“What? You don’t eat or drink anything for 30 days?… Not even water?!”

“Nope…well, not while the sun is up.”

This is a pretty stock standard exchange I have with work colleagues each year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which kicks off this week.

During Ramadan, over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for 30 days straight. But it’s not just a month of food discipline, it’s a time of self improvement and self awareness, it’s 30 days of acknowledging our debt to humanity and 30 days of controlling anger, selfishness, pride and ill manners. Trust me, it’s those less tangible things that are harder to control than no breakfast or lunch.

Technology has immersed itself in everything we do to help us in ways we never even realised we needed help. Within the global Muslim community there are hundreds of apps,  gadgets and websites built to make life easier and help devotional practices, particularly during Ramadan.

A Kickstarter campaign is running at the moment to develop a water repelling and cooling technology ‘hijab’ for women who wear the headscarf. There’s an app to track which of the five daily prayers you’ve missed so you can make them up at a later time, virtual learning websites of Islamic Sciences and kids games aimed at teaching basic Islamic knowledge.

Technology has certainly helped me get the most out of my last few Ramadans and I’ve complied a few of the essential apps I’ll be keeping close to me this month. Happy Ramadan J

Compass

Ah, the trusty compass. I bet you didn’t even know that it was on your smartphone. Like many Muslims, I do my best to pray five times a day at allocated times and when those times come around, I need to turn toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Before Smartphone’s, I would rely on my gut to determine which way North West was and my bearings are terrible. For me, the compass is an essential tool, I just whip out my phone, calibrate the compass and I know exactly which way to turn and begin my prayer.

iQuran

Ramadan is the month in which the Prophet Muhammad first began receiving revelations of the Quran from God. We believe the blessing and virtue in the melodic verses of the Quran are compounded in Ramadan and many Muslims aim to complete the recitation of the Quran during the holy month. If you’ve ever seen a copy of the Quran, it’s pretty massive. iQuran allows me to keep the whole book in my pocket, complete with English translation of the Arabic text, transliteration, commentary, audio recitation and the ability to bookmark and highlight verses to come back to. No more dragging a two ton book with me on the train.

Zabiha

As I mentioned earlier, Islam is a way of life – this means we can only eat meat from an animal that did not suffer and was prepared in accordance to Islamic law, making the meat ‘halal’. The Zabiha app determines my location and shows me where all the halal restaurants in my immediate area are. So when the sun goes down and it’s time to eat, I can choose between bbq beef ribs or a chicken parma instead of going for the safe salad or tuna sushi.

Muslim Pro

This one is the most useful and my favourite because it’s a one-stop-shop that incorporates everything I need during Ramadan in one place. Muslim Pro is great for the following.

  • Prayer times – with the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose track of time and miss one of the allocated prayers. This app provides a countdown to the next prayer time and automated alerts so I can manage my time and ensure that I take 5 minutes out to centre myself and pray.
  • Compass – using the built in compass, this app shows the direction of Mecca based on your location.
  • Quran – The entire Quran and its translation in multiple languages is included in this app
  • Calendar – A complete calendar of important Islamic dates to remember, including the start and end of Ramadan.
  • Places – The app uses Google maps to determine halal restaurants and mosques in your immediate area, based on your location
  • Greeting cards – a wide range of digital Ramadan greeting cards featuring traditional Islamic artwork to share with family and friends
  • Muslim apps – A guide to the hundreds of other Muslim apps available, split by genres of lifestyle, education and games.

The new moon was sighted on Wednesday June 17, so today is officially the first day of Ramadan.