced. Being blessed with Islam, children in Hausa land generally start with traditional Qur’anic education.
They are taught from the rudimental stages to the level of memorisation as the case may be. At a certain stage, they are made to learn some jurisprudential rules and regulations governing acts of worship. The Islamiyyah schools became very popular in the recent past with relatively more organised form of scholarship on a wider scope covering the Noble Qur’an, hadeeth and jurisprudence. We also have the mass literacy, which mainly comprises of adults. Interestingly, it is organised and run in flexible ways to contain people with different backgrounds. In fact, the system provides an efficient means of distance learning and correspondences with relatively successful results. Tajweed is technically meant to prevent the Qur’anic reciters from mistake in the cause of reading the Noble Qur’an. Allah says, “Verily, this is a revelation From The Lords of the Worlds; Which came down The Truthful spirit. To thy heart That thou mayest admonish in the perspicuous Arabic tongue” Q26: 192-195
The Qur’an, as revealed in Arabic, has rules and regulations governing pronunciation and other aspects of the language that must be strictly followed. Despite the fact that the messenger of Allah was an Arab, he was taught and supervised on the Noble Book. Allah states “Move not your tongue concerning (the Qur’an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it” Q75:16-17. He also states “Be not in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation to you is completed, but say o my Lord! Advance me in knowledge” Q20: 114
In a hadeeth, the prophet is reported to have said “Gabriel would place before me the Qur’an for review once a year, but this year, he did it twice which indicates that the time for my departure is close at hand.” So, in the light of the verses and hadeeth, we are generally encouraged to put in more efforts in Qur’anic scholarship so that we can study the book as Allah wants “Do they not then Earnestly seek to understand The Qur’an, or is it that there are locks upon their hearts?” Q47:24
There is no exception on the need to learn the Holy Book for all believers. Inability of a Muslim to accurately read the noble Qur’an is no doubt a shame irrespective of sex. With the help of Allah, memorisation of the Noble Qur’an was highly simplified for this Ummah. Historically, it took many of the pious predecessors decades to memorise it unlike now when children in their teens are blessed with the same! The Qur’an is memorised in proportionate circle. For example, based on some Fudiyyah plans, students memorise in five years. This is successfully proven in Kano Fudiyyah Nursery and Primary School for several years. Other schools have their own arrangements. Listening to the Holy Book is also an important part of worship rewarded abundantly. That is why absolute silence and meditation are needed when the Qur’an is recited “When the Qur’an is read, Listen to it with attention, And hold your peace, That ye may receive mercy” Q7:204. In addition to memorisation, our children must learn other aspects of knowledge, which the Qur’an serves as the base. As I have extolled in the World Educational Dynamism: the undisputed pride of Islamic civilisation, they should be taught on the jurisprudential aspects and various professions.
Most important point I want emphasise is the need to practice its teachings absolutely. We must be sincere in all our actions so that our Qur’anic studies should not be geared towards fame or success in the competitions for worldly gains, but rather strict reflection of its teachings to the best of ability. Dr Alwani, argues that there are two levels of reading the Qur’an; the first level consists of cultivating spiritual upliftment while the second urges man as vicegerent to study the cosmos for the purpose of positive action on earth. Performing the two readings together and keeping a balance between them are prerequisites for well-being in this world and in the hereafter. Therefore, the teachers of the Qur’an, who were described as the best of us in a hadeeth, the students, the parents and indeed all Muslims are expected to live strictly in accordance with the teachings of the book as vicegerents of Allah on earth just as A’isha, mother of believers described the ethics of the noble prophet as the holy Qur’an in its entirety!
We are very grateful to Allah that the Fudiyyah schools named after our great grandfather Shaikh Uthman bn Fodio, are apparently on the right track due to the persistent effort of its founder, Shaikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H). Numerous sets of teenage students are graduated yearly, most noticeably in the grand Annual Memorisers’ Day, graced by the revered Sheikh in Kano. No doubt, all of the teachers, students, parents, brothers’ representatives and other contributors at various levels deserve commendation in this regard. While urging all contributors in whatever form to keep up the tempo, we pray to Allah to reward them abundantly!