The Royal Australian Navy is primed to represent Australia at the next Prince Sultan International Military Quran Memorisation Competition.
Last month, 27 nations were represented at this year's prestigious event which was hosted by the Ministry of Defence of Saudi Arabia. The competition finds the most proficient Defence Force member from around the world who could best recite the holy Quran from memory.
The Quran has 114 chapters and is written in eloquent Arabic poetry. Many find it a challenge to read and recite from the holy book in general, particularly if they have not had formal Arabic training. The task of memorising the entire scripture is incredibly harder again, but a goal many Muslims set for themselves from a young age. In front of a panel of scholars, individual competitors had to recite randomly chosen chapters with minimal errors.
Chief Petty Officer Zulkarnain Naim, assistant to the Chief of Navy’s Strategic Advisor on Islamic Cultural Affairs, was selected to observe the competition and developed an appreciation for the talent of competitors that took the stand. As the first ever Australian Defence Force representative to attend the event, Chief Petty Officer Naim laid the groundwork for ADF members to compete in 2016 and beyond by noting the skills on show and gaining an understanding of what preparation would be needed for future competitors.
More than 100 Muslims serve in the Australian Defence Force and with 27 Muslim sailors currently serving in the Australian Navy, selection for this prestigious event in 2016 will be difficult.
Chief of Navy’s Strategic Advisor on Islamic Cultural Affairs, Captain Mona Shindy, encouraged personnel to get practicing.
“This Saudi Armed Forces co-ordinated and fully funded opportunity is expected to be on offer every two years to Muslim serving members.
"With early planning and preparation it is possible that in the not too distant future, a Muslim member of the Australian forces might just win this goodwill Quran memorisation competition on the international stage while simultaneously gaining much personal reward from this highly appealing representational and spiritual opportunity,” she said.
Competition was fierce, and after four days, a Yemeni Infantry Soldier was judged the winner, much to the delight of the audience. The event was also a success for the Australian Defence Force in gaining recognition and belonging as part of a Defence international community whose culture and traditions are quite foreign to many Australians.
Along with the opportunity to be apart of the Quran Memorisation Competition, delegates from each country had the opportunity to participate in various events organised and coordinated by the Saudi Defence Force. These included cultural tours and discussion sessions. Topics covered by the participants related to issues concerning their service personnel and lessons learnt in establishing infrastructure, policies and organisational structures to assist with the integration of Muslims in Defence Forces internationally.
Historical tours of the two holy cities, Madinah and Mecca and the opportunity to complete a minor pilgrimage known as the ‘Umrah’ were significant and rewarding highlights for all competitors and delegates.