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Muslim student group teaches the art of Quranic recitation

Marisa Iati | Sunday, March 4, 2012

Notre Dame’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) invites students to engage in prayer around the world Tuesday with the Art of Qur’an Recitation.

Priscilla Wong, associate director of cross-cultural ministry for Campus Ministry, said the event is part of the Prayer Around the World series — a program started approximately eight years ago to promote interfaith understanding and dialogue.

“We thought that we need to bring people together, and sharing how we pray is welcoming people into our faith and culture,” Wong said. “We work with people from that faith community and it’s a way that they can hold discussions and also have questions and answers.”

Wong said in the past, Campus Ministry’s Muslim prayer services featured PowerPoint presentations that explained prayer posture and the basic pillars of the faith. This year, Wong said the MSA chose to focus on the art of recitation.

First-year graduate student Aamir Ahmed Khan, coordinator of the event, said recitation of the Qur’an is a fundamental part of prayer. Muslims believe the Qur’an is the word of God to the prophet Muhammad.

“Muslim prayer is five times a day and they recite some part of the Qur’an in each of the prayers, and they want to do so in the most beautiful voices,” Khan said. “If somebody wants to become successful or skillful in this art, he has to train also, and there are many very famous reciters in the world that are excelling in this field … It basically requires the mastery of the up and down of the voice, also using several of your muscles in the mouth or throat to correctly pronounce Arabic.”

Khan said Rasoul Rasoulipour, a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Theology, will discuss the significance of the prayer form and recite part of the Qur’an. Rasoulipour will also share examples of other people’s recitations.

Khan said the Art of Qur’an Recitation will feature another speaker, Abdul Rashied Omar, and a review of the book “The Art of Reciting the Qur’an” by Kristina Nelson. There will also be a question and answer session.

“The book review we are doing [is] just to highlight the scholarship that is going into researching and learning about reciting Qur’an,” Khan said. “There are books about it and we chose this book especially because it is by an American professor, so the general audience can connect to it.”

Wong said interfaith understanding and dialogue helps to connect cultures.

“The more we can invite other people into our prayer, into our faith, not converting people, but just [inviting] them into it, it really helps us understand each other or embrace each other,” she said. “And I personally believe that is how we, as humanity, are tied together.”

Learning about other faiths makes a person think and feel about his or her own religion, Wong said.

“They’re entering this way of communicating with God and they make their faith life better,” she said. “So the intention is not to try to convert people, but to help learning by [comparing] and [contrasting] so that we embrace our own [faith] more dearly.”

Khan said MSA consists of 20 to 30 graduate students and slightly more undergraduates. He said most of the graduate students are from other countries, whereas most of the undergraduates are American citizens.

MSA celebrates Muslim festivals and helps new Muslim students adjust to attending a Catholic university, Khan said.

“Because Muslims have to pray five times a day, we also gather occasionally for afternoon prayer at [the Coleman-Morse Center],” he said. “So these services are basically for Muslim students on campus, but the event like this … is [a] kind of outreach.”

Khan said Campus Ministry and MSA are hosting the Art of Qur’an Recitation to expose students to other forms of prayer.

“I think this will be very helpful for people of the Catholic community and also other religions that don’t have an idea about how Muslims go about their prayers,” he said.

The prayer service will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Center.