Muslim children around the world are encouraged to memorize the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Many Muslims believe they will go to heaven when they die if they memorize the entire book. The Quran contains about 6,200 verses.
Quran reciting contests are held in many countries. Every year Muslims from more than 80 countries meet in the United Arab Emirates for a big competition.
Onstage contestants are shown on large screens so the audience can see them better. Some spectators take cell phone videos of the reciters. Top reciters are highlighted on YouTube. The winner of the contest gets 250,000 dirhams, which is more than $60,000 in U.S. money.
Judges recite a verse from anywhere in the Quran. Contestants then recite the following verse and several after it from memory. Reciters are judged not only for how well they have memorized the verses, but if they recite it in the right tone of voice and with proper pronunciation. All the verses are recited in Arabic, even by contestants who come from countries where Arabic is not the main language.
In the following (fictional) skit, a Christian boy is challenged to learn more about his own faith and God’s Word after meeting some Muslim children.
Read a chart comparing the Quran and the Bible.
- “Porch” or bench to sit on
- Watch or cell phone (Brian)
- Optional: Soccer ball (Brian)
- Optional: Clothing of a traditional Muslim country such as a skullcap (Khalid) and long scarf (Amina)
- Optional: Soccer uniform (Brian)
Brian: (enters) Hi!
Khalid and Amina: Hello!
Brian: You’re Khalid and Amina, right? I’ve seen you at school. I didn’t know you lived here! I live on the next block. (points to the “next block”)
Khalid: Yeah, we know. My sister and I (gestures toward Amina) have seen you outside playing. Isn’t your name Brian?
Brian: That’s right! If you see my friends and me out playing, you can come join us. Do you like soccer?
Khalid: (excitedly) Yes, we do!
Brian: (looking at his watch or cell phone) We’re going to play in about 15 minutes. We could use some extra people. Can you come?
(Khalid and Amina look at each other, then back at Brian.)
Amina: This isn’t a very good time for us to play.
Khalid: She’s right. We spend about an hour every day after school studying the Quran. We’re Muslims.
Amina: We’re getting ready for a Quran reading competition at our mosque. We’re very excited about it!
Khalid: But we could play another time, if you’d let us.
Brian: Well, sure, that would be okay. (sits beside them and points to the Quran) I’m a Christian, and I don’t know much about the Quran. Is this it?
Brian: What’s it like? I mean, what’s in it?
Amina: It has 114 chapters, called suras. There are anywhere from 3 to 286 verses in a chapter. We’d like to memorize it all someday!
Khalid: As Muslims, we believe the Quran was dictated to Muhammad, our prophet, by an angel.
Amina: I think it’s kind of like your Bible, isn’t it?
Brian: The Bible is the Christians’ holy book, like the Quran is yours. But the Bible isn’t just one book written by one person. We learned in Sunday school that it has 66 books divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Amina: Who wrote it?
Khalid: Was it written in Arabic like the Quran?
Brian: It was written by more than 40 people over a period of 1,500 years in different places and in three different languages. But since God inspired it, there’s agreement in its teachings among all the books.
Khalid: We’ve been taught that your Bible has been changed over the years, and it’s not the same as when it was first written.
Brian: Really? That’s strange. Archaeologists have found early versions, and they’ve proved that there’s been very little change in the Bible!
Amina: Hmmm. Interesting. What do the books agree about? What do they teach you?
Brian: Well, the Bible is the story of God’s relationship to people. It tells about His plan to save us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.
(Khalid and Amina look at each other.)
Khalid: (to Brian) You believe that there’s a way to pay for all your sins?
Amina: (thoughtfully, not looking at the others; talking to herself aloud) We believe we must try very hard to do good, and if we do enough good, Allah will let us into heaven. But sometimes I worry, because no matter how hard I try, I still do wrong.
Brian: (to Khalid) I can’t pay for my sins, Khalid, but Jesus has paid for my sins for me. That’s the story the Bible tells.
Khalid: Wow! It must be a very special book for you! (Amina nods) Have you memorized it yet?
Brian: (hesitantly) Well, no. It’s awfully long.
Amina: (sympathetically) We understand! The Quran is long, too. We’ve only memorized some of the chapters. So how much of the Bible have you memorized?
Brian: Uh, well, I think I could recite about 10 memory verses when we worked on them in Sunday school last year.
Khalid: (encouragingly) Well, you must read it a lot and understand it very well! I know I would surely treasure a book that explained how to be saved from sin. How many hours a day do you study your Bible?
Brian: Hours? A day? Uhhh…
Amina: I would like it if you would show us that parts that tell about Jesus saving people from their sins. Could you bring your Bible over and find those parts for us?
Brian: (slowly, a little confused) I’m not exactly sure…
Khalid: I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about the Bible from Christians at school and in the neighborhood. If they believe what it says, I would think they would talk about it all the time! I’m afraid I don’t understand. (shakes his head)
Brian: (stand up, faces Khalid) You know what, Khalid? I’m afraid I don’t understand either. But I think I’ll ask my friends if they want to have a Bible study before we play soccer today. And tonight after supper, I’ll ask my parents to help me study the parts about salvation. The next time you have questions for me, I’ll be ready. (smiles at Khalid and Amina and turns to leave)
(Khalid and Amina smile and wave.)