For three weeks, more than a thousand women from the Dawoodi Bohra community were busy memorising 25 selected chapters from the Quran, polishing their diction, rhythm and pronunciation, and reciting them before a group of women scholars.
The women were participating in the first Quran memorising competition for women.
The last two years, only the Bohri men could participate in the contest organised by Mahad-al-Zahra, the department of Quranic studies at the Jamea (the community academy) in Surat.
“This was the first time that women students got a chance to use our knowledge of the Quran to help other women learn it,” said Ummesalama Diwan (32), a teacher and one of the coordinators of the competition. “We are overjoyed to be included in the event.”
After rigorous elimination rounds within the 15 Bohri mohallas (regional divisions) of Mumbai, two winners were selected in the city finals on Sunday — one each in the categories for below 40 years and above 40 years.
“Three years ago, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (the community’s spiritual leader) had expressed his wish to see all Bohris learning the Quran with the correct rhythm and pronunciation, so this is our way of showing our love for him,” said Arabic teacher Jumana Aiman (28), who was one of the judges for the contest.
Twelve years ago, Aiman became the first Bohri woman to have memorised the complete Quran in India.
The competition was one of the many events, including trade fairs, medical camps and educational seminars, held during the last 40 days to celebrate the Syedna’s 99th birthday, coming up on Sunday. The oldest Syedna to hold the office of the Dai (spiritual head), he has held this position for 45 years.
Thousands of Bohris converged in Mumbai from around the world in Bhendi Bazar on Thursday evening to get a glimpse of the Syedna in a special birthday procession.
The winners of the competition are preparing for the international finals to be held in Surat later this year. “Our participation makes His Holiness happy, and after the success of this year’s contest, many more will respond next year,” said Diwan.