ABU DHABI // Dh500,000 in awards will be given to female pupils who excel in their recitation of the Quran.
The Sheikha Hessa bint Mohammed Al Nahyan Award for Holy Quran is open only to girls to give them a chance to shine.
“From my experience girls are more advanced in memorising the Quran than boys, and they memorise more,” said Mona Al Ghassani, of the Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, or Awqaf.
The award’s director, Hoda Habch, said: “It is in our interest that girls are perfect in reciting the Quran, even in family and women’s occasions. Why bring a male reciter to an all-women’s event?”
The award began as a small contest for Al Shuhub School’s pupils, after the school’s Islamic studies coordinator Ayesha Alwa suggested it to Sheikha Shaikha bint Saif Al Nahyan.
“When I suggested the idea, she was very excited and it kept growing to include all UAE schools,” Ms Alwa said.
The next step is to make the award international.
“After the current edition, we will coordinate with the Awqaf to take it to an international level,” said Hani Zubaidi, a member of the award’s board.
The board have refrained from announcing the value of the prizes until now to avoid mixed intentions from contestants.
The students are ideally taking part to seek rewards from Allah and not money, said Mrs Habch.
“We saw that in other cities in the world when the value of the prizes were revealed, the contestants started participating for the money.”
None of the contestants or their parents asked about the value of prizes so far, she said.
Future awards will also include Quran interpretation and analysis. “There is no point of memorising the entire Quran if one does not understand its meaning,” said Mrs Habch, who has run contests for 31 years.
She ran a Quran interpretation contest in Syria a few years ago and said a similar one is expected to be added to the award in the coming years.
A month’s notice was given to all schools and Quran centres for students to send in their applications between February 22 and March 26. More than 400 applications have been accepted, said Mr Zubaidi.
This week the first phase began, in which all contestants are examined by committees in their own emirates. The finalists are expected to compete at Al Shuhub school by the end of next week. The winners are notified a week later and are invited with their families to the awards ceremony next month.
At Al Shuhub school’s examination centre, Khadija Abdulmajeed awaited her test. Khadija, 14, from Egypt, finished memorising the entire Quran five years ago.
She has taken part in 10 contests and won nine of them. This is her first in the UAE, as her family has only recently moved here.
Najat Mohammed, 17, from Tanzania, has not won any of the contests she has been entered over the past three years, but was happy to take part. “I wanted to experience having someone test my abilities,” Najat said.