ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
Coming up, a lesson on the short history of YouTube, the video website that just sold for well over a billion dollars.
CHADWICK: First, this year's Ramadan - the Muslim month of devotion and fasting - and the Islamic Community Center of Northern Virginia began the month with a big problem.
BRAND: Normally it flies in a cleric from overseas to lead nightly prayers during Ramadan, but immigration agents stopped him from coming this year and the center was left with only one day to find a substitute.
CHADWICK: The chief qualification: you must have memorized the entire Islamic holy book, the Koran. And the center found two qualified people among its worshippers. One of them was Aman Chhipa, who is just 13 years old. I spoke with him earlier.
Aman Chhipa, welcome to DAY TO DAY. This is a serious responsibility for you. What did you think when they asked you?
Mr. AMAN CHHIPA (Prayer Leader): Well, I was nervous in the beginning. Well, now I feel confident. Now, during - like after I come back from school, I say this can be easy. I can do it. There is no problem to it. When I get up there, I feel like I'm losing it.
CHADWICK: You're little anxious when you actually have to...
Mr. CHHIPA: Yeah.
CHADWICK: Yeah. How big is the Koran? For someone who is not Islamic, how many verses and words? And how did you memorize it all?
Mr. CHHIPA: Well, the Koran is contained of 114 chapters. And it has over 80,000 words. My dad enrolled me into a boarding school in Pennsylvania. And over there, I was enrolled and I studied eight and a half hours every day. And I came back. I didn't know that they would need me so early. It happened all of a sudden. So I thank Allah that he has given me this opportunity to lead the prayer.
CHADWICK: You can't - in a service you wouldn't read from the Koran. You have to actually recite it from memory.
Mr. CHHIPA: Yeah. You would recite it from memory. But reading it is also a possibility. You should Koran every day. Memorizing is - it's something that was ordered by Allah. Only a few people talented or gifted can do it.
CHADWICK: What do your friends at school think about this? Do they know?
Mr. CHHIPA: Most of the people in school, they know about it. They said, what did you do? I would respond by saying I lead the prayer at night. I would tell them that I memorized the whole Koran. It's like memorizing a bible. They would be astonished.
CHADWICK: And how old were you when you learned the Koran by memory?
Mr. CHHIPA: Well, I was seven years old when I started. I finished when I was 10 years old. So it took me two years and a half, and a half year to confirm it, to make it stronger.
CHADWICK: So by the age of 10 you had memorized the Koran.
Mr. CHHIPA: Yeah. When I was 10 - when I was 10 years old I memorized it. Now - I knew this is going to be the hard part. Now I have to remember it, because there was a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that if you forget the Koran, the Koran will forget you. Koran is nobody's friend.
CHADWICK: The Koran is written in Arabic, yes?
Mr. CHHIPA: Yes, in Arabic. I don't understand Arabic and I memorized the whole Koran. I do know Arabic a little bit. I don't know much of it. I don't know its grammar. But I know what few words would mean.
CHADWICK: You don't speak the language and you still memorized the entire Koran.
Mr. CHHIPA: Yes.
CHADWICK: How could you do that?
Mr. CHHIPA: Well, it's a talent. It's a gift given by Allah. And I thank Allah that he has given me this talent, so I shouldn't put it to a waste. I should use it in such a way.
CHADWICK: Aman, thank you for speaking with us. And would it be alright to ask you if you could recite something from the Koran for us?
Mr. CHHIPA: It would be my pleasure. Sure.
CHADWICK: All right. Go ahead.
Mr. CHHIPA: (Speaking in Arabic)
CHADWICK: Aman Chhipa, leading prayers at the Islamic Community Center of Northern Virginia in Woodbridge, Virginia, for the month of Ramadan.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.