// Koran by Heart: A War-Hardened Filmmaker Delves Into Islam
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« on: Jul 30, 2011 03:51 PM »


Another person inspired by the call to prayer! Don't know how this documentary will be. I think it's hard for non-Muslims to understand that Islam can be very traditional and ritual filled as well as being liquid, changeable, modern and contemporary. And that people's opinions or choices are not always "from Islam" ie the father wanting his daughter to be a housewife.

Looks like it's playing on HBO on Monday so if anyone watches it let us know!

Update: Found the trailer, looks cute!!

HBO Documentary Films: Summer Series - Koran By Heart (HBO)


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A War-Hardened Filmmaker Delves Into Islam

NYTimes

On his way home from covering the Persian Gulf war, the filmmaker Greg Barker stayed overnight in a small Egyptian village. Early the next morning, an undulating sound awakened him. For someone raised in Southern California, where predawn interruptions usually come from car alarms, it took some time to realize he was hearing the muezzin’s call to prayer.

In that moment, Mr. Barker sensed both epiphany and rebuke. Something about the summons to worship clearly mattered enormously to the people now heading toward the mosque. Yet even after working for months as a journalist in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, reporting on a war in the midst of the Muslim world, Mr. Barker had to admit that he knew virtually nothing about Islam.

Now, 20 years later, the curiosity and challenge of that moment have reached fruition in the form of the documentary “Koran by Heart.” The film follows three children as they compete in an international contest to memorize and recite from the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Fittingly, it will be shown on HBO on Monday as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins.

“Koran by Heart” simultaneously embraces and subverts a familiar documentary genre. As several critics noted when it played last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival, it follows the formula of cute, precocious kids under win-or-lose pressure that was popularized by the 2002 film “Spellbound” and “Mad Hot Ballroom” in 2005.

Unlike a spelling bee or a dance tournament, though, the International Holy Koran Competition, held annually in Cairo, has consequences beyond triumph or tears. In Mr. Barker’s supple, subtle hands, the contest provides a means of exploring the tension within Islam between the kind of fundamentalism typified by rote, literalist instruction and the modernity outside the madrasa’s door.

“I was interested in Islam as a force in the world,” Mr. Barker, 48, said in a Skype interview from his home in the Los Angeles area. “The struggles, the conversation about modernity within the faith. It’s not what most people are aware of. I was looking for a way to put a human face on the religion and on the struggle. And as a filmmaker, I was looking for a way in.”

Before embarking on the project, Mr. Barker had established himself as a filmmaker of artistic and political consequence with documentaries like “Ghosts of Rwanda,” a retrospective on the genocide there, and “Sergio,” which explored the assassination of the United Nations’s ambassador to Iraq in a truck bombing that killed 22 people.

About two years ago, Mr. Barker and Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO Documentary Films, separately heard about the Koran competition. With the cable network’s backing, Mr. Barker assembled a crew, navigated the labyrinth of Egypt’s bureaucracy and began filming the two-week contest last August.

Even as Mr. Barker was granted access, skepticism and hostility also greeted the project. While he was limning Islam through the contest, the organizers and participants were expressing their attitudes toward the West to the documentary’s creative team.

“The big question, over and over again, time after time, without fail, was, ‘Why are these people making the movie?’ ” recalled Razan el-Ghalayini, 25, an American Muslim and associate producer of the film. “ ‘Don’t Americans and Christians hate Islam?’ I don’t think even I understood the extent to which people felt that way.”

Amid that climate, Mr. Barker managed both to grasp the pageantry of the competition — 110 children and young adults from as far afield as Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan and Australia, all being tested on a text of 200,000 Arabic words and their ability to improvise melodies as they chant — and to zero in on the characters who would ultimately supply the film’s deeper themes.

These were three 10-year-olds: Nabiollah Saidoff from Tajikistan, Rifdha Rasheed from the Maldives and Djamil Djieng from Senegal. After the contest ended, Mr. Barker and his crew followed all three back to their home countries.

A prodigy at Koran recitation, fawned over by elderly judges as if he were Harry Potter at Hogwarts, Nabiollah turns out to be illiterate in Tajik. His sole education has come from the imam of a madrasa that the Tajik government shut down for its fundamentalist leanings.

“The problem,” the principal of a secular school explains in the film, “is small rural schools, where children have just one teacher, can lead young people to join extremist groups.”

In seeming contrast, Rifdha, the daughter of two accountants, is a straight-A student and aspiring scientist. Her father, however, has become a fervent Muslim, dismissive of the Egyptians as not observant enough. He informs Rifdha that he plans to move the entire family to Yemen, and that, even if she is educated, her future will be as a housewife.

That intimate drama attests to the words offered during the film by Maumoon Gayoom, a former president of the Maldives: “We have always practiced a very moderate form of Islam in the Maldives. ...But the trend — to go back in history, to return to early Islam — is felt all over the Muslim world.”

It would be an unconscionable spoiler to reveal here what happens to Rifdha and Nabiollah by the documentary’s end, or to divulge how they fare in the contest. Suffice it to say that they exemplify both the concept of the umma — a sense of Muslim peoplehood that transcends race, class, geography and nationality by means of its common text — and the specter of unquestioning obedience to scripture.

“For me, it all comes down to education,” Mr. Barker said. “If we were making a film about evangelical Christians memorizing the Bible, and that’s all they did, we’d be troubled by that. With regard to Islam, we have a problem with that narrow approach, which can lead to extremism and, in the worst cases, to terrorism. As long as they’re getting a broad education, their religion is their own business.”
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 05, 2011 05:34 PM »

All 6 parts on youtube... probly good to watch when u get to that last hour fasting!!  Kiss

Koran by Heart (1/6)
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 07, 2011 09:36 PM »

Salam,

People this is one of the most fascinating things I've watched in a long time. You have to watch it before they take it down!!


(Links and Spoilers below)
Links taken down by Youtube Sad


------Spoilers!!----------

SubhanAllah these kids are just so amazing. They really inspire all of us. How heartbroken were you when the Sengalese boy made mistakes and elated when Rifdha made it in the top 3. That boy from Tajikstan does indeed have a voice of angels! MashaAllah.

The thing I didn't like about the documentary was the emphasis on religious versus secular. Learning the Quran does not mean you're a 7th century caveman and that you want your daughter to be a housewife and move to Yemen. (Sad that was the case tho, but I'm sure they didn't show all the details about it) The main purpose and agenda of the film definitely seemed to be to put across the idea that these kids are only getting Quran education and getting messed up/anti-modern/illiterate and it will lead to terrorism etc blah blah.

Otherwise, loved the scenes of Egypt!! Actually miss Cairo when watching it and how weird was it to see pre-revolution Mubarak and Egypt. I'm sure so much has changed now. Also, the emphasis on fundamentalists versus modernists was there but I think they treated it better than most.  All in all a very interesting hour and a half spent!!



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« Reply #3 on: Aug 12, 2011 08:02 PM »

So nobody else watched this yet???  Sad Sad gloomy


D'oh I just checked and it's gone!!! too bad ppls  Angry
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 24, 2011 05:47 AM »

Found it again!!! Watch it before they take it down again!! (when ur taking a break from ur ibadah!!) the little girl...tiny brown girl with big glasses totally reminds me of = me (but without all the quran memorization!) mA what a sweetie Smiley

Koran by Heart


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« Reply #5 on: Aug 24, 2011 11:42 AM »

Assalamu Alaiykum,

Mash'Allah this was amazing sis J! I absolutely loved it. It was beautiful. May Allah always keep the Qu'ran in these kids' heart. It was superb.

Ma'Salam,
Cinders

Ps: whilst I'm at it, please please make du'a that my son becomes a a Hafiz Insh'Allah.

وَلَسَوْفَ يُعْطِيكَ رَبُّكَ فَتَرْضَىٰ

And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.
Al Qur'an (93:5)
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 24, 2011 01:34 PM »

salaam,

i saw it on tv last weekend..pretty cool.  stressful though- kinda like our spelling bee over here but harder:) ! haha

makes me feel kinda bad for Mubarak..but he brought it onto himself. it was strange though seeing him give out the award etc.

the little Kazakstan boy was lovely mashallah..but what's up with the father of the little girl from the Maldives! ... silly

enjoyed this.
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 24, 2011 04:53 PM »

Salaam

Why am I disturbed after watching this ?

Wassalam
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 24, 2011 04:59 PM »

I felt for the Senegalese boy! Why was he alone?

The Tajikistani boy was excellent, Maasha-Allah. His voice! Allahu Akbar.

The Maldivian girl was wonderful too. I wish her father will let her follow her own dreams.

The Almighty Allah says,

"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."

- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 24, 2011 05:02 PM »

wsalam,

ummwafi probably because of the emphasis on secular learning and the girl's father!! But overall I just thought it was very interesting to watch. SO GLAD some other ppl watched it so we can discuss it now!!

do you think wanting his daughter to be a housewife is wack or is he trying to give her a good life or something?? i think some fathers see being a housewife as being protected and cared for and more wealthy because you don't have to go to work.....
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 24, 2011 05:17 PM »

wsalam,

do you think wanting his daughter to be a housewife is wack or is he trying to give her a good life or something?? i think some fathers see being a housewife as being protected and cared for and more wealthy because you don't have to go to work.....


If it is her choice to be a housewife, no problem. She is such a bright girl - all round! I believe she can be a wife as well as marine biologist if she chooses. She is more sure of herself at that age which is unique. The one thing I agree with her Dad on, is that she should learn the Qur'an.

The Almighty Allah says,

"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."

- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 24, 2011 05:59 PM »

I watched it till the end of the girl's recitation and then a stupid power cut happened!!  Angry Grrr...
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 24, 2011 10:34 PM »

salam



Subhanallah, I don't have the words. That was so very very beautiful mashallah and how magnanimous was each child? Little Djamil was amazing mashallah, he was there all alone and even when the judges reacted abrasively he continued courageously (I would have fled in tears...actually I would have passed out before going to the podium to begin the recitation).


I think the repeated emphasis of we are moderate muslims (I personally am muslim full stop) was grating and the little girls father in his utter refusal to see that his daughter (and mother) has her own asperation for her life made it sad.


Any other mothers amazed at the gentleness and obedience of each child there?

I want children like that, I feel so so so proud right now for being their sister in Islam.

May they all continue to grow stronger in the deen, and may Allah grant them success in both this life and the hereafter.





Wassalaam

And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. Surah 2  Verse 186
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 25, 2011 12:37 AM »

Salam Sis Jannah

I think I am disturbed by the slant and the tone of the documentary. There are many other children from developed countries who tok part so why single out the three ? I have that these-kids-learn-Quran-cos-their-countries-are-poor-so-they-don't-have-anything-better aftertaste. Especially the way they protray the Taji's boy life back in his hometown. The glaring difference ? Voice of angel..judges' fave but in Tajikistan he is illiterate. Like as if there is a dichotomy.

With regards to the Maldivian girl ( and what a gorgeous girl she is ) I have often observed parents , especially fathers, who, in their youths were not strictly practising Muslims, mend their ways later and become ultra conservative Muslims later in life and impose the same harsh understanding f Islam on their family. What they need to understand is that their conservative interpretation of Islam may not spark the love for the Deen within their children, Allahu'alim. (Not saying that is the father's experience though).

Wassalam
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 25, 2011 04:39 AM »

salam



I thought the film maker concentrated on the ones he did because they were the top three and the little Senegalese boy was given the special honour of reciting in Egypts largest masjid inspite of his marks but due to his perserverance.

I also thought the childrens background was shown to illustrate the differences between the children and yet they all excelled in Quran recitation because mashallah the little girl was brillliant, and the Tajik boy sounds like he has a photographic memory each child was clearly very very intelligent mashallah (would be classified as gifted and talented over here, being the super smart children).

I do feel a bit sad for the little Senegalese boy, he was all alone.


They were all so brave mashallah.


Maybe I just saw what I did because the children were just so adorable mashallah and I'm very easily distracted.





Wassalaam

And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. Surah 2  Verse 186
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 25, 2011 05:07 AM »

I think there was a positive that came out of it. The Tajikistani boy got a full scholarship to study in a mainstream school and continue with his Qur'an as well. So the exposure was good for him and because of his talent and representation of Tajikistan, the government (I think) took notice.

The fault as I always associate with Madarasas everywhere, is how they teach kids memorization of the Qur'an ONLY and not include the Arabic language as a subject. There are many Madarasa teachers who speak Arabic and if they can teach Qur'an, then they can teach Arabic too.

All those kids would have had a much easier time if they understood and spoke Arabic as well as they could recite the Qur'an.  The Senegalese boy was really confused because he could not understand the instructions from the judges, who by the way, had little patience with him, unfortunately. I think it was unprofessional and they lacked finesse in how they reacted and it showed on their faces too.

I don't like the labels either - moderate Muslim, blah blah blah... its as if we are making excuses all the time. We are Muslims first and foremost who are peace loving people, period. All Muslims should not be judged based on a few rotten people who profess Islam for their own convoluted agendas.

The Almighty Allah says,

"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."

- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 25, 2011 06:32 AM »

wsalam,

yes the slant of bias is definitely there. i think they picked three to prove their point that 'quran only memorization/education' was wack. (the tajik boy was illiterate, the girl is going to end up a housewife, sengalese boy would end up being a closed off imam exactly like the father). unfortunately it backfired for them cuz every Muslim loves this video because the kids are so amazing mashaAllah!!

they probably actually followed a number of the kids and then just picked the one's with the best footage/most interesting. it almost seems like they were going to focus on the austrailian kid too but didn't...

true about ppl getting into the deen late going to extremes sometimes...usually they moderate off after awhile if they have good teachers and things but looks like the father wants to go it his own and move the family to yemen etc...

and totally agree about learning arabic while kids are memorizing!! so important!

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« Reply #17 on: Aug 26, 2011 01:14 AM »

I also enjoyed the part the where the guys (in the car/bus) were having a discussion and one pointed out how the Prophet SAW was tolerant of other people/faiths giving the example of the Jew who used to bother the Prophet SAW and when he fell sick the Prophet SAW went to see him. And the quotation of Surah Al-Karifun.

The Almighty Allah says,

"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."

- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira
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