Quranica’s First Decade
While still an undergraduate student, Sohaib Saeed developed the idea of presenting the meaning and message of the Qur’an through the beauty and artistry of its recitation. He designed an event format under the title The Glorious Recital and established Quranica as an arts organisation to deliver this project.
Working alongside the team behind the Discover Islam Exhibition at Edinburgh’s Central Mosque, the first event was held as a stand-alone performance at the Reid Concert Hall, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It featured selected Quranic passages performed in a variety of styles, with real-time projected translation to make the experience educational as well as inspirational.
Guest reciters included Sh. Syed Hasan Bokhari, a Pakistani reciter who had studied with Egyptian masters. The event was made into a DVD and distributed around the UK and beyond.
Below is a sample video from the 2005 DVD. A review appeared in Emel magazine (click to read).
February-March: This busiest of years began with a universities’ tour featuring performances and lectures, supported by FOSIS and several sponsors. We had the opportunity to contribute a small feature which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, explaining the idea behind the tour (click to listen).
We were honoured to bring ethnomusicologist Dr. Kristina Nelson over from Egypt to discuss her seminal book, The Art of Reciting the Qur’an (first published in 1986), in lectures at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, and the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Shows performed were “God and Creation” (again at Edinburgh’s Reid Hall) and “The Revelation” (Glasgow University and UCL, London). We were joined by several new guest reciters in each city, alongside some of the original line-up.
Emel magazine published a review of the London events (click to read).
July: We were invited to present a series of shows at the major IslamExpo event at Alexandra Palace, London. The chief guest was Sh. Mohammad Jebril, an extremely popular Egyptian reciter and scholar, along with Mohamed Nabil Abdel-Hady (Egypt), Muhammad Ali (Indonesia) and others. The show themes were: “The Revelation” and “Noble Parables”, as well as narratives from the chapters Ta-Ha (“Has Moses’ Story Reached Thee?”) and Yusuf (“Joseph, Prince of Piety” – click for full video).
August: Our second Edinburgh Festival event featured more famous names from the world of Qur’an recitation: Sh. Hajjaj Ramadan al-Hindawi (Egypt) and Yahya Hawwa (Jordan). The theme was again “Noble Parables”, and the venue was the city’s Central Mosque – as part of what had now evolved into the Islam Festival Edinburgh.
Official clips from this event will be released shortly, God willing. The following was shot by an audience member, from the opening of the event:
That same weekend, Sheikh Hindawi delivered a traditional-style recitation from Surat al-Naml which became the basis for Quranica’s 2015 production: Solomon and the Queen.
October: Following the festival of ‘Eid al-Fitr, we organised events in Edinburgh and Cardiff with the theme: “The Prophets of Peace”. The latter was held in the National Museum of Wales as part of Beyond the Border (storytelling festival) and the Festival of Muslim Cultures, and supported by FOSIS Wales. At these events, we were honoured to host Sh. Mohamed Nabil again from Egypt, along with Sh. Riza Gunay from Turkey, both of whom delivered captivating recitals.
Footage from this event will also be made available, God willing. Click to see some of the Welsh-language publicity.
February: Quranica director Sohaib Saeed participated in a discussion on BBC Radio 4 (Beyond Belief with Ernie Rea) about music and its relation to spiritual experience, speaking as a promoter of the art of Qur’an recitation.
August: Our third event with the Islam Festival Edinburgh, this time featuring Sh. Ahmad Sa’ad and others on the theme of “The World Unseen”.
July: We returned to IslamExpo, this time at London’s Olympia, to conduct three shows featuring Sh. Mohammad Jebril, Sh. Syed Hasan Bokhari and Sh. Ahmad Sa’ad.
September: Our director gave out recitation tips and fielded calls on a radio show called Quranic Mechanic, on Radio Ramadan in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
October: Quranica was commissioned by the Utrujj Foundation in London to deliver a special show promoting their classes in Qur’an recitation (tajwid). The theme was “The Light of Knowledge” and reciters included Sh. Haytham Tamim and Sh. Marwan Ghalayini of Utrujj.
In this year, there were numerous requests from university societies to host Quranica on their campuses. We delivered Glorious Recital events at the Universities of Oxford, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, hosted by their respective Islamic societies. This was also the year in which Sohaib Saeed moved to Egypt for degree studies at Al-Azhar University.
The Quranica website was relaunched with a blog for articles and research on the Qur’an and related studies, expanding beyond the original focus upon recitation.
In Ramadan, we launched the Ten-Minute Tafsir series (click for playlist) in which a short introduction was provided each day to one portion (juz’) of the Qur’an. This proved to be very popular around the world, and further videos were added in subsequent years.
In Ramadan, in partnership with the Scottish chapter of the AlMaghrib Institute, we ran a course entitled The Quranic Connection. This involved teacher-led group recitation from the last juz’ of the Qur’an, with pointers in tajwid but an emphasis upon spiritual experience of the verses – combined with brief explanations and commentary upon the verses and their significance in our lives.
In this year, Sohaib Saeed completed his degree at Al-Azhar’s Faculty of Theology (BA Qur’anic Studies), and enrolled at SOAS in London for his doctorate under the supervision of the renowned Qur’an translator and scholar, Prof. Muhammad Abdel-Haleem.
Before leaving Egypt, he delivered a series of lectures at the historic Azhar Mosque, introducing the seminal book of Sh. Muhammad Abdullah Draz: The Qur’an: An Eternal Challenge (click for playlist).
This year, marking a decade since its beginnings, Quranica is relaunched as a research, education and outreach organisation.