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Rediscovering the African Art of Reciting Qur’an

Prophet Muhammad (PBHU) said, “Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels…” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Described as sad, soulful, and bluesy, Nourin Mohamed Siddig’s Qur’an recitations brought greater attention to a traditional African style of reciting the holy Qur’an.

So no wonder his tragic and untimely death saddened thousands of people across the globe.

“There is an African authenticity that people point to even if they are not able to articulate exactly what it is and they like it,” said Hind Makki, a Sudanese-American interfaith educator, The BBC reported.

Sheikh Noreen Mohammad Siddiq, 1982–2020, was a Sudanese imam who was popular for his recitations of the Qur’an. He died at the age of 38 after a car crash, along with several other Quranic reciters.

Siddig, whose recitations are popular on social media, died at the age of 38 in a car accident in Sudan in November 2020. His death triggered wave of mourning from Pakistan to the US.  

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He picked up the tone while studying in a traditional Qur’anic school in his village of al-Farajab, west of the capital, Khartoum, in the mid-1990s.

When he later moved to Khartoum, he led prayers in a number of the city’s main mosques and caught people’s attention. His fame spread once videos of him were uploaded to YouTube.

“This is the tone of the environment I grew up in, the desert; it sounds like [Sudanese folk-music genre] dobeit”, said Al-Zain Muhammad Ahmad, another popular Sudanese reciter.

“The reciters in the Levant recite according to the melodies they know, as do the ones in Egypt, the Hijaz, North Africa and elsewhere.”

📚 Read Also: 9 Virtues of Reciting Quran

Egyptian Qur’an reciter sheikh Abdul Basit Abdul Samad
Egyptian Qur’an reciter sheikh Abdul Basit Abdul Samad

Qur’an Verbalization

Muslims believe that the Qur’an has been transmitted according to seven schools of verbalization that vary slightly in how some words are read.

The most well-known of these schools today is Hafs, widely taught in institutions of learning and distributed through printed copies of the Qur’an made in Cairo and Makkah.

In other parts of the Muslim world, especially in rural areas of the African continent, other schools of verbalization continued to be used such as al-Duri in Sudan, which Siddig often followed in his recitations.

The internet and social media in particular has brought renewed attention, especially from a younger generation, to traditional voices.

“The most popular video recording is the African style supplication [du’a] with over two million views,” Ahmad Abdelgader, an amateur videographer who has been recording Imam Jabbi’s recitations for his YouTube channel since 2017, said.

“Most of the people watching were from France, where many West African Muslims live, followed by the United States.”

📚 Read Also: How to Understand the Arabic of the Quran?

Qur’an Recitation

The Qur’an is the Word of Allah. It is the most sacred book. Muslims must respect this book and must honor it.

For one reciting the Qur’an, that he/she should approach Allah’s Book with the best of manners, humility and respect.

Intoning the Qur’an is endeared to the hearing and helps with memorizing, as it gets the tongue familiar with a given tune and an error is easily identified when the usual tune varies in one way or another.

Yet, it is not permissible to chant words other than Qur’an in the manner in which Qur’an is recited, especially in front of the common folk who cannot distinguish between Qur’an and other words except by the intonation and recitation.