Fatwa allows Quran reading on smartphones

A new fatwa allows for reading and sharing of the Quran on mobile phones and other devices.

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Fatima Mohammed regularly receives and forwards notices about Islam on BlackBerry Messenger.

She sometimes receives a duaa, Quranic verses, hadiths and stories from the life of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions on her mobile.

So Ms Mohammed, 30, an Emirati, was happy to learn a religious edict issued this week allows Muslims to read Quranic verses from smartphones and other modern gadgets.

"This fatwa is important and hopefully will encourage Muslims to read more Quran on their iPhones instead of jokes and news," she said.

As technology evolves so does religion, and with it new ways of keeping connected with the holy book.

Now, officially, Muslims in the UAE are allowed to stay connected to Islam while keeping up with today's fast-paced lifestyle.

"There isn't just one specified way of reading the Quran," said the fatwa, released by the Ifta centre of the Abu Dhabi General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf).

Reciting a verse from the Al Muzzammil chapter in the Quran, the fatwa says: "Read you, therefore, of the Quran as much as may be easy for you" (20:73).

The religious directive came in response to a question sent in to Awqaf, asking if it was permissible to read Quranic verses on mobile devices such as the iPhone.

Since 2008, Awqaf has been issuing fatwas through its "Ifta centre" in Abu Dhabi in response to questions about what is permissible under Sharia law.

"You are to read [the Quran] using whatever means possible, for that is better than not reading at all, and you will be rewarded greatly for doing so," the fatwa said.

It also said since "we have gadgets that make searches easy", they should be used for the benefit of Islam, such as finding and reading verses from the Quran and Ahadith (Prophet Mohammed's sayings), and reliable Islamic information.

Reading the Quran on PCs, laptops and the internet is also allowed.

But ultimately, reading from the actual holy book and memorising it is the most favoured method.

On the other hand, a fatwa released last year stressed that when one is performing daily prayers, it is forbidden to hold on to a mobile phone and read out the duaa (supplications) and Quranic verses as it is a distraction.

"Memorise what you can in order to concentrate and do a proper prayer," that fatwa said.

Another released this week by the Ifta centre allows believers to make prayers in another language if Arabic is not their mother tongue.

"If the person is able to use Arabic while inside the mosque or when reciting the Duaa in Salat [prayers], then it is undesirable to use a foreign tongue," the fatwa said.

"But if they cannot use Arabic, then there is nothing wrong in using the language they know best."

This is not the first time a fatwa has addressed changes in lifestyle in the 21st Century.

In August last year, a fatwa was released concerning Muslims who live high in towers such as the Burj Khalifa. It ruled that they must wait a little longer than everyone else to break their fast during Ramadan, in relation to when they could actually see the sunset.

Other fatwas this month included a reiteration of animal welfare and animal rights, worship-related rulings and social matters such as "how to choose the right husband".

This fatwa said there were at least five important factors to consider in choosing a partner.

They included that suitors were "religious and of good character", with similar personality traits and social background.

Then, a consultation with parents and performance of Istikhara (a special prayer asking for guidance) was required before a decision.

"To reduce marriage inconveniences that may arise it is worthwhile to seek a middle ground and make some compromises," the fatwa said.