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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Muslims' mobile call to prayer
By Julia Wheeler
BBC's Gulf correspondent in Dubai

The image that appears on screen during a call to prayer alert
An image and a sound will appear on the phone at prayer time
A mobile phone company in the United Arab Emirates is giving Muslims the option of receiving the call to prayer on their telephones.

In a country which boasts the highest penetration of mobile phone usage in the Arab world, and among the highest anywhere, the service is likely to be a popular one.

Etisalat, the state-owned telecommunications company in the Emirates, believes 75% of the population is estimated to have a mobile phone. That is around 2.7 million people in the UAE alone.

"Some calls are more important than others," says the advert and for most Muslims the five times a day call to prayer or 'azan' tops all others.

So, with the huge growth in the use of mobile phones in the region, the combination of technology and Islam makes perfect commercial sense.

For a one-off download fee of just over $4, the devout of the Emirates - or at least those with the latest Nokia technology - can be reminded of their religious duty at exactly the right time every day, whether or not they are in hearing distance of a mosque.

Extension plans

Soon they should also be able to ensure correct timings when travelling abroad.

Cellucom, the company behind the innovation, is collecting information on prayer timings for the next five years, from Islamic institutions around the world.

"It's a question of expanding our database to include timings for the rest of the world," says Arun Nagar, Managing Director of Cellucom. "We have done extensive tests to ensure people can rely on the service completely."

Accuracy is vital. Even in a small country like the UAE, prayer timings differ from emirate to emirate, depending on sunrise and sunset.

"There's great potential for a service like this. We've already been talking to service providers in Kuwait and elsewhere," says Nagar.

The plan is to extend the mobile 'azan' call to other Gulf states and later to many more Muslim-majority countries in this region and beyond.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The call to prayer
Listen to the mobile phone 'azan'



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