Muslims in Calgary are turning to their mobile devices to help organize their busiest time of the year: the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
There are more Ramadan-related apps than ever available to download, along with Calgary-based Facebook groups and pages that provide hyper-local resources and information for local Muslims.
During Ramadan, Muslims don't eat or drink between dawn and sunset. It's a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and spending time with family and friends while connecting with the community and helping those in need.
Social media can help provide all kinds of information and answers to a long list of questions throughout the month.
"When will Ramadan start? When will I break my fast? When will I start my fast? When is the prayer time? When is Ramadan finishing?" said Abid Khan, who helps manage a Facebook group for Calgary's Pakistani community and uses Ramadan apps himself.
"It's so easy now, everything came to my cellphone," said Khan, who remembers not so long ago when it wasn't quite as easy to stay informed.
"Before social media, we had to call the Imam of the mosque and ask him what is happening, or we have to watch TV or listen to radio. Back home, we had to go to the mosque ourselves to find out what is happening," Khan said. "Now we have so many good apps."
"I use an app called Isalam, an Arabic app, and it has prayer times and what time we will break our fast and the duration of each fast over the next 30 days. It tells me almost everything about Ramadan," Khan said.
There are apps to help children and adults know, learn and memorize different duas, or personal prayers. Apps like Muslim Pro keep people updated on fasting times and recommend nearby mosques and restaurants for when it comes to breaking the fast each night.
Other prayer-based apps like Quran Majeed help users read the Quran while they are on the move with different languages and verse-by-verse recitations. In the spirit of Ramadan, other apps allow you to make donations, with some helping to feed Syrian refugees.
Apps tailored to Ramadan
Apps like Lose It track your weight and calorie intake during Ramadan and allow users who are fasting to keep on top of nutritional information. There are also apps similar to Skip The Dishes, offering a culinary lifeline to those without the time or skills to cook, linking users to restaurants where they can access their favourite iftar meals.
Iftar is the evening meal Muslims eat at sunset to break their daily fast. Fasting is one of Islam's five pillars, along with faith, prayer, charity and making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.
"We know from social media how we have to fast, where we have to go, where are our mosques, where we have to go for musallahs [open spaces for praying], how many iftar parties there are in our city," said Junaid Bahadur Khan.
"I use social media a lot to look for where I have to go for iftar parties in Calgary because there are a lot of parties during Ramadan. Ramadan is about getting together, having family dinners every day and you have to talk to other people, if someone needs anything. It's about sharing, caring and getting together, and I use social media to get together," said Khan.
Khan says social media is also helping non-Muslims learn more about Muslims and Islam at this time of year, helping demystify Ramadan.
"Now you can talk to people and even experience and observe what they are doing. You know people are fasting, what they are doing, what they have to do and how they're interacting with each other," said Khan.
"Social media is creating a new sense of understanding between different civilizations. It's creating a new kind of paradigm where we can interact with each other," he said.
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