The Art of Musabaqah (Qur’an)
What is Musabaqah?
“Musabaqah” which literally means competition in Arabic is a loan-word to describe the competition of Qur’an recitals in many regions. Coined by the organizers of the Malaysia’s Qur’anic competition in the mid-1970s, it was used constantly ever since to refer to the recital competition in Malaysia and widely used internationally as well.
However, of recent, the term “musabaqah” was replaced as it strongly opposed the objective of the competition to encourage and appreciate the art of recitation of Qur’an among the ummah. Nowadays, such competitions are described as “Majlis Tilawah Al-Qu’ran” (Qur’an Recitals).
Singapore held its first Qur’anic recital competition in the mid-1970s. The competition this year is set on the motto, “Exploring Islam’s tradition while strengthening the iman and spreading of ihsan.” It is the first time both competition of Qu’ran recital and memorization is combined, hence the competition was renamed to “Majlis Tilawah dan Tahfiz Al-Qur’an”.
Ustaz Afandi Ahmad, Haji Fadzuli Bajuri, Salim Ridawi and Ustazah Jameedah Ahmad are some pioneers of the art in Singapore who are highly respected and had represented Singapore for the international level competitions. They now teach the art and also serve as judges in the local Qur’an recital competitions.
History of the Reciting of Qur’an
The first revelation that was revealed upon the prophet (peace be upon him) from the chapter of Surah al-Alaq (The Clot) was,[quote]“Read in the name of your Lord who creates, creates man from a clot! Read for your Lord is the most generous; (it is He) who teaches by the means of the pen, teaches man what he does not know” [Chapter36:Verse1-5][/quote]
The repeated word in these verses of the first revelation was “Iqra’” or “Read”. Reading or reciting the Qur’an is a way for Muslims to gain spiritual merit as well as the enlightening of spiritual needs for the soul.
In a hadith narrated by Ibn Mas’ud:[box_light]“ The prophet (peace be upon him) asked Ibn Mas’ud to recite the Qur’an for him. He said to the prophet, ‘Should I recite the Qur’an before you whereas it has been revealed unto you?’ At this, the prophet said, ‘I love it more to hear the Qur’an from someone else.’ Then he recited the chapter of An-Nisaa’. When he recited the verse, “How will it be them, when We shall bring out of each community, a witness and We shall bring thee against these as witnesses..’(4:41), the prophet said, ‘This is enough.’ When Ibnu Mas’ud saw the face of the prophet, he saw tears rolling down his both eyes.” [Baihaqi, Al Bidayah, Vol VI p59][/box_light]
Muslims are strongly encouraged to read or recite the Qur’an. However reciting the Qur’an competitively has been considered as a modern phenomenon as it was not practiced during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Nevertheless, it is mentioned by most organizers that the objective of holding such competitions is to increase exposure of the Qur’an and the merits of reciting and learning the Divine Message.
The Qur’an Reciters
The Qur’an reciters are usually known as the qari’ (for males) and qari’ah (for females), while the memorizers of the Qur’an are known as hafiz (for males) and hafizah (for females). In some Muslim countries, there are institutions for teaching the art of Qur’anic recitation knows as ma’had al-qiraat. In Singapore, the training of the art is exclusive as only a few places and centers offer such training, such as Assyafaah Mosque, An Nur Mosque, Mujahidin Mosque and Darul Qur’an of Kampung Siglap Mosque.
I managed to speak to Ustazah Nurul ‘Izzah Khamsani, a qari’ah, who shared most of her experiences and knowledge of the art itself.
27-year-old Ustazah ‘Izzah, who works at Jamiyah Ar-Rabitah Mosque as a religious officer, had participated in numerous competitions, either those organized by Muslim organizations or at the national level, since she was 5 years old shared how her father had been her main inspiration.
“The art in this community is not well endowed. Usually individuals specifically target only a goal when it comes to learning to recite the Qur’an: to ensure they are able to read it. Once the target is achieved, they stop exploring the ways of recitation. Younger, my father used to bring us siblings to events of Qur’an recitals. He promoted the art to us.
Since the day he exposed me to the art, I am forever immersed in the recitations. They are so beautiful. I then started to pick up the art with experienced teachers who master the art with the support of my father. My father played such an important role in nurturing the interest and love in me and my siblings towards reciting the Qur’an with tarannum.”
Tarannum is the different type of melodies used during the recitations. Most reciters are exposed to 7 common tarannum. Beginning and ending the recitation with baiyatti, the reciter can choose to recite in either soba, hijjaz, nakawand, rast, jiharkah or sika in between.
Mastering the art is not a fast process, in fact, Ustazah ‘Izzah who was introduced to the art at a tender age of 4, took years to fully comprehend and be fluent in the art. Reciters also need to have a good control of the different vocal levels. Ustazah ‘Izzah who has been a faithful participant of the competition since a child had been placed as the 1st runner up for the national level competition from 2009 to 2011.
Every year, the winner of the Qur’an recital competition in national level will represent Singapore for international level competition. Last year, Ustazah Azizah Solihin clinched the third place for the 53rd International Majlis Tilawah Al Qur’an held in Malaysia.
Majlis Tilawah dan Tahfiz Al-Quran (MTTQ)
I managed to attend the Semi-Final round for the children’s category of the Qu’ran recital competition at Assyafaah Mosque on 25th February 2012. I listened to a few participant’s recitation before meeting Ustazah ‘Izzah, who later in the middle of our conversation called upon two girls to join us.
Nuruzzufaa and Nurulfathin, 14 yand 13 years old respectively, participants for the teen’s category told me, “I love the recitations. They are so beautiful and calming. It brings such serenity to our soul.” When asked how often they practice the art as a form of spiritual enlightening in private devotion, the girls replied, “Every day without fail after our maghrib prayers.” Both girls smiled and left us as they proceed to the other level to continue listening to the recitations attentively as they read along referring to the Qur’an.
The National Qur’anic competition, also known as Majlis Tilawah dan Tahfiz Al-Quran (MTTQ), semi-final rounds will be held at either Assyafaah mosque, Mujahidin Mosque or An Nahdhah mosque, depending on the different categories. The final round, which has yet to be disclosed, will be held at MUIS Hub.
You can check the MUIS website for more information on the competition.
Video: MTTQ Singapore 2012
Siti Nur Naqiah
Always curious, Naqiah enjoys reading, learning, exploring and discovering about faith to continuously fuel her needs as she is on service in this world for the One. With this, she inspire to utilize her skill and pastime of writing as a medium of sharing with the society.