The International Holy Quran Award in Dubai
By Muneeb Baig
Posted: 27 Shawwal 1421, 22 January 2001
I participated in the Fourth Annual Dubai International Holy Quran Award. This event took place from 8th Ramadan to 20th Ramadan (1421) in Dubai, UAE and was organized by the Government of Dubai.
There were actually three parts to the event. The first was an international lecture series on Islam that took place in the first week of Ramadan. The second was an international Hifz and Tajweed contest for boys up to ages of twenty-one. The third was the award ceremony in which an award was also given to the Islamic Personality of the Year.
There were sixty-three total participants from sixty-three countries in the Hifz contest this year. Four were disqualified in the initial pretest. Participants as young as ten years of age took part in the contest. Most participants were from Muslim countries, but some were also from non-Muslim countries such as France, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Holland, Great Britain, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. Most participants knew Arabic, which was obviously the common language in this International gathering. I also got a chance to practice my broken Arabic.
The actual contest took place every night for ten nights after Taraweeh from 9:00 P.M to nearly 1:00 A.M. Every night we would be taken by bus to the auditorium of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, where the local public had also come to watch. The event was also broadcast live.
Every night six participants would be tested. There would be five judges sitting in the center of the stage. The head judge would announce the name of a participant and tell which country he was from and in what Riwayat he recited the Quran (Hafs, Warsh, etc.) The participant would go on the stage and pick a sealed envelope (that contained the five questions he was to be asked) from a stack of envelopes on a desk in the back of the stage. The participant would give the envelope to the head judge who would open it. He would then pass the questions to each judge. Then one judge would ask the first question. He would read part of an ayah from anywhere in the Quran. When he stopped, the participant would have to immediately start reading until he was told to stop.
While the participant would be reciting, the judges would be constantly noting down every mistake of his in Tajweed and Hifz. In case the participant would make a Hifz mistake, a judge would ring a bell. The participant would have to correct the mistake in order to go on. If the participant was unable to correct his mistake, the judge would tell him and then the participant would continue reading. Most participants took between 30 to 45 minutes to finish their test. However, if a participant made too many mistakes, he would be stopped after reading only a little.
After the participant had finished answering the five questions, the next participant would be called and would be tested in the same way. This would go on until all participants for the night had been tested.
If a participant read very well, especially the younger participants, there would be loud applause from the audience in the form of Masha-Allah and Subhan-Allah, etc and later people would surround him and ask him questions of where he memorized the Quran, etc.
The contest was very challenging and as a result, participants were always busy preparing for it. At the hotel where we were staying, one could hear the recitation of Quran at all hours of day and night. Participants were always busy reviewing their Hifz in their rooms, in the Musalla (A wing of the hotel that had been declared a prayer hall), while walking around the hotel, or even while getting their Iftar or Suhoor.
Although the contest was very tough, the environment certainly was not competitive. It was very supportive and brotherly and was something very unique. Participants were united by the Quran and were like brothers to each other. They helped each other in reviewing their Hifz and wished each other well. On the night that it was my turn to be tested, one of the other participants who was to be tested with me gave a throat lozenges to each of us! It is good for the throat, he exclaimed. The gesture was good for the spirit as well.
It was moving to see this brotherhood among us. Though we spoke many languages, and came from many different countries of the world, we were all united by the love of the Quran and by the effort of memorizing it. I was leading Taraweeh prayers with another boy from Reunion (France). The boy did not know Urdu, English, or Arabic, (He spoke only Gujarati and French), but we felt as if we knew each other and got along without any problem.
Three nights after the contest ended, the award ceremony took place in the huge auditorium of the World Trade Center in Dubai. It was attended by more than 3000 people. The theme of this years award ceremony was Al-Aqsa. A model of the Dome of the Rock was placed on the stage and a poem was read about what is going on in Palestine. The poem was written by the Crown Prince and Defense Minster of Dubai, Sheikh Muhammad, who is also the moving force behind this contest.
Then, the first ten winners were announced. The first, Abdul Aziz Abdullah Adam, was from Somalia, second, Basheer Omar Abid, from Chad, third, Suraqatu Sabiu Said from Nigeria, fourth, Saeed Muhammad Aziz, from Qatar, fifth, Shakeeb Ali Salem, from Yemen, sixth, Hussain Ali Hamdian, from Iran, seventh, Uthman Ahmed Najdah, from Lebanon, eighth, Ahamida Miegel Juzi, from Angola, ninth, Umar Nawaz Fadal Dad, from Pakistan, and tenth, Anwar Umar Musa, from Saudi Arabia. (I got twelfth position.)
After the participants were awarded, Sheikh Yusuf Qardawi was honored as the Islamic Personality of the year 1421 H. He was the recipient of the One million Dirham award. In his comments Sheikh Yusuf Qardawi showed gratitude for the government of Dubai that had honored him at a time when an Israeli Rabbi had awarded him death sentence because of his bold support for the Palestinian cause.
The day after the next day, participants started to leave and go back to their homes. The whole event was a very memorable experience and I enjoyed the stay there very much. I exchanged contacts with some of the friends I had made there. I also was able to record the recitations of some thirty participants for this website. You can listen to their recitations by going to the Young Qaris page.