Koran by Heart: A Documentary

August 11, 2011 by  


By Siddiq Ather, TMO

movie_11594_posterIsn’t it amazing when you see s small child reciting the Koran (Qur’an)? Isn’t it even more amazing when young children memorize the entire Koran? What if there was a competition with the best young reciters from around the world? What if someone made a film out of it? Done.

Koran by Heart is an HBO documentary directed by Greg Barker that premiered August 1st, 2011. Koran by Heart is a film about the journey of a few participants chosen for the world youth Koran competition in Cairo, Egypt. Simply put, it is the Olympics of Koran recitation.  There are from everywhere; the main characters in the documentary are from Tajikistan, Maldives, and Senegal. The international Koran competition takes place in Ramadan, so this is the perfect holiday-film to watch. 

In a documentary film, in a sense God is the director. It is natural. It is real. That is why it is beautiful. Koran by Heart is a family friendly film, ideal to view during Ramadan. The film is laced with beautiful recitations of the Koran mixed with top-notch cinematography and covered in a deep and moving storyline.  

It is a story about the competitors just as much as it is about the competition. Questions are raised regarding the political and religious states surrounding the competition and the competitors. Who decides what Islam is the ideal Islam. In every nation people breathe in Islam, and breathe out culture.  Different countries have different ways of conducting similar Islamic practices. Analogous to the cultural medley, there are also mixed views as to the degree of traditionalism practiced with varying Muslim countries, and subdivisions within those countries.

Factors such as economic situation, culture, and history all affect the story of these young individuals. You may laugh, cry, or just happen to fall off the edge of your seat in anticipation during the final scene.  Characters like Nabiollah, Rifdah, and Djemal are lively, determined, and in the end, just kids. Each character has his/her own story, and challenges.

The one story that I feel was the most powerful was that of Rifdah, a girl and also one of the younger participants in the competition. She is a bright child, excelling in all subjects, with loads of energy and sparks of genuine curiosity that you can’t help but smile at. However, she is growing up in a household with mixed views regarding women working. Nabiollah, another young competitor, has different challenges; his father wasn’t able to finish his education because of political turmoil that erupted in the region, and the area they live in at the moment does not have a certified school that teaches secular studies.  Nabiollah and his father both want him to have an education.

Koran By Heart is the film to watch this Ramadan. It is an amazing film that may even inspire you to pick up the Koran and read a few chapters. 

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