Last Wednesday, the names of the winners in the 42nd King Abdulaziz International Hifzul Quran Competition were announced in a colourful ceremony at the Holy Mosque in Makkah Al Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia.
Following the announcement, it was reported in some sections of the Bangladeshi media, including leading newspapers and most of the television channels, that Bangladesh's Hafez Saleh Ahmad Takrem finished third in the competition out of 111 countries.
On his return to Bangladesh at 2.15am on Thursday, 13-year-old Takrem was received at the airport by the senior public relations officer of the Ministry of Religious Affairs Md. Anwar Hossain, on behalf of Minister Faridul Haque Khan.
There were even calls for according him an open-rooftop celebration in the style granted to the women's football team that had deservingly returned to such a welcome after winning the 6th SAFF Championship.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Religious Affairs along with the Islamic Foundation is planning a reception for him next Tuesday at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque.
But did Takrem really finish third in the competition? Fact-checkers and netizens on social media have brought the news into question, and UNB too has found serious gaps in the claims being made.
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Islamic Affairs has published the list of winners on its Twitter profile. From there we find that the 153 competitors from 111 countries were all not part of the same competition - or rather, the same challenge. They were divided into five different categories based on levels of difficulty.
Takrem actually finished third in one of these categories, which was the 4th level (or 'branch').
Competitors in this branch had to demonstrate memorisation of 15 consecutive parts of the Quran "with good performance and intonation". The Quran has 30 parts in total.
Competitors in the branch below Takrem's (5th) had to do the same for just 5 parts of the Quran.
Competitors in the third branch, the one above Takrem's, had to demonstrate memorisation of the entire Quran, again with good performance and intonation.
The ones in the second branch had to have memorised the entire Quran as well, and additionally provide explanations of the entire vocabulary of the Quran.
Competitors in the first, toughest, branch not only had to demonstrate they could recite the entire Quran from memory, but also provide "7 authentic readings of Al Shatibiyyah Taysir."
What we can conclude from this is that far from finishing third out of 111 countries, Takrem finished third in the 4th division of the competition.
That is still an achievement, and Takrem, like everyone else - including women playing football, whose achievements have been attacked and belittled by some of Takrem's supporters like Enayetullah Abbasi - should be encouraged in their life's pursuits.
But it is not what it was made out to be.
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