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Previously in Web Citations:

What Side Are You On?

Order and chaos, right and wrong, good and evil. True believers know what the U.S. v. Microsoft case is really about.

Head for the Hills

Are you prepared for Y2K and impending global chaos? Find help on the Web (while you still can).

Unified Mouse Theory

Welcome to the wonderful world of Disney.

Beta-testing the Bible

Not just another digital-age prophecy.

Break on Through

Portal, n. 1. A door, gate, or entrance; esp: a grand or imposing one.

Digital Sunlight, Digital Shadows

Using the Web to shine light on campaign financing is supposed to make elections more honest. If only.

A Little Help From My ... Friends?

Hey, it worked with Linux. Enlisting the aid of countless strangers is a strategy that's catching on.

Biotech at the Barricades

Some would say the avant-garde is dead.This avant-garde wants to live forever.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
Guiding Light
January 13, 1999

Prayer Times For Muslims living in the Islamic world, knowing when to pray is not difficult -- five times each day the electric megaphones perched on minarets everywhere crackle and explode into life, summoning the faithful to prayer. But for Muslims in non-Islamic countries, where there is generally no public call to prayer, the task becomes significantly trickier, based as it is on some relatively complicated astronomical observations. "In the 20th century, we do not have time to observe skies during day or night as much as our ancestors did, but we have the technology to get much of that type of information from our computers," writes Khalid Shaukat, the national coordinator for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), on a Web site called Astronomy for Islam. "Let us use the tools available in the times we are living in."

Astronomy for Islam
Such tools are becoming increasingly accessible. A company called Islamsoft, for example, offers a representative selection of the software now available (from a number of independent sources, and at different costs) to Muslims. Among Islamsoft's products are: Prayer Time 4.0 (allows one "to calculate prayer times for any location in the world and according to any Islamic organization"); Prayer Call 4.0 ("will notify you with [a prayer call] and a Window when prayer time comes.... displays a permanent window that shows ... next prayer time and time left, and prayer times of the day"); World Qiblah ("will show you the direction of Qiblah [how to face Mecca] and the distance to Makkah both in text and impressive 3D World, [which] can be rotated, zoomed"); and the USA Masjid [Mosque] Locator ("will search for Masjids in the USA based on a zip code chosen and radius of an area, [and] will show the result both in text and on the USA map").

It's not only prayer times and directions that take some figuring out -- the beginnings and ends of Muslim holidays, which are based on the lunar Islamic calendar, are also difficult to determine precisely. Ramadhan, currently well underway, is a good example -- until the new moon is sighted, nobody knows exactly when the month (and hence the month-long fast) will end. For those not living in the Islamic world and not able to see the moon as its present cycle draws to a close, sites like Ramadhan.com and Ramadhan.org provide official moon-sighting services and announcements, fasting guidance and timetables, ways to send and receive holiday greetings online, and much more. Thanks to resources such as these, it's a fair bet that for many Muslims this year, the faint glow that announces the end of Ramadhan will come not from the new moon but from their computer screens.

--Toby Lester

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More on Technology and Digital Culture in Atlantic Unbound and The Atlantic Monthly.

Toby Lester is the executive editor of Atlantic Unbound.

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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