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:

$ minbar


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).

Read More: http://projects.arabeyes.org/project.php?proj=ITL


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.


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Well done - good article,

Anonymous's picture

Well done - good article, refreshingly neutral. In fact Madhhab refers to the calculation method for prayer times.

Ah, thanks, that means a lot.

John Knight's picture

Ah, thanks, that means a lot. Yes, I was wondering about Madhhab, so thanks for clearing that up. :)

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

Islam is not just a religion

Sanders's picture

It is an entire way of life, every aspect of your life, with all that it entitles. It demands a level of commitment equivalent to priesthood (in the western sense).

This is not an against or in favour comment, just informative.


Wellwisher's picture

Thank you brother for such a post and tool, this is going to be a handy one and thanks for understanding our Religion and "hating" hatred :-)

You're very welcome. :)

John Knight's picture

You're very welcome. :)

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

don't like it

rabi's picture

You should not publish this kind of communal religions tool related news in this great magazine. You know islam threatened humanity, but linux support humanity. Islam and linux is fully against each other according to morality, love, peace and civilized thinking. I think you wont publish my comment. But my request is to remove this post too. Thanks

Firstly, a big thank you to

John Knight's picture

Firstly, a big thank you to those who posted below, hopefully those that are reading this article will read your suggestions as well.

Are religiously connected articles off the table? Presumably any Christmas articles would also be out, if so (I don't celebrate Christmas myself but I'm not offended by their presence).

While I don't wish to spark a debate, particularly a religious one, Islam is highly misunderstood by many in the West. I'm not a Muslim myself, but I've read many accounts of Muslims who are absolutely exasperated by the actions of fundamentalists (many of whom will quote Quranic scriptures showing how these extremist actions are actually forbidden under Islam).

With an open mind, sit down and ask some Muslims first-hand about their religion, culture, and views, and your views may change.

But a religious debate on the LJ website, that is off the table in my book.

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

Always great to see other

makkay's picture

Always great to see other sides of the free software.

There is also a plasmoid called Mawakit for displaying prayer times that integrates in the KDE plasma shell http://kde-apps.org/content/show.php/Mawakit?content=128606
Another awesome Amarok script is Quran Streams and as the name suggested it includes complete recitations of the Islamic holy book by various reciters http://kde-apps.org/content/show.php/Quran+Stream?content=101615

Oujuba, a Fedora-based Arabic distro has other bunch of Islamic/Arabic software for Linux

Besides the tools Arabeys provide, they also arabize (; GNOME, KDE, Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice and other free software

My wife uses athan for windows

Iman's picture

I will have to install this app.


linuxrev's picture

Not to forget the open source Quran study tool project: Zekr. A nice app for Linux, Mac and even Windows. Available in Ubuntu repositories, and probably others too. Tarball available from website: http://zekr.org.

KDE as well

linuxrev's picture

Although is was designed as a GNOME application, it installs and runs just as nice on my KDE desktop. All a user need apart from the app is a compass...

Other Islamic software

Qusai's picture

Nice post, thanks John. Let me add few more things, there are two linux distributions available for Muslims. The first one is ubuntu-based and is called Sabily (previously known as Ubuntu-Muslim edition) and the second one is fedora-based and is called Ojouba. In each of these distro, many islamic tools and applications are available.
Beside, there is an add-on for firefox called Pray Times which works in a similar way to Minbar.