Goals. Success. Achievement. What do these words mean in our modern vernacular? If we are to believe the narrative that has become a common opinion, accomplishment is often thought to be measured by material gains or social media popularity. 2020 will go down in infamy for many reasons, but an undeniable truth that has been harkened to time and time again over the past year is that this life is but a brief moment in time. This world is transient, life is fragile, and tomorrow is never a guarantee. Gone are the days of passive existence, and in their place lie the questions we must all find our own answers to. What do we do with the extraordinarily limited time we have been blessed with? How do we leave this world a better place than when we arrived? What knowledge can we pass down to our children that will transcend time and circumstance?
It has been reported that our Beloved Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, once said “the best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it” (Bukhari). A great and knowledgeable man by the name of Noordeen personified these indomitable words. He was a hafiz (memorizer/guardian) of the Quran whose love of the Holy Book grew from his heart and into his bloodline. Noordeen’s love for the Quran was inherited by the generations that followed him, including his great-granddaughter Sister Dian.
With the lessons of her forefather planted firmly in her soul, Sister Dian resolved to spread this reverence for the Quran into the children who live in Givelight homes all over the world. Supporters of the Givelight Foundation know the profound and tangible impact this organization has on the lives it has touched. Where there is a loss, hope can be found. Where there is pain, there is also refuge. Where there is a need, there is a way. The children who are supported by the Givelight Foundation are not only housed, but also clothed, and educated; they are given the foundation to one day rise and become leaders and role models for their communities and beyond.
This past year, Givelight hosted two virtual Quran competitions for the children and young adults living in their homes. The first, held during Ramadan focused on tilawa (reading of the Quran), while the second competition centered around memorization. 55 participants ranging from elementary-aged to college students took part in the competitions, representing Givelight homes all over the world, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Morocco.
The beauty of a competition centered around the reading and memorizing of the Quran is that the gifts of participating extend much further than the eye can see. As a young participant from Morocco by the name of Kaouthar stated, taking part in this competition was “an opportunity so valuable not only for the dunya (temporal world) but for akhira (hereafter) too.” This experience not only motivated Kaothar to learn tajweed (grammatical/linguistic rules; Quranic proficiency) and practice projecting her normally soft-spoken voice, but also to continue memorizing and learning even more of the Quran.
The children of Givelight have often overcome great obstacles that many of us cannot even imagine, but what is truly amazing is their resolve to persevere, grow, and learn from any challenge they encounter. Another young participant from Morocco by the name of Douae recalled the excitement and anxiety leading up to the competition, and the need for extensive practice and hard work when faced with difficulties. She spoke of the “special joy” she felt following the competition knowing that she had accomplished a formidable feat in spite of its challenges.
2020 has been a year filled with some of the darkest moments in recent history, and that is why competitions like these are so necessary, perhaps now more than ever before. In a time of loss and uncertainty, Givelight Foundation and its Global Quran Competition gave participants a goal to work toward, and an opportunity to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Lima, a resident of a Givelight home in Bangladesh embarked on her memorization journey with slight trepidation. “At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to memorize such a [long] surah,” Lima recalled, “but when I tried, it was easy and it made me enthusiastic and courageous to compete; I want to remember that courage and success.” Lima’s experience and the emotions she felt following it will remain with her, guiding her through her future undertakings, and serving as a reminder of what she can accomplish with effort and the will to succeed.
The journey of the participants left a lasting impression not only in their own lives but in the lives of the judges as well. Kashef Quadri, a judge who has participated in two Givelight competitions, spoke of the impact working with the children had on him. “It was heartwarming to hear the children’s enthusiasm and excitement,” Quadri stated. “These students were clearly practicing, reading, and learning in pursuit of improving their recitation. You could hear their dedication to learning and pure love for the Quran while listening to them recite.”
A Quranic competition such as the ones hosted by Givelight Foundation can act as a great equalizer in many respects. Children of all ages, ethnicities, and skill levels can participate, with dedication, effort, and a desire to learn acting as the only pre-requisites. “What stood out to me the most was the diversity of the participants,” Quadri recalled. “There were several countries represented, and also a broad range of ages and skill levels; some had technical mastery of recitation, and some were more novice.” The skill and mastery of the participants aside, another noteworthy observation truly touched Quadri. “The number of female students was astonishing,” Quadri remarked. “It was uplifting to see so many young girls participate and excel in their recitations.”
One of those young girls, Sofi from a Givelight home in Indonesia, learned numerous valuable lessons through her experiences competing and reflected on one of her greatest incentives. “My biggest motivation for success is [my] family,” Sofi stated. “I want to change my family’s life at home and motivate friends so they remain confident.” Participants in the past two Givelight competitions left the experience not only stronger, more focused, and with greater resolve, but also with the desire and ability to act as leaders amongst their peers and communities.
Can anyone truly predict the impact they will have on the lives of others? Could the great Noordeen have somehow imagined how far and wide his influence would travel, or how many lives would benefit from the lessons he passed down to his descendants? The answers to these questions are too great for the mind to grasp, but that does not make them any less real. There lies within all of us the ability to impart change on the world; may we learn from those who came before us, and guide those who will one day follow.