Ramadan Begins as presented by: Sacramento Bee

The most ancient traditions of Islam are going high-tech, with a slew of modern offerings for those observing the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this week. Cell phone applications such as "iPray" or "iQuran" offer a beeping reminder of requisite prayer times, while the "Find Mecca" and "mosque finder" programs help the Muslim traveler in an unfamiliar city find the nearest place to pray. The applications aren't just for Ramadan; there are Islamic-themed programs that help users find the nearest Costco offering foods prepared according to Islamic dietary rules, learn the correct Arabic pronunciations in a daily prayer, or count how many pages of the Quran they've read that day -- all on a mobile phone. The dates of Ramadan still are determined by the lunar calendar, and calculations can differ among Islamic communities around the world. In North America, many Muslims will mark the first day of Ramadan on Wednesday. But Islam never has been at odds with innovation, said Zinnur Tabakci, who runs an Islamic religious book and gift shop in Paterson, N.J. "Islam is not against technology. Now you can do it easier, faster," said Tabakci, who recently supplemented the strings of traditional prayer beads and religious texts he sells with a wall of mobile phone accessories to keep up with demand. A Pakistani flood-affected woman prepares tea for family members before beginning their fast at a makeshift camp in Sukkur early on August 12, 2010, on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The holy month of Ramadan is bringing nothing but misery for millions of Pakistanis who fled for their lives when catastrophic floods washed away their homes, villages and livelihoods. In this photograph taken on August 10, 2010 an official from the State Islamic University (STAIN), uses a telescope to observe the moon after sunset from the coast of Madura in East Java province of Indonesia on the eve of Ramadan. The exact dates of the start and the end of Islam's holy month Ramadan depend on the sighting of the new moon. Muslims observe the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar by abstaining from food, drink and sex from dawn until sunset during Ramadan. The fast is one of the five pillars of Islam. Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims. A young Palestinian Muslim girl walks in an alley of Jerusalem's old city holding a traditional Ramadan lantern while celebrating with other children the announcing of the holy month of Ramadan, Tuesday, Aug. 10 2010. Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, will begin Wednesday.

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