KUALA LUMPUR – Understanding the sacred writings of Islam is one of the greatest ambitions every Muslim could ever have.
But before they could even understand the Quran, their task is to fully master Arabic, the original version the book is written.
Learning the Semitic language of the Arab world could be daunting – especially for Muslims in the Philippines. They say learning the language is hard, taking them a lot of years before they could even pronounce every word written in the Quran.
“It’s hard but I endure how difficult it (learning Arabic) could get,” says Saudi M. Gandisa, an Ustadz from the Philippines.
24-year-old Gandisa is one of the two Filipinos who is here in the Malaysian capital this month for the International competition of Quran reading. Rahima M. Panondiongan is joining the female category.
The Malaysian government organizes yearly the world recitation contest to cultivate interest in the Islamic religious book and to strengthen ties among Muslim countries in the world, according to a statement issued by the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development — written in Malay.
Gandisa and Panondiongan joins the rest of the 79 other participants of the reading competition from 50 countries.
“Shukran (Allah), binigyan ako ng ganitong pangarap at magandang buhay (Thank you (Allah), for giving me this ambition and a good life),” Gandisa says.
Speaking to this writer, the 24-year-old Arabic teacher from Maguindanao said learning Arabic is a hard task. But for him, sacrifice is motivated by his drive to reach out to the community by teaching the Semitic language for them to understand what is written in the Quran as well.
Reading the Islamic religious book is a moral obligation for Muslims as their religious practices is all based in the sacred writings. Some may not be able to understand Arabic but read each word as it is.
“You may not understand its meaning but you would get a reward hereafter. Each letter translates to 10 good deeds,” said Edris Mamukid, one of the Filipinos who showed support to the two contestants by joining them here in Malaysia.
Even experts of reading the book knows where which part of the page has to be opened to find the book and chapter they are looking for, a group of Filipino Muslims told this writer Sunday morning. They hope that the two contestants would pull ahead and bring pride to the Filipinos when they get back to the Philippines.
Around 2,000 people from around the world filled the Merdeka Hall of the Putra World Trade Center this week. The opening ceremony was attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Muhyiddin Yassin, their current Deputy Prime Minister and the Education Minister.
The champion of the competition will be awarded a trophy, cash prize RM 32,000 (RM1=Php6.50) with souvenirs and a certificate of participation. Runner ups will receive a cash price of RM 22,400, a souvenir and certificate. The winners of the competition will be announced this Saturday.
“We hope that they will win this year. We are here to support the Philippine delegation. We hope that the world will recognize the Muslim community,” said Gapor A. Usman, a deputy mayor of the Marano tribe in Davao City.