God? There's an App for That

Apps are making it easier to access religion from anywhere.

ByABC News
July 19, 2010, 6:41 PM

July 22, 2010 — -- In the early evening quiet of her apartment, the young woman took the neatly folded prayer mat from its place on the shelf alongside her English copy of the Quran and prepared herself to pray.

With the sun having just dipped below the horizon for evening, the slow, solemn call to prayer filled the room with the Arabic chant:

God is most great. God is most great.
God is most great. God is most great.

In Muslim communities and countries the world over, sounds like these echo over community loud speakers six times a day, signaling to the faithful that it's time to break from work or other routines to pray. But here in her bedroom, the call to prayer sounds not through a community loudspeaker, but through the small speaker on the young woman's iPhone.

She is among millions of people who have downloaded apps available to ease the daily prayer rituals for Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Jews, among others. The apps provide users a way to access their religion in a multitude of ways through technology.

Meanwhile, the increasing use of technology itself presents concern for religious leaders.

The young woman, who asked that her name not be used, began practicing Islam late last August, during the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Having grown up in an agnostic family in Los Angeles, she said it has been difficult learning the holy ropes.

Most Muslims are raised with family members to guide them through the customs, traditions or even how to pray, she said. She has had to make her own way with the help of Internet research (Islamicfinder.com), and she relies heavily on her iPhone apps for reference. Among her collection of apps is an Islamic dictionary, a digital copy of the Quran and another that helps her learn Arabic.

"This kept it always in my head that I had to go to prayer," she said, her iPhone in her palm.

Even when the call to prayer would sound when she couldn't participate, such as during a work meeting or some other time when she could not by praying, the reminder made her take pause, briefly centering herself, if only for the moment it took to shut off the alarm.