The word Qu'ran almost literally translates as recital; in order to perform the five daily prayers, Muslims recite certain shorter passages of the Qu'ran from memory. Those who can recite the complete Qu'ran, called Hafiz, are held in high regard, though simply listening to recitations is considered a form of worship; indeed skilled reciters are often melodic, giving readings a soulful and sometimes operatic quality.
I spent last weekend dilligently downloading and tagging a recitation of the Qu'ran by Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, one of the most eminent imams of Mecca's Masjid al Haram. This recitation is widely available on CD and various websites, in this case a Malaysian site called Mannga. I'm not sure of the legalities, but the original efforts to record the Qu'ran as text (by Zayd ibn Thabit) was the original open source initiative - I think I'm not infringing on anyone; though the Creative Commons license could look something like this!
My iPod now contains all 114 surahs, or chapters, of the Qu'ran. 22.4 hours of recitation, neatly tagged and encoded as 16kbps, 11.025khz MP3 files...to paraphrase Apple, I guess you could say I have '114 surahs in my pocket'...let me know if you would like a copy :)
I use many technologies to make life more convenient, entertaining and productive - alarm clocks, phonecams, PVRs, mobile phones, iPods, laptops, broadband and my humble watch. Yet, other than some paper timetables, I have nothing that can remind me of my five daily prayers, nothing to tell me when it is Eid, when I can break my fasting in Ramadan, nothing to indicate the Qibla (direction of prayer) in an unfamiliar place...indeed for the most demanding and significant part of my life - the spiritual - I have little assistance.
I recently read a brief Trendwatching.com article on the potential of technologies specific to the world's Muslim population...there is a solid market for such innovations and indeed an entire range of 'life services' to support the daily existence of the Ummah:
- Salat - Alerts for optional and obligatory prayer times, delivered according to location
- Hadith - random sayings of the prophet, delivered by SMS, forwarded to friends & family
- Eid - moon sightings, delivered as MMS, to indicate when Eid should be celebrated
- Tasbih - Somewhere to track & store your daily rosary :)
- Calendar - a Gregorian/Hijri calendar convertor
Some of these tools, products and services already exist, but there is no Apple-like company that has packaged them a cohesive iLife+iPod-like experience...a life services provider for Muslims in the 21st century.
I would love to see a beautifully designed spiritual communicator, that tethers me to my Islamic responsibilities, expands my religious knowledge and tangilbly connects me to the Ummah, perhaps even helping to raise awareness amongst non-Muslims and healing some of the contentions within Islam. Perhaps this the technologically-determinist utopian fantasy of a sci-fi immersed Muslim technologist, but there is a certain role for technology to play in the social, political and spiritual lives of modern Muslims.
In the meantime I might just use the 114 surahs in my pocket to launch a guerilla iPod Qu'ran Special Edition - green iPod minis preloaded with recitations by leading imams, wrapped in a iPod-style 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' cellophane wrapper :)