Indonesians tune in to digital Koran

JAKARTA Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:24am EDT

An Indonesian youth reads the Koran from a digital player at a book shop in Jakarta, September 20, 2007. REUTERS/Crack Palinggi

An Indonesian youth reads the Koran from a digital player at a book shop in Jakarta, September 20, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Crack Palinggi

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - With her tiny earphones and slim digital player, Jakarta office worker Mira Indriarti looks like any other young music lover -- only she's not listening to the latest tunes, but to a recording of the Koran.

Digital Koran is increasingly popular in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, where such gadgets sell especially well during the fasting month of Ramadan when religious fervor is high and reading the scripture is an essential part of the observance.

Indriarti said she bought the gadget because she wanted to study the Koran to be a better Muslim.

"I can listen to the recital or read the verses and the translation anywhere," she said. "It's uncomfortable if I read a Koran book on the bus and people around me may look at me in amazement."

The device, the size of an iPod digital player, carries the entire text of the Koran, in Arabic with an Indonesian translation, and its audio recitation. Fans say it provides a handy alternative to the bulky printed version of the holy book.

"Sales have been good this month. On average we sell 50 a day," said Arief Syaifullah, who sells digital Koran.

"Indonesian Muslims are becoming more technology savvy in their religious activity," he told Reuters.

Many Indonesians traveling on the haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia carry the device because it contains prayers to be recited during the annual ritual, he added.

HOLY VERSES

The Koran is in Arabic, a language most Indonesians do not understand, and to memorize the verses students must recite them repeatedly.

The most popular voice in the digital Koran is that of Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca known for his precise and emotional recital of the holy verses.

Many of the digital Koran sold in Indonesia are made by a South Korean company, which also markets the products in the Middle East, Britain and the United States.

Prices of the gadgets, sold under the brand name Iqra'a, range from 900,000 rupiah ($98) to 1.9 million rupiah, which is equivalent to a month's salary for many Indonesians.

For a similar price, Indonesians can buy a PDA, or personal digital assistant, or mobile phone that can be installed with Koran software, some of which can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

The latest digital Koran produced by the Korean company looks like an iPod and has similar features to the popular music player, including a full color LCD screen and a video player.

In addition to the Koran, translated into nine different languages, it includes the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, prayers, prayer time and the direction toward Mecca that Muslims face to pray.

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