Mustafa Ismail

Mustafa Ismail
Mustafa Ismail (center, dressed in white) with King Farouk of Egypt


Early life

Shaykh Mustafa Ismael is one of the most well known Qaris (Quran reciter).[citation needed] He was born in a village called Mit Gazal, a village near Tanta in Egypt on 17 June 1905 and his parents named him Mustafa, he was raised by his grandfather.

Shaykh Mustafa Ismael focused on Quran at an early age and when he became 10 years old he became a Hafiz (memorized the Quran). He went to Ahmadi Institution at Tanta and learned Tafsir (exegises), Qiraat (science of recitation) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). After that he devoted his life to the service of the Quran and. It is noted that once he recited the Quran at a very large gathering and thus became very popular among the people. His son Wahid Mustafa said:

"Somebody pointed at my father and said that this young man recites the Quran well. My father was to recite for 10 minutes with Shaykh Rifat but since Shaykh Rifat liked it so much, my father recited for an hour and a half."[citation needed]

The Qari who recited the Quran from Egypt radio became ill and instead Shaykh Mustafa Ismael was put on the radio chair to recite. King Faruq was one of the audience. King Faruq liked Shaykh Mustafa Ismael so much that he requested him to recite Quran during the Ramadan for himself. He was now King’s Qari.

Unique Style

Dr. Ahmed Nuaina, an Egyptian Qur'an reader, once told noted composer Ammar El-Shereii: “Mostafa Ismail is not just one sheikh. He is several methods and sheikhs in one. You can find all musical forms in his recitation. Whenever I hear a sheikh say something, I remember that Sheikh [Ismail] had said it before. Reciters have failed to come up with anything new after him. He moves easily between maqamat, and never went off tune. The listener’s ear never feels tired of him, because he always intrigues his listeners. He is creative in his qafalat [endings]. I can often predict qafalat, but his are always unexpected.”[1]

Late great composer Abdel-Wahab was of much the same opinion: “He was big in his art, he was big in his management of his voice, and was the only reciter who surprised listeners with unexpected maqam routes,” he once declared.[citation needed]

In his Dream TV program two years ago, El-Shereii tried to analyze the sheikh’s musical approach by replaying a few short recitations. “His recitation was miraculous, and he was a musical miracle as well. He was unique.”[1]

Analyzing a different verse, the composer says: “He would go up to the very highest notes of the maqam, and he would do it with ease, enjoying himself. It is enough to drive you crazy. This man must have understood music very well, and must have meant what he was doing. He uses saba maqam at first to demonstrate huzn [sadness], then moves to the C, or agam, and then he takes his voice high up the notes when he says al-samaa (the sky) If this were not a musician, then we the musicians know nothing, and must go home. He knew what he was doing and did it depending on his knowledge of the [seven] qira’at [readings] and his very special expressive ability.”[1]


  • 1905 Mostafa Mohamed El-Mursi Ismail is born on June 17 in Mit Ghazal, a Gharbeya governorate village.
  • 1911 The young Mostafa starts learning the Qur'an in the kuttab of Sheikh Abdel Rahman Abul Einein
  • 1913 Mostafa moves to the kuttab of Sheikh Abdallah Shehata
  • 1915 The 10-year-old becomes a celebrity reciter in his village, as his voice starts drawing listeners.
  • 1917 Sheikh Mostafa Ismail finishes studying the art of tilawa and tajwid with Sheikh Idriss Fakher. He later moves to Tanta to study at the Religious Institute, after an Azhar Sheikh hears him recite in Oteif mosque. The young Sheikh embarks on his career as a reciter.
  • 1920 He receives 70 pt for his first official three-night aaza [mourning] event.
  • 1925 He recites during the aaza of one of Tanta’s richest men, Hussein El-Qasabi, and soon becomes a celebrity all over rural Egypt.
  • 1927 He recites at the aaza of national leader Saad Zaghloul in Damietta. Meets his wife, the mother of his six children, and is also heard by all of Egypt’s pashas. He has to open an office in Tanta to organize his schedule.
  • 1943 He recites in Cairo for the first time. He becomes a radio star.
  • 1944 He becomes King Farouk’s favorite reciter. His famous recitations from the King’s palace every Ramadan were heard by radio listeners all over the Arab world. Sheikh Mostafa travels all over the Arab world.
  • 1947 He becomes Al-Azhar’s reciter, a prestigious post.
  • 1965 Receives the Distinction Medal from Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had also made him his official reciter. Umm Kulthum and Mohamed Abdel Wahab receive their medals on the same night as Ismail.
  • 1977 Ismail travels to Jerusalem with President Anwar Sadat. He recites the Qur'an inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.
  • 1978 On Dec. 22, he recites the Qur'an for the last time in Damietta. Dies on Dec. 26.


  1. ^ a b c Sheikh Mustafa Ismail

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