Ramadan goes high-tech on mobiles
Ancient Islamic traditions are going high-tech with modern offerings for those observing the holy month of Ramadan which begins this week.
Mobile phone applications such as "iPray" or "iKoran" offer a beeping reminder of requisite prayer times, while the "find Mecca" and "mosque finder" programmes help travellers in unfamiliar cities find the nearest place to pray.
The applications are not just for Ramadan - there are Islamic-themed programs that help users find the nearest supermarket offering foods prepared according to Islamic dietary rules, learn the correct Arabic pronunciations in a daily prayer, or count how many pages of the Koran they have read that day - all on a mobile phone.
There also are applications, or apps, for the holy books of several other religions, from the Catholic Holy Bible to the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu scripture.
The first time Sumeyye Kalyoncu heard the Adhan - or call to prayer - through surround-sound speakers on her iPhone dock, she was overcome with nostalgia for her native Turkey.
"These are traditions and these have been in our lives for ages, like almost 15 centuries, so they seem very old," she said. "I think this is like combining together the technology and the things that we do daily."
She uses an iPhone app called iPray Lite, keeping track of daily prayers with a programme that simulates the clicking sound of prayer beads or the turning wheel of a handheld metal counter Muslims use to keep count of prayer repetitions. Using headphones, the 24-year-old says she can now fulfil her daily spiritual obligations by counting prayers on her iPhone on the commuter bus to work.
The programmes are not just offered by Apple, Nokia has a Ramadan suite for its phones that consolidates everything worshippers need to know to observe Islam's holiest month, in which Muslims worldwide observe daily daylight fasting.
The dates of Ramadan still are determined by the lunar calendar, and calculations can differ among Islamic communities around the world.