Voices From Heaven

Voices From Heaven is a personal search for the meaning of the Koran, which explores the proposition that at the heart of a sacred art lies the purely mundane and sensuous - voice and melody.

Reciting the Koran is the foremost Islamic art. For Muslims the holy book is the embodiment of the sublime - a marriage of perfect form and content. Reciters have to start at a very early age. After committing to memory the entire book - 6,236 verses - they embark upon the arduous journey of mastering the elaborate rules of classical elocution. But prodigious memory is not enough - a Koranic reciter must also be blessed with an exquisite voice, a "voice from heaven".

Magdi Abdelhadi, an Arab affairs specialist at the BBC, grew up in Cairo with the sound of the Koran permeating every aspect of daily life. But it wasn't until many years later, long after he'd left Egypt and come to live in London that he began to hear the Koran, as it were, with new ears. Listening to recordings of some of the real masters of the art, he began to understand that there was beauty in the art of recital, allied to but separate from the religious content. Inspired by what he had heard, he set out to find out more.

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Voices From Heaven is a personal search for the meaning of the Koran, which explores the proposition that at the heart of a sacred art lies the purely mundane and sensuous - voice and melody.

Reciting the Koran is the foremost Islamic art. For Muslims the holy book is the embodiment of the sublime - a marriage of perfect form and content. Reciters have to start at a very early age. After committing to memory the entire book - 6,236 verses - they embark upon the arduous journey of mastering the elaborate rules of classical elocution. But prodigious memory is not enough - a Koranic reciter must also be blessed with an exquisite voice, a "voice from heaven".

Magdi Abdelhadi, an Arab affairs specialist at the BBC, grew up in Cairo with the sound of the Koran permeating every aspect of daily life. But it wasn't until many years later, long after he'd left Egypt and come to live in London that he began to hear the Koran, as it were, with new ears. Listening to recordings of some of the real masters of the art, he began to understand that there was beauty in the art of recital, allied to but separate from the religious content. Inspired by what he had heard, he set out to find out more.