With dazzling speed, electronic and digital Islamic products have started to stretch beyond the boundaries of the imagination; they are now mobilizing the markets as well as helping people carry out their religious duties. Today we can listen to electronic Qurans, remember the time of the prayers with the help of adhan readers and use electronic devices to keep track of our supererogatory prayers.
Everyday a new product appears, but the sales of such products are particularly high in virtual markets. The director general of Alfa Foreign Trade, Osman Taha Kucuk, indicates that the market for digital/electronic Islamic devices nearly doubles every year. The most popular products are digital Qurans and other religious texts like Cevsen and Masnawi. Kucuk notes that sales have reached a volume of 10 million dollars in two years. Kucuk states that products are exported to Germany and the United States as well. (1)
Electronic devices are popular with all ages; however, the most important feature of these devices is that they provide technological support for online education. Most sites use DVD/CD support for their sites as well as also selling educational DVD/CD sets. The services and the online Islamic education that these sites present are not only for adults. Producers have designed a computer that teaches children how to perform the prayer. Apart from these computers, there are also dolls that teach children how to pray. There are no age barriers to technology.
Nevertheless, in an era in which technology is changing every day, mp3s or mp4s and "download" systems have started to replace DVD-ROMs. You can download the Quran, hadiths or various religious texts or hymns onto your electronic device, or directly buy such devices that have only these files. The site Ipodislam.com offers many options for those who want to listen to religious texts and various podcasts about Islam and the Prophet (pbuh).
As well as I-Pods and mp3 players, there are also special programs designed for cell phones. With the help of these programs, one can download prayer times, Surah Yasin, and even a compass that tells you the direction of the qiblah. Cell phones with these qualities are extremely popular in Muslim communities. Interestingly, as the market is so dynamic, Chinese producers have begun to produce or imitate similar products for Islamic countries.
One example of products that Chinese producers are imitating is the electronic prayer rug that indicates the direction of the qiblah. Designed by a Turk, Soner Ozenç, and first introduced in London as "Sajjadah 1426", the prayer rug becomes brighter when it is turned in the direction of Mecca.(2) Now it is possible to find such prayer rugs that have the "made in China" label for sale.
Without a doubt, all such inventions make the life of the Muslim easier; however, there is one important criticism to be made about the huge growth in this market. Some theologians argue that all these electronic and digital products are a result of the capitalist lifestyle and that the success of these devices is solely because they are targeting the religious sensibilities and emotions of Muslims. This is something that should be remembered. Moreover, it is still unresolved whether these products are essential to our lives today or not.
(1) Eylem TÜRK, Milliyet, 18.01.2009