For Muslim students on the go, finding time to break for daily prayers can be a daunting challenge, even more so when the only space available on campus is a room so small that men and women have to take turns getting inside.
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A new application developed by a group of Arab students at the Technion, Israel’s esteemed institute of science and technology, promises to do for prayer what Waze did for driving: minimize wasted time.
Using sensors, the system lets users know whether the campus musallah, or temporary prayer room, is occupied, whether the worshipers inside are men or women and how far along in their prayers they are.
“A couple of years ago, Muslim students at the Technion were given their own prayer room, which was great, but it was so small that women and men couldn’t prayer inside together, as they might in a mosque,” relayed Lina Medlej, one of three computer science students who developed the system. “Anyone who wanted to pray would end up wasting lots of time waiting for members of the opposite sex to complete their prayers and make the room available. We figured that if anyone could solve this problem, it would be Technion students.”
According to Medlej, a fourth-year student from the northern town of Kafr Qara, the “Musallah” system includes a “smart” prayer rug equipped with pressure sensors that are able to determine whether women or men are in the room. “In Muslim services, when women pray, they all stand in one row together, whereas when men pray, there’s always one man who stands a row ahead of everyone else,” explained the 22-year-old. “This information can be picked up by the sensors.”
Her fellow collaborators in designing the system were Anwar Dabor and Bker Odeh. It was submitted as their final project for a course on systems programming in an Arduino environment, jointly sponsored by Microsoft’s research and development division.
The pressure sensors in the prayer rug, said Medlej, are also able to determine how far along in the service the worshipers are by calculating the number of rakats, or prescribed movements in each prayer, that have been completed.
In addition to the mobile application, the system also includes a touch screen on the door of the prayer room that allows passersby to obtain real-time information on its status.
Medlej says she believes the system will have many uses outside the university as well. “There are many musallahs at malls and other places, where this could prove just as helpful,” she said.