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NY Times: Memorizing the Way to Heaven, Verse by Verse

08 16 06



nyt_logoThe carpeted room is full of children in skullcaps crouched on prayer mats, reciting verses from a holy text. Some mumble the words under their breath; others sing them out. They rock back and forth as they chant, their disparate voices blending into an ethereal melody.

The children, ages 7 to 14, are full-time students, in class 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, even in the summer. But they are not studying math, science or English. Instead, they are memorizing all 6,200 verses in the Koran, a task that usually takes two to three years.

It would hardly be an unusual scene in Pakistan, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Muslim world, where religious schools devoted to memorization of the Koran and Islamic studies are common. But this class meets in the prayer room of a small mosque in Flushing, Queens, that caters mostly to South Asian immigrants and their children.

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