With the complex rules governing tajweed (the science of reciting the Quran), reciting Islamic scripture can be rather challenging and requires long periods of practice. The challenge reaches a whole other level for non-Arabs, who are faced with the rules of the intricate Arabic language on one hand and the principles of tajweed on the other hand.
Nevertheless, one American singer, Jennifer Grout, pulled it off and made it look rather effortless.
You can probably sense by now that Grout is not your typical American musician. Despite being born and raised in the American city of Boston and not having any Arab roots, Grout specializes in Arabic music and once made it to the finals of Arabs Got Talent. She recently made waves online after sharing a video of herself reciting Ayat Al-Kursi, a powerful verse in the Quran.
Ayat Al-Kursi, which translates to "The Throne Verse," is the 255th verse of the Quranic Surat Al-Baqarah. Muslims hold the verse in particularly high regard and believe that reciting it at night puts them under divine protection. Grout recently wowed her followers with a video in which she recited the verse with as much proficiency as any professional Quran reciter.
On Facebook, Grout explained that her Arab music teacher had advised her to listen to Quran recitals, pointing out that many Arab music icons had started off with reciting the Quran.
"Quran recitation is an art in itself and can be appreciated by anyone and everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, though it carries another special layer of meaning for the former," she added.
Who is Jennifer Grout?
Grout first grabbed the public's attention after participating in Arabs Got Talent in 2013. Despite speaking almost no Arabic at the time, she performed near-perfect renditions of Arabic classics and became the first non-Arab finalist in Arabs Got Talent's history. Her Arab music skills were so convincing that viewers began circulating rumors accusing her of pretending to be American.
"You don't speak a word of Arabic, and yet you sing better than other singers," Lebanese singer Najwa Karam told her at the time, according to The Guardian.
Born to a family of musicians, Grout first found interest in Arab music in 2010 while attending university in Canada. It was Lebanese musical legend Fairuz who first sparked her intrigue. Grout began performing in Syrian cafés around Montreal and later moved to Morocco after graduation. She has since converted to Islam and married a Moroccan man. Since competing in Arabs Got Talent, Grout has performed in several festivals around the world.
While emphasizing her American roots, Grout regularly expresses her admiration for Arab culture and talks about her efforts to learn more about it. Apart from singing in Arabic, she has sung many renowned Andalusi, Persian, and Amazigh songs.
Social media users were rather impressed by her Quran recital. Here are some of their responses:
People are moved by her recital
Words of support came pouring in
"Genuine and beautiful"
"How is this possible?"
You don't need to understand Arabic to feel the influence
Many viewers repeated this remark
In response to people advising her to wear the Islamic headscarf while reciting the Quran, Grout explained why she intentionally forwent covering her hair. She wrote she was trying to avoid misleading people into thinking she is a hijab-wearing woman.
"I have not personally committed myself to wearing it at this point in my spiritual journey," she wrote. "Secondly, I wanted to show people that the Quran is accessible for anyone who wishes to explore it or listen. The main purpose of my page is to share a love of music/art/culture which unifies people from all walks of life."