“(My) eldest being ten and my youngest being four, (the latter) watches him practice and recite… its an amazing opportunity”.
By: Abou Sokayna
Parents and contestants have heaped praise on the local Shia community’s first-ever Inter-school Quran Competition. 80 students from four community schools across Sydney put their Quran memorisation skills to the test on Sunday at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre, Earlwood.
May Moussa, a mother of one contestant, said that the competition was an opportunity for the younger generation to learn from and be encouraged by the old.
“(My) eldest being ten and my youngest being four, (the latter) watches him practice and recite…and my 10-year-old watching his father and myself recite in the house, so it moves from generation to generation, it’s an amazing opportunity”.
Moussa said the competition, which contained six different skill categories including one for teachers, encourages other community members and their children to participate in similar events and to recite the Quran on a daily basis.
Sheikh Ali Zahidi, a parent of one of the contestants and the director of the Imam Sajjad Centre in Auburn, said that the competition made him feel a sense of spiritual vibrancy similar to the energy emitted by holy cities back home in the Middle East.
“It reminds me of Iran and (the holy city) of Qom, because in the whole of Australia you couldn’t see such an environment…(it) is very similar to Qom and Najaf, (and this) is a very remarkable achievement.”
Contestants competed amongst each other before a board of judges who recited randomly generated ayat from a prescribed set of surahs, which contestants had to reproduce from memory and continue the recitation of. Contestants lost various points for forgetting, misreading, or mispronouncing words or sections.
Zahidi believes the competition is an effective and novel way for empowering children and teaching them their cultural heritage.
“…alhamdulillah, these programs are returning to us these values that we are far from or we were about to lose…it is a very new way – through competition”.
12-year-old Yousof Tanana, a category four contestant, certainly felt empowered by the event.
“It helps me practice more of the Quran and it’s like a real achievement to actually memorise half of Juzu’ ‘amma”.
Tanana said that he would recite around 20 minutes a day, and although he felt a lot of pressure during practice sessions leading up to the competition, “in the end when I memorised them I felt like it was easier than I thought.”
Student contestants represented four community schools across Sydney, namely: Ahl-Albait Qur’an College (Auburn), Alsadeq Arabic Association Inc (Bexley), Al Mahdi Youth Committee Madressa (Campbelltown), and Imam Husain Islamic School (Earlwood).
While contestants were mainly comprised of students, a higher skill category was open to teachers. Kumayl Virjee, a 26-year-old teacher at Imam Husain Islamic School, welcomes the healthy competition and community interest that the event has generated.
“I think not having this competition, I would not have memorised any surahs…it has led us to actually open the Quran and make an effort to memorise.”
Virjee explained that the teachers category tested the memorisation of about 18 pages of the Holy Quran, namely from Surat al-Isra, Surat al-Jaathiyah, and Surat al-Hadid.
According to event coordinator Mohsen Alizadehfard, the competition was a resounding success, and an important step towards bigger things in the future.
“We wanted to start small and kind of learn new things and gain some experience…the initial plan is to include the ten or so Saturday schools across Sydney into the competition.
Mohsen says another major milestone on their radar is a national inter-school competition, and one day perhaps, an international inter-school competition.
For now though, contestants are gearing up to find out how they scored in the competition. $12,000 worth of prizes, donated by individual and business donors from the community, will be awarded to the highest achievers.
The award ceremony, which also celebrates the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, will be held at Athelstane Public School, Arncliffe, this Sunday the 26th of November, between 4:00-6:30 p.m. The ceremony is open to all members of the public.