Minbar and the Islamic Tools and Libraries
I've been meaning to explore applications available for our Muslim readers for some time now. My main focus here is on the Minbar Project, but I also explore some of the highlights of the Islamic Tools and Libraries (ITL).
As a side note, I'm not a Muslim myself, so for our Islamic readers, I beg your patience for any silly mistakes I might make (I hope my research will be accurate, nevertheless).
To quote the man page: "Minbar is a GNOME Islamic prayer times application. At first start, you have to configure it with your location, time zone and madhhab details."
Minbar provides Islamic prayer times and direction in a convenient app that lives conveniently in your taskbar.
Minbar makes it as easy as possible to enter your world location, finding the Qibla direction automatically.
Unfortunately, Minbar's Web site was down when I wrote this, so no source tarball was available. However, Minbar seems to be a common package in distro repositories, so you should be able to install it that way.
Once installed, Minbar should be in your system menu (Utilities→Minbar Prayer Times on my Kubuntu machine), or you can run it with the following command:
You'll be greeted by a fairly simple window, with Qibla direction in the center and prayer times on the left. However, you need to do some setting up before you really can use Minbar.
As the man page states, you first have to configure your location, time zone and Madhhab details. Click on Preferences, and you'll be presented with your city details. Here you define your latitude, longitude, city name and time zone. If you live in a major city, click on Find City, and there's a good chance your city will be on the list, so you won't need to enter these details manually.
I'm not entirely sure to which part of the GUI the Madhhab preference is referring—whether it's in the Calculation Method or perhaps more likely, your choice of Athan.
For choosing the Calculation Method, this is under the Advanced tab. I chose "University of Islamic Sciences, Karachi (Shaf'i)", just because one of my favorite foods is made in Karachi. Athan has its own tab.
With my installation, there weren't any Athan files included, but you can browse for your own through your filesystem and test it with the Play and Stop buttons. Separate file choices are available for the Subh Athan and the Normal Athan.
Once your configuration is out of the way, click OK, and you'll go back to the main screen. Here you will find that all of the values are updated and running in real time, including the newly aligned Qibla direction and prayer times on the left.
A handy feature below that is a green text field giving you a real-time countdown until the next prayer time, which at this moment says, "5 hours and 55 minutes until Subh prayer".
If you look to the right, there's a check box where you can choose whether or not to play the Athan. An invaluable timetable also is on the right, with the button marked Prayer Calendar. This was quite educational to me as a non-Muslim, as I didn't realize there were different prayer times at different points on the calendar. For instance, the month I wrote this, while Dhuhr pretty much stayed put, Shorook was at 6:52 on the 12th and 7:02 on the 26th.
In the end, Minbar is a clever little application, and once it's configured, it isn't the least bit daunting to use, with very simple GUI elements. Minbar also integrates into the desktop nicely like any other widget, living in the taskbar with small status updates when the mouse pointer hovers over it and calling up the main window when clicked on.
Ultimately, Minbar is an excellent use of modern technology for making daily life more convenient while remaining unobtrusive to the rest of the desktop. This excellent desktop integration, in turn, hopefully should allow Muslims to integrate Minbar into their daily work PCs and have prayer time reminders live seamlessly alongside other working applications.
The Islamic Tools and Libraries
Let's briefly explore some more components of ITL. To quote the ArabEyes.org Web site: "The Islamic Tools and Libraries (ITL) is a project to provide a plethora of useful Islamic tools and applications as well as a comprehensive feature-full Islam-centric library. The ITL project currently includes Hijri date, Muslim prayer times and Qibla."
Included are two packages (of which I also found in my distro repository): libitl and itools.
About the libitl package, the documentation says, "This library allows applications to convert between Hijri/Gregorian dates and compute Muslim prayer times and Qibla direction based on multiple methods of calculation."
The itools documentation says:
The itools is a collection of command-line tools that mimics the development of the underlying ITL library (libitl) and is meant to always give the end user simple means to access its functions. The available tools are:
ical: display a Hijri calendar.
idate: multi-method Hijri/Gregorian date converter.
ipraytime: prayer times and Qibla calculator and schedule table generator.
ireminder: prayer time reminder Perl script.
If you check out the Projects page at ArabEyes, you'll see that volunteers are working on a large number of major projects to achieve better Arabic support, such as Firefox, GNOME, KDE, Drupal and so on.
Hopefully projects like these will make GNU Linux the easy option in the Islamic and/or Arabic worlds (non-Muslim Arabs at least can benefit from the better localization ITL will provide).
John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.
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