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Teen Imam Leads Ramadan Prayers

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Teen Imam Leads Ramadan Prayers


Teen Imam Leads Ramadan Prayers

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


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: Aman Chhipa, welcome to DAY TO DAY. This is a serious responsibility for you. What did you think when they asked you?

AMAN CHHIPA: 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...


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?

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.

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?

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?

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.

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?

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.


CHADWICK: How could you do that?

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?

CHHIPA: It would be my pleasure. Sure.

CHADWICK: All right. Go ahead.

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.

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