CIS students put memorization skills to test

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Imagine standing up in front of your peers as a school child and reciting your times tables. Now contemplate doing it in a foreign tongue.

That’s why Principal Raiha Idrees is so proud of all the students who took part in the recent Qur’an Competition at Calgary Islamic School’s Omar Bin Al-Khattab (OBK) campus. A total of 172 students stepped forward to have their memorization of the Muslim holy book tested, with 125 of them awarded for their efforts.

“For most of the students the Holy Qur’an is written in a language they are not familiar with,” she says. “It’s in Arabic and a lot of our students do not speak Arabic so they are actually memorizing it in another language.”

The Qur’an totals 600 pages and there is a lot of repetition as far as content. That makes it difficult enough in itself to memorize, but Idrees points out the annual competition also tests a student’s comprehension of the messages and morals and virtues of the religious book.

“So it is not just decoding and memorizing, it’s kind of internalizing,” she says.

Since memorization is not something that has ever come easy for Idrees, she truly values her students’ accomplishments in that regard. Whether they won a prize in the competition or not, she says memorization of the Qur’an is very important.

Not only is it a great source of pride for the students and their parents, it holds a special reward for Muslims.

“From a religious point of view, if a person knows the Qur’an – has memorized it – on the Day of Judgment they can save about three people from going to hell,” says the principal of the OBK campus. “That’s like a first-class ticket to heaven, basically.”

There is also research which shows the work that goes into memorization of the Qur’an can pay benefits in other areas of a student’s academics, she says.

The competition is open for all students from kindergarten to Grade 9. Elementary school students are taught sections of the Qur’an in religious studies and are expected to be able to memorize at least three chapters by the end of Grade 6. At that point, they decide whether they want to enter the more intensive Tahfeedh program, which has a goal of memorizing the entire Qur’an.

It is not uncommon for a student to work on their memorization for a couple of years before they feel competent enough to be tested. Those entered in the Qur’an Competition determine how many chapters they wanted to be tested on. Out of those chapters they are asked to recite random sections word-for-word.

The top competitor this year at the Palliser school, Grade 9 student Ayman Mohammed, has memorized the entire Qur’an. He was tested on 10 of those 114 chapters and showed an amazing 97 per cent accuracy.