Gulf Today

Meet the champion Pakistani Quran reciter

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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.

 ?? File / Agence France-presse ?? ↑
Hassan Ali Kasi practises yoga as part of his training regime in Islamabad.
File / Agence France-presse ↑ Hassan Ali Kasi practises yoga as part of his training regime in Islamabad.

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