Ahmad Fairiz originally wanted to build war mechs after majoring in Industrial Computing at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), which included a robotics course.
Instead, he is now the co-founder of Recite Lab Sdn Bhd and developer of Recite, an app that lets you practice reciting the Quran on the go.
Curious as to how he made the leap from robots to the Quran, Vulcan Post spoke to Fairiz, who also highlighted the problems Muslims face when trying to relearn the verses of their faith.
Taking It For Granted
Recite Lab started operations in 2016. Back then, the team only consisted of Fairiz and his ex-classmate, Mazlita.
It all started when one of Fairiz’s kids returned from school with a question about a lesson he learned in Quran class.
“He was asking why this Quranic verse was recited in such a way. I could not give him a proper answer,” he admitted.
Fairiz took this failure personally and begun to wonder why he could not answer despite the knowledge that was instilled in him (as a Muslim) since youth.
“Perhaps life commitments got in the way, perhaps there are other reasons. I started talking to some friends (who are also parents) about it, and discovered they too face the same issue,” he explained.
Something needed to be done, and considering his background, it’s not surprising that he turned to technology.
Ideally, the best way to review your recital is to seek out a Quran teacher and have a face-to-face session.
However, Fairiz discovered that most Muslims don’t do that due to several reasons:
- They are too embarrassed
- They are unable to find qualified teachers
- They do not have the time
- They cannot afford it
Enter the Recite app, where users can anonymously record themselves reciting a Quranic verse for 5 minutes.
Besides allowing you to practice reciting, you’ll also be able to receive feedback from a pool of qualified reviewers within an average wait time of 3 hours.
Any submission that is unattended to for 18 hours will be assigned automatically to Recite’s own in-house reviewers, so you don’t have to worry if no one is reviewing you.
But can 5-minute recordings really show what you’re capable of? We had Fairiz explain.
“We wanted Recite to be very lightweight for both the users and our reviewers. We envision the app to be something that people used during their spare time, say in between meetings or while stuck in traffic,” he said.
Another reason is that reviewers found anything above 5 minutes too taxing to review, as most of them are juggling a day job.
To become a reviewer, you will need certification from an accredited institution, such as the Department Of Islamic Development’s (JAKIM) Darul Quran. University graduates with relevant qualifications are also welcome to apply.
These candidates then take a test which involves listening to flawed recitals, in order to gauge their ability to detect mistakes and offer advice.
Once selected, reviewers are paid an hourly rate based on the time they used to review submissions and by merit.
“This is the other spectrum Recite is trying to solve, how can we elevate the household economy of these spiritual educators. We know that most of them have underpaying day jobs that rely on allowance allocated by the states’ religious bodies,” Fairiz explained.
A Test Of Faith
Creating an Islamic startup comes with its own set of unique challenges.
“In our case, we were misunderstood as something that would challenge the status quo of learning to recite the Quran,” Fairiz revealed.
When their app was first announced, they faced a lot of negative comments and scepticism, on social media and at events.
They were even summoned by JAKIM twice to clarify what their app actually does.
“What we did was just try to explain ourselves better and got very verbose in positioning Recite as something that would complement the industry of Quran recital rather than disrupting it,” he explained.
Another problem that he believes most Islamic startups face is raising funds from investors.
“As the Islamic vertical is rather new to the scene, there are just not that many exit stories yet. Therefore, most VCs tend to view it as a riskier bet,” he said.
Fairiz revealed Recite is still a bootstrap operation, but they did manage to raise RM1 million from angel investors and grants.
Data For A Better Beta
Recite has around 75,000 users and over 150 reviewers, with over 100,000 recorded recitals.
Via data analysis, Recite Lab has made some interesting discoveries.
For example, they found that 92% of adult Muslims have not been reciting the Al Fatihah properly, even though this verse is compulsory for daily prayers.
Recite Lab is also using this data to develop some nifty new features, such as VerseID which can identify the chapter and verse of an audio recital.
Think Shazam but for Quran verses.
Another is a predictive model that can predict where in the Quran a user may struggle with based on their submission history. This model can help teachers devise a more personalised and effective lesson plan.
“We do a lot of incremental iteration for the app based on the users’ feedback, therefore the app improvement is a continuous process,” Fairiz concluded.
Recite is only available on the Google Play Store right now but will be on Apple’s App Store soon.
The first 5 minutes of recording is free, but after that, you will need to buy additional time through an in-app store page for RM1.99 (3 minutes), RM5.99 (15 minutes) and RM20.99 (60 minutes).
As an aspiring convert, I was fortunate enough to have met a university lecturer that teaches me on a weekly basis for free.
I only stumbled upon this app while looking for a good digital Quran to download.
Instead, I found this little gem which I feel offers a unique service and at a reasonable price considering what you are getting in return.
While it can’t substitute my classes, I can definitely see myself and others using Recite to complement our journey of learning.
- You can read more about what we’ve written on apps here.
Featured Image Credit: Recite Facebook