The Central Virginia Quran Competition held the award ceremony for it’s seventh annual memorization and newly introduced reading competition at the Islamic Center of Virginia in Richmond on Saturday, March 24, 2012.
This year saw record participation, with approximately 250 contestants ranging in age from 2 years to over 30 years old, taking part in 10 categories. The testing for the competition had taken place a week earlier and was undertaken by three panels of judges using a meticulous system of grading for the quality of memorization, as well as aspects such as the correct application of the rules of recitation and control of the voice during recitation. The day-long judging process yielded three top winners in every memorization category, and three winners for the reading contest.
The awards’ ceremony drew more than 400 people, with some families of participants coming from as far away as College Park and Baltimore, Maryland. After recitation of the Quran by one of the winners, Br. Bassel Al-Tinawi from the Quran Competition Committee, introduced the program. This was followed by a speech by Imam Ammar Amonette, imam of the Islamic Center of Virginia, reminding the attendees that every one who participated in this effort was a winner, and that the rewards from Allah for those who exert themselves in this cause will be infinitely greater and permanent, compared to the trophies and gifts they may win then.
A short break for dhuhr prayer and a catered lunch, provided free of charge for all attendees, followed. Despite the dreary start earlier in the day, skies had cleared up by the afternoon and families were seen enjoying the food and company both inside the masjid and under the arched brick passageways outside. For many in the city, this has become a much anticipated annual event in their family calendars, with the joy and enthusiasm on the children’s faces clearly evident - especially when a giant, five pound Hershey chocolate bar in honor of the young contestants, was revealed.
“Is that real or plastic?” exclaimed one of the excited participants, as he rushed to touch it.
After the break, Br. Haroon Baqai, Principal of Al-Huda school and Director of the Hifdh program at Dar-us-Salaam in College Park, Maryland, gave a speech entitled, “The Quran is My Buddy”. He explained how, in the company of one’s “buddy”, one feels very comfortable and does not get distracted. Similarly, when one makes the Quran his or her “buddy”, one spends time with it everyday, and doesn’t get bored reading it.
“True believers are those who, when the Quran is recited to them, their hearts tremble with fear and they feel the iman rush in their hearts,” said Br. Haroon. He related a story about the noble companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Uthman ibn Affan, who would stand up in prayer at night, reciting the entire Quran. In spite of this, Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) would say, “If our hearts were pure, we would never have enough of the Quran.”
Br.Haroon also pointed out that one often turns to one’s buddy for sincere advice and, upon getting the advice, one usually listens and acts upon it because one knows that one’s buddy cares and truly wants what’s best. Similarly, one should follow the advice given in the Quran and act upon it, believing it to be what’s best for all of one’s affairs.
Following this speech, the youth speaker - Br.Suleman Mian was introduced to the community.
Br.Suleman, a graduate of the Al-Rahmah Quran Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of the judges at this year’s testing, spoke about how his journey to memorization of the Quran changed his life for the better. As the young audience listened attentively, Br. Suleman reflected on the hurdles he experienced, including the difficulty he had felt in memorizing his first “juzz”. He then warmly recounted how he was inspired to memorize by the unwavering resolve of his father, who memorized the Quran after 30 years of commitment to his goal. Br. Suleman related how he had set out to “race” his father on his last two surahs to completion -surah al-Ahqaaf and surah Muhammad - ones that Br.Suleman himself had found especially difficult.
He ended his speech with five points of advice for those aspiring to memorize the Quran. Those included; obeying Allah, following the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), respecting one’s mother, respecting one’s father and respecting one’s teacher.
The awards ceremony was conducted after this speech. The top three contestants for each category were called up to the front and seated on chairs as the first place winner was then asked to recite a surah from that category. Apart from the Tots’ categories (who received toys as gifts), all three winners in every category received cash prizes, and the winners of the reading category each received a “Touch and Learn” digital Quran reader generously donated by one of the community members.
The Quran Competition Committee expressed their gratitude to all those who participated, assisted and financially contributed to this event.
“Your support and enthusiasm goes a long way towards instilling, by the Grace of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), a love of the Qur’an in the hearts of our children and solidifying their Muslim identity. Events such as this encourage our children to feel a sense of pride in their deen, and we hope they will look back upon these formative experiences as having a very positive impact on their Islamic identity and connection with the Book of Allah,” said the committee.