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A Culture of Qur’an

Farhatul Fairuzah is a young Malaysian woman with an Instagram following of 980,000 – nearly a million. She is the 1st winner of the International Al Quran Recitation 2019, and won this prize at the age of 19! Farhatul is a celebrity because of her beautiful recitation of the Qur’an, alongside her warmth and compassion. Her mother, Hajah Jaliah Haji Simin, was the national champion in 2004, and so was her late father, Allahyarham Haji Panut bin Haji Markum, in the 1990s.

Aside from her, all five of her siblings are also reciters of the Qur’an, as indicated by this adorable video of them. Farhatul is a social influencer, for all the best reasons. This is one of the many things I love about Malaysia. Social media, in this case, ties hearts to the Qur’an.

Speaking of social media, Korean movies, K-pop and Korean food are incredibly popular in Malaysia. What’s also popular are the inspirational stories of Korean Muslim converts like Daud Kim. In a YouTube video with Daud Kim (over one million hits), Farhatul helps Daud Kim, a famous Korean Muslim convert, improve his recitation.

Female reciters in Malaysia are commonplace. Women are encouraged to recite and memorize the Qur’an from a young age. My Malaysian husband spoke about how his all-boys public school Islamic studies teacher was a niqabi. This role is not for the faint of heart. The same classmates who had driven a grown man to tears, respected their ustadha enough to keep their behavior in line. If that’s not a real-life testimony of the power of the Qur’an, then I don’t know what is!

Earthly and Spiritual Rewards

There is not only heavenly gain in winning Qur’anic recitation in Malaysia, but very much earthly reward – male and female reciters have won prizes worth 110,000 RM in total! The structure of Malaysian society supports the nurturing of both male and female reciters of the Qur’an. Farhatul herself started learning how to recite the Qur’an at 5, and started competing in competitions from the age of 7.

Back in 2020, the Malaysian Islamic animation “Omar&Hana” ran Oh Little Huffaz, a fantastic online Qur’an recitation competition. Children from the two age categories of 3-4 and of 5-8 recorded and sent their recitation of one surah. There were 1200 entries for the 5-8 category! Judges included well-known male and female reciters such as Furqan Fawwaz, Mimi Jamilah, Qari Youssef Edghouch, Ustaz Don Daniyal and Qari Is’haaq Jasat.

Omar&Hana is an adorable TV series with vivid graphics, catchy songs and wholesome Islamic values. Their songs are imbued with lessons ranging from how to read Qur’an, to the importance of caring for the environment, elders and the young. I love how each song is bookended by an inspiring hadith. I loved Farhatul’s tips for children on how to better memorize the Qur’an: “1. Memorize seven ayats a day 2. Practice them until fluent 3. Practice these ayats during prayer 4. Listen to recitation of these ayats.”

I was born in Singapore and grew up in Sydney, where I wasn’t exposed to concepts like prize-winning Qur’anic competitions. For me, being a diaspora Muslim meant growing up under siege, especially in Sydney during the 1990s and beyond. There was no space for creativity or expression when it took everything in me to survive under a climate so rife with racism and Islamophobia. Even catching the train after my university classes while wearing hijab was a risk.

I’m so grateful that my children don’t have to experience this, in the safety of Malaysia. Here, they are safe to be Muslim. Here, it’s encouraged to openly love and celebrate the Qur’an. I hope and pray that these foundational years will cement their love for Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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, the Prophet
ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
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and the Qur’an.

I pray that the power of social media can help connect the hearts of Muslim children worldwide to the Qur’an. There is relevance, every day, in the ayats of the Qur’an.

Kids may not do what we tell them to, but they always watching what we do. I hope to keep nurturing my own connection to the Qur’an, buoyed by the existing system of Qur’anic love and recital in Malaysia. Social influencers like Farhatul are the role models I want my kids to look up to! Farhatul, from her beautiful recitation to her hijab-friendly cosplaying outfits, is living proof that the Qur’an is both an illumination and a guide for our children and ourselves, in the tumult of today’s world.


Related reading:

Quran Journaling For Kids

Baba, The Quran and Me

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Source: Muslim Matters