His Majesty awards winners
Hakim Hayat

One of the most significant events in Brunei's Islamic calendar, the National Nuzul Al-Quran celebration for the Islamic year of 1433 Hijrah was held last night at the Plenary Hall of the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to grace the ceremony.

Also present were HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik.

Upon arrival, His Majesty and members of the royal family were welcomed by Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman, the Minister of Religious Affairs, who is also the Chairman of the Executive Committee for Important Days in Islam for 1433 Hijrah, as well as members of the executive committee and other committee members.

The evening began with the recital of surah al-fatihah led by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti. This was followed by a welcoming speech from the Minister of Religious Affairs.

His Majesty then consented to deliver a titah, where the monarch announced several incentive schemes for Qaris and Qariahs and the extension of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri public holiday from two to three days.

The event was enlivened with a special talk entitled "Al-Quran, the source of inspiration", by Chief Syariah Prosecutor, Awang Hj Johar bin Hj Mohammad.

The highlight of the celebration last night was the announcement of winners of the finals of the National Recitation and Understanding of Al-Quran Competition for 1433 Hijrah. Awg Md Hashim bin Haji Abdullah, the chairman of the panel of judges made the announcement.

Winning Category A, for children 10 years and below, was Abdul Aziz bin Noor Nasran, eight, who scored 96.78 per cent. He received a cash prize $1,500, a trophy and a certificate. In an interview, the parents of Abdul Aziz said he has been reciting the Quran since an early age at home, guided by them and this has been maintained at his current school, Al-Falaah School in Kg Sungai Akar. They added that they will continue to encourage him in al-Quran memorisation at home and school. "I feel so delighted and thank Allah the Almighty for this opportunity," Abd Aziz said.

In Category B, for participants below the age of 15, the winner was Ak Muhammad 'Ashim 'Afiif bin Pg Hj Md Zin, 10, who scored 98.71 per cent. He received a cash prize of $2,000, a trophy and a certificate. In an interview, he said he is thankful to Allah the Almighty for winning the category this year and would participate in future al-Quran reading competitions. His parents said he has been exposed to al-Quran reading since the age of four.

In Category C, memorising 15 Juzuk of the Quran and the understanding of Juzuk 6 open for all age categories, Amal Saliha binti Haji Hussin, 15, took first spot with a score of 95.29 per cent, earning her a cash prize of $2,800, a trophy and a certificate. "I feel happy and thankful to get first place. My next aim is to sit for the test for the memorisation of 20 Juzuk next year and receive the special allowance for it. I would like to express my special thanks and gratitude to Ustazah Nur Asiah Siregar binti Muda who has trained me since 2009, as well as my family and friends," she told the Bulletin in an interview.

The winner of Category C is currently studying at Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran in Year 10. She said she has been preparing herself since 2009.

For Category D, memorising 30 Juzuk of the Quran and the understanding of Juzuk 17, which was also an open age category, the winner was Mohammad Wahyuni bin Haji Mohd Mansor who scored 81.50 per cent. Organisers said he is currently in Dubai to compete in an International al-Quran recital competition.

He received a cash prize of $4,500, a trophy and a certificate.

After the announcement of the winners, all first place winners performed in front of His Majesty and the audiences.

The evening was further enlivened by a nasyid performance from members of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), Prime Minister's Office (PMO). To bless the event, a doa selamat was read by the State Mufti. His Majesty then consented to meet and greet the winners, who were accompanied by their parents and guardians.

The celebration this year was jointly organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and the RBPF.

"Al-Quran, the source of inspiration" is the theme of this year's Nuzul al-Quran Celebration. - Borneo Bulletin (6 August 2012)