Meet the champion Pakistani Quran reciter
ISLAMABAD: To master the art of Holy Quran recitation, 21-year-old Hassan Ali Kasi had to follow a strict regime of yoga, hours of rehearsing vocal scales — and a total ban on biryani.
His dedication is paying off, and he was recently named champion of an international online qari competition hosted by Afghanistan, where he was up against men from 25 other countries.
Revered in Pakistan, qaris are professional reciters of the Holy Quran, called upon to lead prayers at mosques and also to teach the holy book to students.
They are in particularly high demand during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting currently being observed around the world.
“It was a job of the prophets,” Ali Kasi told reporters in the capital, Islamabad.
“One of the very first elements of preaching was recitation. It is as old as Islam.”
Qaris require perfect Arabic pronunciation, a difficult feat in Pakistan where Urdu is the national language.
A finesse of rhythm and intonation produces the slow, melodic sound similar to the distinctive adhan, or call to prayer, delivered through loudspeakers from the top of mosques five times a day.
Recitations during competitions can last for 15 minutes, so Kasi practises yoga to help with breath control, and vocal exercises to strengthen his voice.
“A qari should be able to recite for a minimum of 50 seconds without taking a breath,” said
Kasi, an Islamic Studies student at a university in the capital.
“The throat is very sensitive, a qari should avoid cold water and faty food as it produces too much mucus, which causes abrasion when you touch high notes,” he cautioned.
He was tutored in the Holy Quran by his father, and his recitation skills quickly earned him recognition at national level where he won numerous awards before making it onto the international stage.
Many qaris emerge ater being taught at religious schools known as madrassas, where young boys are taught to memorise
Boys who complete their studies can go on to become teachers or lead prayers at mosques around the world.
“One has to be meticulously hardworking,” said Abdul Qudus, from the Wafaq-ul-madaris Al Arabia, the country’s largest group of madrassas.