Qari Hassan Ali Kasi.
Gulf Today Report
To master the art of Quran recitation, 21-year-old Hassan Ali Kasi had to follow a strict regime of yoga, hours of rehearsing vocal scales — and a total ban on biryani.
Hassan Ali Kasi was recently named champion of an international online Qari competition (Siraj Al-Kabeer) hosted by Afghanistan, where he was up against men from 25 other countries.
The competition was held in December 2020 in Kabul and was organised by Sheikh Abdul Kabeer Haidari's Quranic Centre.
After becoming Hafiz-e-Quran, Hassan completed his graduation with distinction and continued his Islamic studies at the International Islamic University in Islamabad.
Revered in Pakistan, Qaris are professional reciters of the Quran, called upon to lead prayers at mosques and also to teach the Muslim holy book to students.
"It was a job of the prophets," Ali Kasi told AFP in the capital, Islamabad.
"One of the very first elements of preaching was recitation. It is as old as Islam."
Qaris require perfect Arabic pronunciation, a difficult feat in Pakistan where Urdu is the national language.
Recitations during competitions can last for 15 minutes, so Ali Kasi practises yoga to help with breath control, and vocal exercises to strengthen his voice.
"A Qari should be able to recite for a minimum of 50 seconds without taking a breath," said Ali Kasi.
"The throat is very sensitive, a Qari should avoid cold water and fatty food as it produces too much mucus, which causes abrasion when you touch high notes," he cautioned.
He was tutored in the Quran by his father, and his recitation skills quickly earned him recognition at national level where he won numerous awards before making it onto the international stage.
The voice is a gift from God
Many Qaris emerge after being taught at religious schools known as madrassas, where young boys are taught to memorise the Holy book —often with little understanding of the Arabic language and also at the expense of other subjects.
Boys who complete their studies can go on to become teachers or lead prayers at mosques around the world.
"One has to be meticulously hardworking," said Abdul Qudus, from the Wafaq-ul-Madaris al-Arabia, the country's largest group of madrassas.
"The voice is a gift from God, but one has to polish it."
He said hundreds of prayer leaders in the Middle East are madrassa graduates, while others are now teaching the Quran online to Pakistanis living overseas in Europe or America.
Ali Kasi, who spends hours practicing verses ahead of competitions, said quality teachers were the key to his winning voice.
"When you follow a good Qari, you can spread your voice across the world," he said.
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