Mohamed Refaat, a famous Egyptian reader, born in 1882, known for his wonderful voice and delicate sense, and was known for the nickname "the harp of the sky" and his voice was associated with the call to prayer and the Qur'an in the holy month of Ramadan, so he was known as "the muezzin of Ramadan".
He is the first reciter of the Holy Quran in the Egyptian radio, and his sweet voice was enjoyed by Christians as well as Muslims, and major international radio stations competed to record his voice for the opening of their programs broadcast in Arabic, and he died in 1950.
Birth and upbringing
"Mohamed Refaat" son of "Mahmoud Refaat" was born Monday (the ninth of May / May 1882) in the neighborhood of "Al-Maghreblin" in the Darb al-Ahmar area in Cairo.
Growing up in a middle-class family, his father was an officer in the Egyptian police, and he lived his childhood in the popular neighborhood where he was born, and suffered difficult setbacks, the most severe of which was the loss of his sight at the age of two.
His daughter told the story of losing his sight, as her father told her that he was born sighted, but he developed a disease in one eye, and due to negligence in treatment, his vision weakened little by little until he lost the ability to see in one eye, while the other saw something easy.
In 1936, while he was reading Surat Al-Kahf in the Sidi Gaber El-Sheikh Mosque in Alexandria, people gathered unusually, and gathered around him to hug and kiss him, and while they were also one of them unintentionally lengthened the finger of the sighted eye and it opened, and he lost his sight completely after that.
He also suffered from an orphan, as his father died when he was still nine years old, and he found himself obliged to take responsibility for his family.
Sufi way and delicate personality
Muhammad Rifaat Sufi was a Naqshbandi Tariqa, a chaste ascetic, who spent his life in his simple residence in the densely populated neighborhood of al-Mughrablin.
He was famous for being the owner of a principle and a generous soul, and he was not greedy for money, and he used to say "The masters of the Qur'an can never be insulted or condemned", so he refused to record his recitation to local radio stations because of their broadcast of songs that he saw as lewd that did not go along with the dignity of the Qur'an, while he volunteered to read at the funerals of the poor and the people of the neighborhood.
Indian millionaire Hyderabad offered him to travel to India to revive some councils, in exchange for 15,<> Egyptian pounds, while covering the expenses of the trip and accommodation; he did not accept.
He was also known for his kindness and mercy, sitting with the poor and simple, and spending generously on doing good deeds and acts of righteousness and piety, so that he spared nothing for the days of old age and sickness.
He was sensitive, with abundant feelings, very sensitive to human attitudes, and he once went to a friend in the illness of his death, and the friend put his hand on the shoulder of a little girl, and said, "Who will take over this little girl who will become an orphan tomorrow? Muhammad Rifaat remained silent, and the next day he was reading Surat Al-Duha, until he reached "As for the orphan is invincible", he burst into tears and remembered the will of his friend, so he allocated a sum of money to the child until she grew up and married.
Sayyida Zainab married from the village of "Pharaonic" in the governorate of "Menoufia" and had 5 sons, the eldest of whom was Mahmoud, who was born in 1906, but Al-Miniyeh passed away as a small child, then Muhammad was born in 1909, and he served as his father's secretary and business manager.
Ahmed was born in 1911, then the only daughter and spoiled by her father Bahia came to life in 1914, while the youngest Hussein, who was born in 1919, made a great effort after the death of his father to collect, restore and preserve his heritage and recordings.
Study and scientific training
His father sent him at the age of five to the book "Bashtak" of the Fadel Pasha Mosque in "Darb Al-Jamamiz" in the Sayyeda Zeinab area, where Sheikh Muhammad Hamida took over his education, so he took to memorizing the Holy Qur'an and learning the hadith of the Prophet, and he had begun to memorize what he could from the Qur'an at the hands of his father.
At the age of nine, he completed memorizing the Holy Quran, and began to learn intonation with Sheikh Muhammad al-Baghdadi and Sheikh Samalouti, then he learned on Sheikh Abdul Fattah Hunaidi, the owner of the highest support in his time, and studied the seven readings at his hands and obtained his leave, as he had care and interest in studying interpretation, and the demand to memorize poems and muwashahat, as well as learning drumming and playing some musical instruments.
Although he did not join any conservatory, he showed a unique talent in performing musical maqams, so that he performed maqams in which great musicians and readers of his time such as Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Khalil Al-Hosary and others were confused.
He honed and promoted his talent, voraciously engaged in European classical music, studied the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and other celebrities, and kept many international operas and symphonies.
He was also closely related to the musical figures of his time, such as Salama Hijazi, Kamel al-Khula'i, Abdo al-Hamouli and Sayyid Darwish, so he took from them musical rules, the origins of chanting and phonetics.
He was then associated with the second generation after them, such as al-Sunbati, Abu al-Ela Muhammad, um Kulthum and Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab, the latter being the closest in particular.
He began to recite the Holy Quran to the ears of people since his young age, as his sheikh found in it distinction, and began to nominate him to revive the nights in nearby places.
He sat down to recite the Holy Quran every Thursday in the mosque facing Fadel Pasha's office, until he was appointed at the age of 15 as a reciter of the surah on Friday, and he became famous and famous, and people came to him eager to hear his humble and melodious voice, until they crowded the mosque yard and the surrounding roads.
Despite his fame and high demand, he continued to recite the Holy Quran in the Fadel Pasha Mosque for nearly 30 years, in loyalty to the mosque in which he grew up.
God blessed him with a beautiful voice with an unrepeatable imprint, and a unique and distinctive style, and he recited the Qur'an with contemplation and reverence, making his listener live the meanings of the Holy Qur'an and its positions with all his hearts, not only with his ear, so he delivered the message of the Qur'an to the listener.
In this context, the writer and writer Anis Mansour says, "The secret of the beauty and majesty of Sheikh Rifaat's voice is that it is unique in its metal, and that this voice is able to raise you to the level of verses and their meanings."
Mohammed Refaat has acquired tremendous vocal energies, which enabled him to move very smoothly between the shrines, and he also employed his knowledge of music and maqamat to serve the verses of the Qur'an, and bring them out in a sophisticated and impressive performance that captivates the hearts, and the listener feels that he is flying in spiritual heavens, and a sacred atmosphere.
His voice was powerful and could be heard by more than 3,<> people outdoors, and he also possessed a delicate sense during his recitation, so his impact on people was amazing.
His outstanding performance and uniqueness prompted King Farouk and Al-Nahhas Pasha to be keen to attend his concerts, and King Farouk chose him to read the Qur'an and sing at Abdeen Palace concerts.
He also began to heap on him with performances, so he roamed the governorates of Egypt, and brightened his star and became the first reader in all of Egypt, and he read the Holy Qur'an in evenings, religious events, weddings and funerals, and listening to his hymn was not limited to Muslims, but Copts and Jews listened to him with love, passion and great admiration.
The circle of his friendships and relations expanded, and included kings, princes and presidents, and he was officially invited to many Arab and Islamic countries, to revive hundreds of concerts and religious events, and received a large share of money and gifts.
His talent was not limited to the recitation of the Qur'an, but also his voice was associated with the call to prayer in the month of Ramadan, so he was known as "Muezzin Ramadan", and he also entered the door of chanting, and recorded some songs taken from old poetry on the national radio, so he sang "I see you tear sticks", and "Your right is the semen and the request", but he stipulated not to mention his name.
His house was a cultural, literary and artistic forum, where the flags of art and music gathered, and Muhammad Rifaat sang to them the eyes of Arabic poetry in his melodious voice.
Broadcast his recitation on the radio
Prince "Muhammad Ali Tawfiq" nominated him to read the verses of the Holy Qur'an at the opening of the Egyptian radio, so he hesitated a lot, fearing that the recitation of the Qur'an would not be given its right of listening and reverence, so the Sheikh of Al-Azhar Al-Ahmadi Al-Zawahiri issued a fatwa on the permissibility of that.
After the famous phrase "Here is Cairo" on May 31, 1934, the radio broadcast resounded with the recitation of Muhammad Rifaat as saying, "We have opened a clear opening for you so that God may forgive you for your past sin and what has been delayed, and His grace will be upon you and guide you on a straight path" (Surat Al-Fath verses 1 and 2), so he was the first reciter of the Holy Qur'an on the Egyptian radio, and then this became a tradition that is still in force, as radio broadcasts begin with verses from the Holy Qur'an.
He used to read in a humbled voice on the air on the radio Monday and Friday of each week, for 45 minutes at a time, and the Egyptian people used to gather around the radio in cafes, homes and clubs to hear the Holy Quran in his voice; until he was called "the reciter of the people."
Cairo knew for the first time the so-called "Sheikh Rifaat cafes", which imposed on its patrons a strict system at the time of broadcasting the recitation on the air, where card or table games were not allowed, or make any noise, and its workers completely stopped meeting the wishes of customers.
His humble and sweet voice had a great impact on the souls, to the extent that major international radio stations such as London, Paris and Berlin competed to record his recitation, to attract listeners during the opening of their programs in Arabic.
But he hesitated again, and he did not like to earn by reading the Holy Qur'an, and feared the sanctity of that, because they are non-Muslims, and after reviewing Imam Al-Maraghi, Sheikh of Al-Azhar at the time, Muhammad Rifaat agreed to record Surat Maryam for the British radio "BBC".
The disease intensified in 1948, until he attacked him once while reading on the radio;
He was known as the "harp of the sky" and the great musician Muhammad Abdul Wahab described him as "the angelic voice" and Sheikh Abu Al-Enein Shaisha called him "the crying voice", as he read the Qur'an with great reverence, and his tears flowed down his cheeks, and he was also called "the miracle" due to the sweetness of his voice.
He was given many other nicknames, including "The Golden Voice", "Muezzin of Ramadan" and "Bulbul Al-Firdaus".
Uncovering the remnants of his recitation after his death, those interested were able to collect 278 CDs containing 19 surahs for 21 hours, in addition to two copies of the call to prayer, one on the maqam al-rast, while the other on the maqam al-sikah.
Most of what was recorded for Mohamed Refaat was made by individual efforts and with modest technical conditions on poor quality CDs, which shows the sound in low quality.
He was recorded on the Egyptian radio only 3 recitations of the cave wall, Mariam and Younis, while the rest of his recordings were recorded and collected by his friends Zakaria Pasha Mahran, owner of Banque Misr, and Hajj Muhammad Khamis, the well-known great merchant.
His friends and sons called on the parties concerned to make improvements to the recordings, and urged the Ministry of Culture to preserve Mohamed Rifaat's heritage, and the government responded and expressed support for these efforts.
His illness and death
In 1943, he contracted the disease of "Al-Zaghta" or "Hiccups" and doctors were hot and did not find him a cure, and at first he was accompanied by "Al-Zagta" for hours, and when his illness intensified, he was attacked most of the hours of his day without interruption, which made him unable to recite or even speak.
The cause of the suction was a tumor in his throat, believed to be throat cancer, and then he became ill with blood pressure and severe pneumonia.
His friends and lovers collected financial donations amounting to 50,<> pounds to spend on his treatment, and King Farouk urged him to take care of the treatment, so he refused to accept any periods or assistance, and the Minister of Awqaf allocated him a monthly salary, based on the recommendation of Sheikh "Abu Al-Enein Shaisha".
After seven years of suffering from the disease, he died on May 7, 1950, at the age of 68, and was buried next to the Sayyeda Nafisa mosque.