Cham Muslim chanters wrapped up a two-day Koran-reading contest Thursday, with two winners announced for a chance to travel to Malaysia for the Asian Youth championship.
After two days of chanting Koran excerpts chosen by a panel of judges, the top two winners were announced Thursday evening: A man named Sofian from Kratie province and Aminas Pimpialy, a woman from Stung Treng province, won the trips to Malaysia.
The Koran is the holy scripture for Muslims. And while there are an estimated 200,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia, not just anyone can chant from the holy book, said Mohamat Salas, a contestant in his mid-20s.
“[But] for a person who has experience, it is normal to chant,” he said. He had been practicing chanting the Koran for as long as he could remember, he said, although he admitted that even now he couldn’t understand all of the text. Thirty-two candidates, hailing from every province in the country, gathered in Chrang Chamreh commune, Russei Keo district for the competition, where they were judged on precision, pronunciation and the timbre of their voices as they chanted passages of the Koran for 12 minutes.
The Koran is chanted in Arabic, but some of the words are ancient and only understood by older Islamic scholars, Mohamat Salas said. “I came to the contest not because of going overseas, but because I train the younger generation to learn the Koran holy book,” he said. “If we chant the holy book, God will bless [our] next life.”
About 200 people of all ages crowded around the outside of the Chrang Chamreh commune mosque. The judging committee stayed inside the mosque, listening to the chants over a loudspeaker.
“I came here because I want to know who is chanting, and listen to the sweet sound and boost the Koran chanting practice,” said onlooker Hzek Karyyer.