One of the greatest blessings that the internet has brought me is the chance to view videos of famous qurra the world over, past and present. There is nothing in this world that brings more peace and serenity than reading the Quran or listening to its recitation – even the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam asked Ibn Mas`ud to recite the Quran to him. Ibn Mas`ud astonishingly asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Should I recite the Quran to you, and it has been revealed to you (one version adds: and you have taught it to me)?!’ To which the reply was given, ‘Yes, for I love to hear it being recited by others.’ (Reported in al-Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmed).
At first I was relying on YouTube to search for various old videos (this has got to be one of my favorite recitations – I grew up listening to his cassettes and it just brings back too many memories!). However, there are now some really good sites up that bring together these videos. The ones I use the most are QQuran.org, which concentrates on the ‘classical’ qurra of our times (check out their video section, and also their interviews with the famous qurra); and also a Turkish site that has quite a good selection.
Of course, there are dozens of superb sites that have audio only, one of the best is islamway.
I am always asked who my favorite qaris are; this is a matter of personal choice, and each person will undoubtedly have his or her preferences. But for me, the choice is crystal clear: the ‘classical’ mashayikh of this ancient art are far superior than any of the modern stars. For me, the single greatest Qari that stands heads and shoulders above the rest is Sh. Mahmud Khalil al-Hussari. He brings an elegance and purity to the recitation that is simply unmatched. He was the Shaykh al-Qurra of Egypt for almost two decades.
After him, my two favorites (in no specific order) are Sh. Muhammad Siddeeq al-Manshawi and Sh. Abd al-Basit Abd al-Samad. Both of them bring out the inner beauty of the Quran. Neadless to say, these three have absolutely perfect pronunciations of each and every syllable, letter, harakah, ghunnah, qalqalah, mudood, tafkheem, tarqeeq, and, most important of all, makharij. If ever in doubt, listen to any of these three recite and follow blindly :).
I really don’t fancy most of the modern qurra (as they say, to each his own – and in all honesty most of them are not masters of tajweed and make some small mistakes here and there), but I must admit Mishary Rashid al-Afasy appears to have been blessed with one of the flutes of Dawud. Abdullah al-Basfar also has perfect tajweed and pronunciation. A Qari that I personally love but is not that well-known is Abd al-Hadi Kanakiri; I like the simplicity and clarity of his recitation.
Feel free to post your own preferences and web-sites in the comments (especially to not-so-famous Qaris!)
I have a bit of a ‘hobby’ of listening to recitations of the Quran. From my own observation, I would state there are three primary ‘styles’ of recitation in the Muslim world, and three other ‘accents’ which try to imitate one of those three styles.
As for the ‘styles’ (not to be confused with the actual qira`aat which date back to the Prophet salla Allahu alahyi wa sallam, they are:
1) The Egyptian Style; characterized by a very strong emphasis on the pronunciation of very letter. Typically very slow, crystal clear. Has its unique fluctuations. Examples are Abd al-Basit, Manshawi, Nu`ayna, Taruti , Hindawi (you NEED to listen to these last three as well – I had the great pleasure of having Hindawi on my show when I taped some episodes of a Tajweed series in Egypt), and others.
2) The Khaleeji style; characterized (many times) by a strong nasality; a ‘musical’ type of rhythm; a lack of extra clear enunciation at the expense of vacillating tones (I am not implying that these qaris make mistakes in enunciation, although it is undeniable that many amongst them are not as precise as their Egyptian counterparts). Examples are Ghamidi, Afasy, Qahtani, Shatry, etc.
3) The Shami style; characterized by a sweetness of tone and intense euphonious voice. Examples are: Ahmad Jibreel; Dimashqiyyah; al-Tarabulsi, etc.
As for the three accents, I find that Qaris from Indonesia/Malaysia, Turkey, and India/Pakistan have slight accents, and try to follow one of the three styles (typically Egyptian).
Personally, I am never impressed with people who try to imitate other Qaris (where is your originality?!). There are dozens of wanna-be Abd al-Basits (this one really comes close!), including his own two sons, Yasir and Tariq (who actually have a very legitimate excuse to sound like their father!!) – but Abd al-Basit has established himself with his own style and voice. No one can re-do that style, and any imitation is just that: an imitation. The same goes for those who try to imitate Sudays or Shuraim or Ali Jaber or any other famous Qari.
By the way thanks for all the other links – can never get tired of listening to them!!
Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr
Make sure you maximize your sadaqah
My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.
A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.
So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!
I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!
Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.
Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.
I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.
Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.
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Social Media And The Struggle for Tomorrow
Muslims have never gotten over losing Andalusia (Spain) to the Reconquista. No discussion about Islam and Europe can take place without us pining like BoAbdil – the last Muslim ruler of Granada who cried like a child as he was exiled from his homeland. We lament about how we brought enlightenment to Europe and then managed to find ourselves totally eliminated from the Iberian Peninsula.
If only we knew.
We cry at the loss of Andalusia and rarely reflect on the true enormity of what happened. The whole of South America, the Philippines and indeed the Americas were conquered or “discovered” by the forces of Catholic Spain shortly after they sent the Muslims packing. Were it not for our own ability to play ourselves, the world would look very different today.
The next Andalusia?
Today, we are in the midst of making another monumental mistake. And it may end up making the loss of Andalusia look trivial by comparison.
This mistake, this error, this battle that we cannot afford to lose is for the control of the Social Media narrative about us and our faith. The advent of the Social Media revolution is no less a game changer in the history of the world than the Industrial revolution before it. And just like the Industrial revolution made previously insignificant nations into world powers and reduced world powers into colonised outposts, the Social Media revolution will do the same.
Until just over a decade ago, the control of information – and therefore the levers of power – were in the hands of the wealthy and elite few. It was Fox News, CNN, and the BBC that set the agenda on TV. It was the Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Times of London and Le Figaro that set the agenda on Newspapers and Magazines. The editors of these channels and publications and their owners could decide whether a genocide was worthy of coverage or not. They could choose to paint a leader as a villain that needed to be deposed or a hero that needed to be obeyed. In the court of public opinion, they were the power behind the thrones, pulling all our strings.
Today, their dominance is almost over. Instead, we get our information and news from Social Media. The BBCs YouTube channel has just over 1 Million subscribers whereas Zoella (a lifestyle blogger just out of her teens) has more than 10 Million. Fox News has over 15 Million Twitter followers while Justin Beiber has more than 90 Million. The numbers are staggering, but it is a fact that individuals and small operations are having their voices amplified and heard on Social Media at a level that was previously virtually impossible.
The possibilities are amazing. For the first time, we can talk about ourselves rather than being talked about by pundits from other communities or by talking heads with their own agendas. We could put across discussions regarding long held grievances without having it filtered through the lens of a news organisation with a biased eye. For once, marginalised sections of the Muslim community could speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by “community leaders.”
While this is a great thing for transparency in the sharing of information and giving more power to the people – there is a huge downside to this whole enterprise.
The next Reconquista?
The individuals and organisations that are proving most adept at exploiting Social Media for their own purposes are those at the extremes of society. The extremists amongst the Muslim who advocate violence against civilians and organise to carry out acts of terror are possibly the single most effective and coordinated group of Muslims online. There may be far more Muslims sharing a Mufti Menk tweet or a catchy video by Maher Zain, but it’s the extremists that are getting things done. They are using Social Media to not only propagate their ideas, but to coordinate them. 
But even these precocious violent new kids on the block are being left in the shade by the white nationalist–Nazi-Anti-Muslim brigade.  You can’t fail to spot them if you’re ever online. You can see them commenting on every article, sending torrents of vile abuse towards anyone who stands in their way and backing each other up to the hilt.
A recent study by the George Washington University study on extremism “revealed that the social media presence of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis is growing at an exponential rate. According to the study, the white nationalist movement on Twitter increased by a whopping 600 percent, surpassing that of ISIS sympathizers.” 
What happens if we lose the social media war?
If we lose the social media war against extremism, the best-case scenario is that we continue down the slippery slope we’re on now. We see ever increasing attacks followed by reprisals, followed by attacks.
That is the best-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario would mean the marginalisation of the middle ground to such an extent as to have profound psychological, political and theological consequences for generations to come.
To put it bluntly, the longer the moral majority of both Muslims and non-Muslims remain disunited, disorganised and lacking in coordination – the longer the extremists on both sides of the spectrum will continue to set the agenda, be the loudest and most persistent voices in the room and ultimately succeed in their quest for a clash of civilizations.
Organised evil will always defeat disorganised good. However, if the good got organised… well, that would be a whole different ball game.