Oldest Quran Recording with Edisons Phonograph, 1885

A highly controversial figure, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), from the Netherlands, traveled to study the Hajj in 1885/1302H on a scholarship from the Dutch Government.

Once in Mecca, he embraced Islam according to some and was spying according to others and was known as Abdul Ghaffaar. There he took photographs and made various sound recordings. In this recording of the Qur’an, Surah Duha is being recited using Thomas Edison’s newly-invented wax cylinders. ‘He stayed for five months, documenting the run-up to Hajj, but although he had intended to stay for the pilgrimage, he was forced to leave after unfounded accusations of his involvement in an attempt to steal a historical artifact’ by the French government.

This recording was exhibited in Dubai’s Empty Quarter Gallery.

It sounds unpleasant to me.  Note that it would never have been made without a Westerner bringing in the equipment.  

The general lack of photos and recordings in the period when they had become common in the West is due to how backward the Islamic world was. The prohibition on non-Muslims in Mecca kept out most Westerners who might have been curious.  

Memorizing the Koran in Arabic is still considered very prestigious, even the speaker does not understand the words at all.