The Jakarta Post
Gadget users today use smartphones, with all their applications, not only for social media communications and photography, but also for religious worship, including for reading the Koran.
Reading the holy book by means of a digital medium has indeed become common. Many websites have facilitated Koran recitation while smartphone applications for the same purpose are also widely available.
'Such applications generally feature Koran verses sequentially, while in the printed version they always appear on the same page although they come from different publishers,' said mobile application developer Dian Agus Triadi on June 24.
This difference prompted the man nicknamed Didats to ponder the development of a Koran application based on the printed version by trying to transfer the whole of the scripture into a smartphone.
After four months of trial and development, the man who once worked as a network developer in Kuwait finally managed to finish the application, Quranesia, which was launched on May 4, 2014. 'The word nesia indicates the achievement of an Indonesian,' said the 33-year-old, who has lived in Sawojajar, Malang, since early 2015.
The application, coming in Indonesian and English versions, has attracted quite a lot of gadget users. By March, Quranesia was already downloaded more than 50,000 times in 105 countries. About 90 percent of its downloaders came from Indonesia and the rest from Malaysia, Singapore, India, Australia, Europe and America.
At first it was launched in the iOS version and later gradually improved for Android operation. Smartphones with the iOS system have thus dominated Quranesia downloads with 98 percent.
Why are iPhone users the majority? 'From the beginning I've used iOS-based smartphones, which after being compared with Androids turned out to be more capable of presenting many more features in this application,' claimed Didats.
Apart from being consistent with the printed version, several other features, according to the information technology graduate of Jakarta's Budi Luhur University, make Quranesia a distinctive application.
There are those for the Koran alone, the Koran and its translations, or the translations only. Besides, a quick-finding feature makes it easier for users to spot the relevant chapter in the holy book.
'In reciting verses or listening to lectures, an ustad [religious teacher] sometimes only says, Koran surah [chapter] 2, verse 50; by this facility users can quickly find the chapter mentioned,' explained Didats.
Users can also bookmark the verses, chapters and sections already recited. Those wishing to listen to or memorize recitations need only to turn on the playlist according to the qori (readers) and chapters desired.
Didats also described the application's benefit for khatam (complete Koran reading). For three months' duration, for instance, Quranesia will automatically divide pages of the book so that users can finish reading exactly in three months.
This feature, in his view, is very beneficial for users in the fasting month because generally part of the Muslim community strives to complete the recitation in a month before Idul Fitri. With its reminding ability, users will be 'forced' to read the Koran daily.
The various highlights make Quranesia one of the most widely used religious applications. Google Analytic data monitored by Didats indicate that at least there are around 1,500 active Quranesia users daily. 'In this month of Ramadhan the figures are rising to 6,000 users,' he noted.
They open the application for three to five minutes on average. In Indonesia, they mostly use it after tarawih (optional evening prayers) at about 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and after dzuhur (midday prayers) at around noon to 1 p.m.
App Store statistical data show that the fasting month has also increased the number of downloaders, from 200 people daily during the other months on average to 1,000 daily during Ramadhan.
The growing interest in the application has challenged Didats to form an online recitation group. He also wishes to arrange the recitation via social media such as Facebook. 'It's Facebook of the Koran version, which is shared through social media but its main data keep referring to this application,' he said.
The mobile application developer under the flag of Rimbunesia, however, continues to improve the Android version in view of this operation system's larger following in Indonesia than that of iOS. He also expects to make a desktop application with the Mac operating system to suit the one already running so far.
Didats acknowledged the greater number of Indonesian Quranesia downloaders for being given free access compared to those of the English version, made available at 99 US cents per download. But for him Quranesia is part of religious worship rather than a means of business.
'I'm happy to see what I've created is useful for other people,' he said, adding that he originally developed the application to enhance his own Koran reading performance by optimizing the function of smartphones.
'The paid version is just for a market test as in material terms I can still earn from several other application projects,' he pointed out. Even in last year's fasting month he gave the opportunity for free English version downloads for three days, to mark the moment of Nuzulul Quran, or the revelation of the Koran.
He also plans to cancel the English version with 18 language features. 'It's enough to have one Quranesia, but with an additional English interface,' he said. Meanwhile, the paid application will be transferred to the iPad version.
Didats' religious application has received mixed responses from users through email as well as articles on their blogs, containing suggestions and criticisms, with likes and dislikes.
According to him, the suggestions mostly concern editorial and typographical errors instead of the contents of Koran. 'I accept all the dislikes with an open heart as they're useful input, but most of them are without data or unconstructive,' he concluded.
Photos by JP/Nedi Putra AW