Sitting at the head of a class, correcting a student’s recitation of the Holy Qur’an, Ata, 29, seems like any other Qur’an teacher. However, what differentiates this tutor from others is the fact that Ata – who memorised the Qur’an in prison – is currently serving a life sentence for murder at Dubai Prison in Al-Aweer. His students, all convicts, are participants of a unique Dubai government initiative – launched in 2002 by the late ruler of Dubai Sheikh Maktoum ibn Rashid Al-Maktoum – to release prisoners who memorise the Qur’an early. Prisoners who memorise the entire Qur’an are released 20 years early, those who memorise 20 chapters get 15 years off, those who memorise 15 chapters get 10 years off, those who memorise 10 chapters get five years off, those who memorise five chapters get a year off, and those who memorise three chapters get six months off. However, as a convicted murderer, Ata is unable to have his jail term lessened. The programme is not open to murderers and people guilty of serious crimes.