The 34th National Quranic Recitation Competition (NQRC) taking place in Lagos is unique in many respects. First, it marks the second time the Competition is held in Lagos since the State first hosted it in 1992. It also brings the number of States that have succeeded in hosting the Competition more than once up from eight to nine. Borno, Oyo, Niger, Plateau and FCT are the only states that hosted the competition in its first decade of inception but are yet to do so again, while Zamfara, Edo (Auchi) and Jigawa States have hosted it twice despite not staging any of the first ten editions. Indeed, Jigawa did so in record quick succession: 2011 and 2014. Sokoto and Katsina States have both hosted the national event three times each which is the highest in history.
“Lagos for Quran 2020” is similarly the 4th time the competition is taking place in the Southwest, the last time being 1997 in Abeokuta. This, therefore, is significant as it is symbolic. The national organisers have done well by bringing the Musabaqah to the Centre of Excellence because rotating it between the the North and the South will give every Nigerian Muslim a sense of belonging. The northern States have had their fair share of the hosting right. And justifiably so! Lagos 2019/20, therefore, conveys the bold message that its time for our Yoruba Muslim brothers (an integral part of the Nigerian Muslim body) to share in the blessings of the Glorious Book.
The fact that the Musabaqa is hosted in collaboration with Muslim Community of Lagos (not State government) also presents a remarkable departure from the norm. Although this may have been dictated/forced by circumstances having to do with religious peculiarity of the State, yet it is a clarion reminder to all Muslims to revive the time-tested community spirit Islam is known for with a view to confronting the numerous challenges facing Muslims today. It’s high time they realized that the enormous and onerous responsibility of protecting and sustaining the Ummah lies right on them and not anyone else. The earlier we brace up for this reality, the better. As the popular adage goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”. The Lagos example can therefore serve as a template for the kind of concerted and collaborative effort needed to salvage the Ummah and get it out of the woods. The only way to overcome our challenges is through unity, love for one another, sincerity of purpose and the unflinching desire to work together as a common and united front.
Of great significance also is the fact that the Musabaqa is hosted within the auspicious campus of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), one of foremost and high-ranking Nigerian Universities. UNILAG has one of the largest student population in Nigeria in addition to producing some of Nigeria’s most prominent leaders, scholars as well as professionals cutting across various fields of human endeavour. By housing all participants, judges and national officials on campus, the hosts have saved everyone from the hassles and disappointment usually associated with having to navigate Lagos roads.
The opening ceremony at the Teslim Balogun Stadium was well attended by such important dignitaries as His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir of Kano, the Lagos State Governor, his deputy, former IGP Musiliu Smith as well as participants from across the country. It presented a unique opportunity for the Sultan to once again proclaim the peaceful nature of Nigerian Muslims. In an apparent follow-up to a remark he made a couple of days earlier at MSSN Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) in Kano wherein he berated the questionable endorsement of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of a US report concerning religious persecution in Nigeria, the Sultan reiterated that no amount of provocation will make Nigerian Muslims to take up arms. The Sultan must have been worried by CAN’s deliberate failure to acknowledge that Muslims are equally victims of various kind of killings in Nigeria. From Boko Haram to “herdsmen” to armed banditry, Muslims are the worst victims particularly based on available facts and figures. This, CAN has defiantly refused to admit. Yet, the dialogue continues.
Over the years, the NQRC has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. No further evidence to this than the reported participation of over 30 states at the Lagos event. This is a pointer to the welcome development that the Musabaqa’s ultimate aim of promoting Quranic recitation across Nigeria has largely been achieved. By extension, the Musabaqah has achieved its other lofty objectives of uniting all Muslims irrespective of doctrinal or sectetian affiliation, promotion of love and brotherliness, strengthening of Islamic ties, fostering friendship and brotherhood, status conferral, cultural/geographical appreciation, to mention a few.
It is our sincere hope and prayer that the NQRC will continue to grow from strength to strength.
The decision by many northern governors to transport their participants by air is commendable given the poor condition of the roads as well as the security situation in the country. Our young, gifted and highly talented reciters deserve that and even more. One can therefore hope that our leaders will continue to accord more respect and care to them in a manner befitting the chosen status Allah has placed them.
May Allah reward the organizers and everyone who contributed in making this year’s national Musabaqah a success.
By Ibrahim Siraj, PhD
Past champion & Kano State Musabaqah Judge