Qur’an recitation contest draws melodious voices from across the world

Syrian contestant seeks solace in holy book after earthquake tragedy

Quran recitation moves an interior designer from the rubble of earthquakes to Otr Elkalam Competition

RIYADH(RAHNUMA): The Kingdom’s second Qur’an recitation and call to prayer competition, the largest of its kind in the world, continues to inspire Muslims to participate from across the world.

The Otr Elkalam or Perfumed Speech contest, has since last year been the goal of Syria’s Mohammed Al-Jalab, an interior designer, who has been drawing strength from the holy book because of the devastation in his country, according to reports on the websites of the competition and the broadcaster MBC’s Shahid digital platform.

Al-Jalab completed the memorization of the holy Qur’an at 15. He also studied Tajwid, the science of proper pronunciation, and mastered various maqamat, or melodic modes, used during recitation.

The second edition of Otr Elkalam started on March 23, coinciding with the first day of Ramadan.

During Wednesday’s episode, Al-Jalab competed in the Qur’an recitation contest against Morocco’s Zakaria Al-Zirik, who managed to qualify for the next stage of the competition.

In the adhan or call to prayer contest, Syrian contestant Ahmed Darwish, who specializes in electronic production and publishing, competed against Lebanon’s Raheef Al-Hajj, a teacher of maqamat and vocal performances and founder of a specialized academy.

Al-Hajj qualified for the next stage of the competition thanks to the diversity of his maqamat, and his balance between vocal transitions, which dazzled members of the jury.

Otr Elkalam is an initiative of the General Entertainment Authority. It was announced in 2019 offering a total prize pool of SR12 million ($3.2 million).

The first version of the show was broadcast in Ramadan 2022 with the participation of some of the best voices in the world. The competition is on MBC daily at 4:30 p.m., Riyadh time.

More than 90,000 participants from more than 160 countries have now participated in the first and current editions of the competition, in front of a specialized jury.

Over 50,000 entrants were whittled down to 50 for the final stage this year in Riyadh. Another selection process by the main jury left 32 contestants, 16 for each section of the competition.

Applications to take part in this year’s contest began rolling in from Jan. 4 and contestants then went through several online stages of evaluation by 120 jury members.

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