British Muslims use inspiring new tech to unite morning prayers

By Kitty Knowles 7 November 2016

A new project now has more than 150,000 British Muslims looking to the skies.

If you’re a Muslim you will already know the difficulty of knowing when dawns breaks.

Morning prayers, or ‘fajr’, must be said at first light, and the hour also importantly marks the start of daily fasting during Ramadan.

But, as dawn differs depending on where your mosque is located, many Islamic communities have struggled to decide what the correct timing is. Prayers at some neighbouring mosques even vary by up to 45 minutes.

Now, Muslims in Birmingham have turned to science to discover a new and inspiring solution to the dilemma.

Look to the skies

Dr Shahid Merali is the founder of OpenFajr, a project in which he used an astronomy camera to capture 360-degree photographs of the dawn horizon every day for a year.

Around 25,000 images were uploaded online and shared with more than 170 local mosques, and scholars, as well as experts from the University of Cambridge and HM Nautical Almanac Office.

This community then chose which images they thought captured first light each day.

Now hundreds of mosques – that’s around 150,000 Muslims – are using a synchronised, localised timetable.

Uniting British Muslims

Even more inspiring, the OpenFajr project is now set to be extended nationwide.

The Stanmore Mosque in London has already bought its own astronomy equipment for the cause. This will be mounted on a warehouse in Essex to create a timetable for London’s 600,000 Muslims.

The Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough will also start its own project this month, and it’s hoped that geo-located timetables will soon span from Scotland right down to the south coast of England.

“The lesson was about collaboration and consensus through open data,” Dr Merali said of OpenFajr.

“It’s like a blueprint for enabling community cohesion.”

What a great example of how big data can help bring people closer together.

Read more: Meet Amaliah: The modest Muslim fashion website that aims to inspire young women

Read more: First Muslim woman in space uses tech to help others achieve their dreams

Read more: Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female flight crew lands in Saudi Arabia