Android Apps, for the Muslim in you

I, the author of this blog, am Muslim. There are a few apps that I find essential as a Muslim, and I wish to share this information with you.

If you are a non-Muslim who loves how technology can make one’s life easier, perhaps you will want to read this short post to help any Muslims you may know.

*In fact, the second app on the list, Shush!, is something I think every Android user should download. So please, read on!

Quick Background on Islam

Muslims are required to pray 5 times/day (during prayers their attention ideally does not waver especially due to their phone), it is considered one of the 5 pillars of Islam. I will review the 5 pillars very briefly for anyone not familiar.

The 5 Pillars of Islam are:

  1. Shahada: Belief in One God, and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as His messenger (final messenger to all the people of Earth).
  2. Salat: Prayers, we happen to have 5 prayers daily
  3. Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan
  4. Zakat: Giving Alms to the poor/needy
  5. Hajj: performing the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life (if one can afford to do so) .

 

One can think of these as pillars as the supporting columns of your faith.

Prayers at the Right Time (some more background)

As I mentioned before, obligatory upon us are 5 daily prayers. There are particular times during the way when each prayer must be read, and these times are dependent upon the location of the Sun in your local sky. I say “local” because obviously due to the tilt, spin and rotation around the Sun (not to mention DST) the time at which the sun rises/sets and reaches its zenith changes. Also, based upon which school of Islam you follow the twilight angle you choose you may pray the last prayer of the day much later than others.

Each prayer has a specified time. For example, Maghrib is the prayer offered just after sunset till dusk, after dusk it is too late. Duhur is offered sometime after the Sun reaches its zenith (high noon). One must have confidence that they’re praying in the correct time of day, otherwise their prayers may not be accepted.

There are many conditions to prayers, but the last one I want to mention for anyone not familiar is that the prayer must be done while facing in the direction of Mecca, where the Qiblah is. For those of us in Chicago this is roughly North East. (Consider that we live on a sphere, not on a flat map, and you will understand why it is North East, and not simply East, or West).

qiblah

I apologize for the poor visibility but that red line is a direct line stretching from Chicago, IL to Mecca, Saudia Arabia. As you can see, if you live in Chicago you must actually face North and somewhat East to accurately be facing in the correct position.

I have to say one of the reasons why I love my faith, Islam, so much is it has a deep appreciation for what we believe are the creations of Allah, and the rules by which the creations are governed. In the case of prayers and our calendar, one is encouraged to gain a deeper appreciation for the lunar cycle, the nature of the solar system and the geography of our planet and how no one location on the Earth is the same.

1. Prayer Time Pro

This app uses your GPS to capture your location, as accurately as consumer GPS devices can, and bases its prayer time calculations using this location. As a Muslim you can go in and fine tune some settings (Asr can be set to Hanafi, you can adjust the Hijri dates).

I recently took a road trip with my wife to the beautiful Smokey Mountains. Along the way if I ever suspected it may be time to pray I would pull this app up, update the GPS location with a single button and it would provide for me an accurate (down to the minute) idea of when a particular prayer was to be prayed at my present location. I always knew which direction to face too, as it makes use of the internal digital compass.

This app has a Widget so that you can be on your Android desktop and simply see with a glance what time the next prayer is. This app can notify you if it is time for prayers with beeps or adhans (the Call to Prayer in Arabic, a specific set of verses).

I wish I could pay for the app, I love it so much.

 

2. Shush! Ringer Restorer

This is one of the most elegant apps around, and I can’t believe that iOS does not have an equivalent app. (If I’m wrong iOS users, please let me know in the comment).

This app lends to that classic sales pitch, “Has this ever happened to you?” You put your phone on silent because of a meeting, class, or some other usually predictable but significant time during which you cannot afford to be disturbed. (Morning report?). But then when you’re finished with said busy time you forget to take your phone off silent until much later and in between you miss important calls, emails or text messages.

For the Muslim Android user, imagine you step into Jummah prayers (Friday prayers) and you know it will take at least 30-60min, during which your phone will be silent, but then you forget to take the phone off of silent and restore the ringer. Or any jammath prayers.

Well Shush! Ringer Restorer is the app for you! Imagine as soon as you put your phone on silent the menu pictured above pops up. That ringer has a circular dial that increases/decreases in increments of 15min to set how long the phone should be on silent for. The triangle at the bottom left with the 100% over it allows you to set what volume the ringer should restore at (let’s say you want it to come back at 80% volume, you can set that right there, but it remembers what you chose last). Then you choose “Shush!” and the phone remains silent for, in this example, 2.5 hours, which corresponds to 12:46pm, and then after 12:46pm the phone returns from silent at full (100%) volume. Very ingenious!

Here’s a video in case you didn’t understand. Pay attention to the screen on the left, as the bigger view on the right is a delayed capture and thus suffers from choppiness, which the app doesn’t do at all.

skip to 1 minute to see the app in action

 

What if you need your phone off of silent sooner? You can bring it out of silent like you normally do on your phone (usually the volume rocker switch on the side) or you can tap the icon that sits in the notification tray while your phone is Shush!ed.

Or what if you need it off for more than 12 hours, or an indefinite time, that is, you need to silence your phone like you would if this app wasn’t installed? Look again at the image above, you would just tap “Keep it off.” and the app will simply silence the phone as usual, as if the app was never installed.

The one thing I noticed that you might have an issue with is trying to silence a phone from the lock screen. On a Nexus phone which has no additional skins the app works from the lock screen, that is when I slide the “volume” button at the lock screen the app still pops up. However I noticed someone with a Motorola phone (which runs Motoblur over Android) silence a phone from the lock screen and the app can’t “break” through to the front. If the user then unlocks the phone the first thing they’ll be greeted with is the app’s clock dial to set how long the phone should be on silent for. It is as if the phone restricts which apps can jump over the lock screen to show a dialog. I thought this was restricted to phones with additional software (a friend with HTC EVO 4G has a similar problem, and it runs HTC Sense). However my cousin purchased a cheap LG phone that has virtually no skin over it, almost stock Android, but he was having the same problem. This is not a huge issue, it adds only one step to the process, but it is annoying to me as a Nexus One user.

Therefore once again, proof that a Nexus phone, no matter how underpowered the hardware may seem, provides the best experience because of unaltered software.

The app is just 65k, so very low memory footprint. It’s also free. I highly recommend this app to anyone with an Android phone.

3. iQuran 

(there is also iQuran Pro)

Imagine being able to take the Holy Quran wherever you go with your phone. I must admit that this app has not improved my track record with reading the Quran but it’s nice to have, especially during Ramadan, when you might have some downtime and want to read a few verses very quickly.

The app is actually good looking, which unfortunately is still rare for Android apps. The free version is limited in its features. The Pro version offers more translations, more reciters, and flexibility in how you read on your phone (landscape support, full-text search, etc.).

4. Zabihah

Most importantly, the app also helps you find Mosques in your vicinity! (see screenshot above).

But also, find out places to eat Islamic-friendly meat (i.e., non-pork, cut according to the principles of Zabiah).

For non-Muslim readers, you might be familiar with the Jewish tradition of Kosher meat. In Islam we have a similar requirement of our meat and this app is based off of the popular website Zabihah.com which aims to organize and centralize a database of restaurants and meat providers which offer Zabihah meat. If you have an account on Zabihah.com you can sync the information down to your phone.

 

General App Recommendation

I will try to create another post sometime in the future that is a list of apps I really love on Android for the general user.

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