Muslim Apps for Google’s Android Phones

December 9, 2010 by  


By Adil James, MMNS

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Sample screenshots from the iQuran Android App.

We at TMO have printed a popular article on Apps for Iphone, but this week I would like to review some Islamic apps for Google’s phone operating system, Android.  There are now four competing cell phone operating systems, namely Google’s Android, Apple’s Iphone, Microsoft’s Mobile Windows, and Blackberry.  The largest two are Android and Iphone, and the reputation until recently was that Iphone was more advanced and better designed—however recently the Android operating system may have caught up to or even surpassed Iphone.

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My experience with Android has taught me that the smart phone revolution is in fact going to be a life changing event, as important as the advent of computers themselves—for in fact smart phones are portable computers that are as powerful as the full-sized computers of only a few years ago, but with the breakthrough advantages of portability, GPS, touch screens, cameras, microphones, and battery life sufficient for a day of work.  The phones are very reasonably priced considering what they can do, and many times are given for free or at a nominal price to induce customers to sign cell phone contracts.  A smartphone with Android is a portable phone, calendar, contact list, navigation tool, map, compass, yellow pages, music player, camera, library of books, and more—plus it will tell you when you have to pray.

The real power of these phones is that they are infinitely configurable, as the operating system is open to people to write software, or apps.  By now there are apparently hundreds of thousands of apps available on the Android operating system.

First, there are many apps in the Android catalog.  A search on “Islam” reveals hundreds of apps of varied origins, including unfortunately some of somewhat dubious origin. 

There are several categories of apps that are useful to Muslims, the most important being prayer time calculators.  There are also apps designed for displaying and reading Qur`an.  There are apps for tracking the moon phase so that you know as the lunar months pass, and apps for displaying other Islamic religious sources, such as ahadith.  Many of these apps reprint the An-Nawawi’s 40 Ahadith.  I could not try all of the available apps but I will review a few that I was able to try.

Prayer Times

Islamic Prayer Times, by AppFlute—This is my favorite of the prayer times calculators.  It is simple, providing a view of the day’s prayers and the Islamic date.  It is my favorite because it is very attractively done, giving a very beautiful splash screen.  It provides five alternative calculation methods, from ISNA, to University of Islamic Sciences, Karachi, Muslim World League, Umm Al-Qura University, and the Egyptian General Authority of Surveys.  It also provides Shafi’i and Hanafi as juristic methods.  You can also adjust the Hijri date plus one, minus one… This is a very thoughtful addition, acknowledging the differences concerning the Hijri date. 

This app provides a choice of alarm sounds per prayer—by default it appears to give an alarm only for fajr.  Another very large advantage is that it provides an adjustment by minutes to each prayer.  For example you can add 15 minutes to the time for maghrib, if you believe where you live you should not pray until the red light from the sun has left the sky after sunset.

You can browse tomorrow’s prayer times, yesterday’s prayer times, and so on—unfortunately I do not believe there is a way to see a full month’s prayer times; there is a widget you can display on your home screen.

There is a qibla calculator in this app as well–but it is unclear whether your juristic settings elsewhere affect the qibla results.  It points east north east from America.

Prayer Times, by Asim A. Ghafoor, Version 4.1—This is another excellent app.  It is better than Islamic Prayer Times in that by default it provides intrusive notifications, which come in the form of text messages and a notification in the notification bar.  There are settings which make it by and large equivalent to Islamic Prayer Times.  There is a button to push that calculates your position by the phone’s internal GPS.  You can choose from six calculation methods, Egyptian General Organization of Surveys, Karachi, University of Islamic Sciences, Islamic Society of North America, World Islamic League, Um Ul-Qura, Makkah, or fixed Isha, 90 minutes after maghrib.  You can also choose between Shafi’i and Hanafi madhhabs, and it provides an on-off adjustment for daylight savings and also for Hijri calculation.  There are also time adjustments available for prayer times, just as Islamic Prayer Times.  Also, the app gives information about what notifications you can get, from none, to a default text notification, to two “Allahu Akbar,” to 3 beeps, and a few other options as well.  There is an integrated qibla calculator as well, which like Islamic Prayer Times is not independently adjustable–it is unclear how your other settings affect qibla determination.  There is no display of monthly prayer times.

Like Islamic Prayer Times, this app provides a widget (2X2) for your home screen—that displays your prayer times for the day.

Prayer Times, by iFlashi, Version 2.0.0—This app is so impossible to adjust, and claims in its “about” page that it is “beta and may be times incorrect for some cities.”  Try it—it uses a specific unidentified calculation method that is not mine, but it provides additional features that my other favorite apps do not have, for example a monthly prayer calculator.  This app does provide a monthly list of prayer times—very quick and effective—however it appears to have been made for a specific screen size and does not display correctly on a small screen (LG Optimus T).
There is also MasjidNow Lite, by Yousuf Jukaku, v. 2.2.1—this app also provides prayer times, and provides more settings than the other two prayer time calculators listed above, including two Shi’a settings—(namely Jafari/Ithna Ashari, University of Islamic Sciences, Karachi, ISNA, Muslim World League, Umm al-Qura, Makkah, and Egyptian General Authority of Survey, and Institute of Geophysics, University of Tehran). 

This app has another feature that the others lack, namely an adjustment for high latitudes.  This is a very nice app.  It provides qibla calculation (which to be honest I was not able to use because it appeared to give internally contradictory instructions about aligning two arcs, one of which appeared not to exist), and, most importantly, a mosque finder, which will find mosques for you based on your proximity.  I turned it on and was able to find the mosque which I happen to know is nearest to my office location, the Tawheed Center, and the app listed its address as well—however unfortunately the free version of this app does not list the distance to the mosques it finds, and it does not list the available mosques in list form so that you can choose between them.  The app appears to be agnostic as to the belief system of the mosques it finds, which seems a little bit naïve and undermines the value of the app—many Muslims will be tentative about using an app that may land them at a mosque with a belief structure very different from their own.

I have Islamic Prayer Times by AppFlute and Prayer Times by Asim Ghafoor both installed and I like them both—Prayer Times for the notifications, and Islamic Prayer Times as a reference because I like how it is attractive.  One interesting fact is that although I have used exactly the same settings on both apps, they provide slightly different prayer times (with Islamic Prayer Times being one minute later for maghrib and dhuhr—this is not that surprising, probably the mathematics are the same plus or minus a rounding error).

Qur`an

IQuran, by GuidedWays, v1.1.1—this is a good Qur`an app.  It is free.  It displays the Qur`an in legible sized text, opening to a page which shows the table of contents so that you can open to whatever surah, whatever juz, or whatever portion of a juz.  There is also one table of contents feature I do not understand, which apparently divides the Qur`an into 63 portions.The Table of Contents is the strongest feature of this app as compared to other Qur`an apps, because it is well designed and helps you to navigate smoothly and easily.  IQuran is supposed to be able to read the Qur`an in several different voices (Husary, Al-Afasy, Saood & Shuraim, Ash-Shatree, Abdul Basit, Ghamdi)—however I was not able to get mine to read to me—I got the error message “could not connect to server” when I pushed on the “Husary” button.  Also I would like a function to turn off the English and control the size of the text. 

Quran Android, by Quran Android—this is another good Qur`an app.  This app is more for English speakers who want to read Qur`an in Arabic.  Therefore the Qur`an is available in Arabic without translation, but the navigation is all in English.  Perfect for many readers.  The Table of Contents is definitely not as well designed as iQuran, in part because when you open the app you are immediately brought to the last page you read, rather than given a choice whether to go to your last spot or to go to the table of contents.  You are presented with the table of contents when you leave the Qur`an reading page by hitting the “back” button.  Does this make any sense?  The Table of Contents gives you access to each juz and each surah.  The text is small on my screen, however if you turn your phone on its side you will see the letters big enough to read.  You can jump to a specific page, so if you want to read Surah Ya Sin and you know it is on page 440, or Surat Kahf and it is on page 293, you can get there easily.  The app is sometimes slow to change pages—when you swipe to change pages there is a lag of several seconds.  And don’t forget that the pages are backwards from what you are used to—you have to swipe left to right to advance page numbers. This app is good if there is a specific surah you want to read—however if you want to read for example one juz every day then this app is not good because it does not show you any indication as you are reading about where you are in Qur`an.  So if you want to read 20 pages you will not know if you are at page 19 or 21 or 23 unless you are very familiar with Qur`an.  But of all the apps I looked at this is the closest app to reading Qur`an physically in Arabic.  This is a good app, but needs some improvements in navigation, table of contents, and notification of what page and juz you are in as you read.

Qibla Calculator

All Americans really need is a compass to calculate the prayer direction.  Turn on any compass app and then pray East or Northeast, and that will likely be sufficient.  Most of us know which direction to pray in.  However when in a foreign city, or for a Muslim who travels widely, a qibla calculator might be an invaluable tool. And, I understand that many people who do not travel but who are finicky will insist on the exact azimuth. 

Qibla Compass, by Binary Solutions, v2.4—this is a good tool for calculating the qibla, better than the integrated versions from the prayer times calculators.  It is free, and has settings for your juristic method (either Shafi’I or Hanafi), and for calculation of fajr and ‘isha has four different models you can choose from (University of Islamic Sciences, Karachi, ISNA, Muslim World League, or the Egyptian General Organization of Surveyors).  Qibla Compass even tells you your distance to Mecca Mukarramah (in my case 10,851.94 km).  The app also shows my prayer times, although I am using other apps for that purpose.  The real limitations of this app are the accuracy of your compass and the extent to which your compass is properly calibrated.

Peripheral Apps

There are other miscellaneous useful apps.  For example there is MoonPhase widget, which displays the current phase of the moon depending on your location—this is useful for knowing when the months are changing, and for people who fast the “white nights” this will let you know when they are present.  A novelty type of app is Hijri Date Converter, which will convert any CE date to an AH date—so converts (or others) can look up their birthdays and find out if they were born in Ramadan or some other holy date.  This app is supposed to have a calendar widget as well, which notifies you when holy days are approaching. 

There are other useful apps that will help you practice your religion—so consider one of the new smart phones.

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