The holy spell of Islam

August 22, 2009 / Abu Dhabi / (Rich-Joseph Facun / The National) A man reads at the mosque on the Eid Prayer Grounds prior to the start of the morning prayer Saturday, August 22, 2009 during the first day of Ramadan.
Powered by automated translation

In America, spelling bees are a big thing. There was even a movie, Spellbound, made about these brilliant kids. Well, here in the UAE, we have our own version of the spelling bee competition, but with an Islamic twist. For the past 12 years, Dubai has held the International Holy Quran Award, in which participants recite the holy book. The great thing about this competition is that anyone can participate, even non-Muslims from places such as Switzerland.

Of course, being Muslim helps: you've been reading and reciting the Quran since you were old enough to speak. One competitor from Saudi Arabia said he had studied five parts of the holy book every day since he was 10. His goal is to become a PhD in Sharia, and something tells me he will make it. The importance of recitation in Islam harks back to the very first word in the Quran, which was revealed during Ramadan. The angel Jibrael (Gabriel) came down to the Prophet Mohammed and revealed the Quran to him, commanding him: "Iqra!"

The word "iqra" is a command. It means "Read!" or "Recite!"