by Abu Aaliyah
Have you ever felt like your world stops when you use your smartphone? It happens to me. I will be walking on the street when suddenly I hear my phone chime. Within a second, it’s in my hands. Whatever is on the screen immediately grasps my attention as my fingers begin warming up for another “workout”. Usually it is the notifications from email or social media that have me absorbed. In the moment, they become ‘friends’ readily available on a tap.
If you relate to this then welcome to a family of 2.5 billion people whose experiences are similar. That’s how many people, from the 7.5 billion people on earth, own a smartphone irrespective of age, race, creed, gender, or socioeconomic status.
The world stops… (Photo credit: Pixabay)
The smartphone has transformed how we live so much so that it’s tough to imagine a functional life without it. Information is immediately accessible, communication and networking faster, and entertainment readily available on a tap.
We are nearing a decade of the smartphone revolution with the new generation of Apple and Samsung phones expected to be released late 2017. As this happens, I foresee us becoming increasingly dependent on this technology for all our needs.
A 2017 statistic by emarketer.com showed that the average user spends 3 hours daily on their smartphone. This number equates to about 13 percent of our daily life, which amounts to 10 years of uninterrupted smartphone use!
With so much time spent on the smartphone, how do we keep ourselves accountable? Are we using the smartphone to our benefit or detriment?
1/3rd of the world’s population uses a smartphone (Photo credit: Pixabay)
Like many of the innumerable blessings of God, the smartphone too is a gift (depending on how we use it). It maybe that one tap that earns His displeasure or that one tap that may earn His pleasure. With this in mind, I suggest 7 ways to earn good deeds using our smartphones. The focus is on apps since they comprise the main experience of a smartphone user.
1. MuslimPro and al-Moazin
No doubt connecting with God is more important that connecting with our smartphones. And since Salah is the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgment, it only makes sense to ensure that all our bases are covered.
In fact, Salah takes about 30 minutes of our entire day to complete whereas the average person spends 180 minutes a day on their smartphone. That’s 13% of daily smartphone usage compared to 2% of daily mandatory worship! Allahu Akbar!
A really great and free app is called ‘MuslimPro’. True to its name, ‘MuslimPro’ is a comprehensive app that comes with Qur’an, dhikr and dua list, a counter, prayer times, and Athan, to name a few features. What I love is the location-based information it provides. For instance, if you are in lower Manhattan, it will give prayer times, Qibla direction, nearby mosques as well as halal places to eat which is always a nice bonus!
Arsenal of features within ‘MuslimPro’
If you are looking for a ‘lighter’ app, ‘al-Moazin’ is a nice and minimalist alternative. It’s also free. Android users can also create a widget, putting prayer times right on their home screen.
Here is a widget of the Al-Moazin app (in Android) on one my screens for a
quick way to tell prayer timings
2. “By the Time…”
Let’s be clear – we must never buy into the myth of “free time”. Time is Life and “free time” is your life escaping from you. When each moment will be accounted for on the Day of Judgment, we need to make sure we are squeezing the most out of it.
One app that can help with this is ‘Time Tune’. With ‘Time Tune’ you can program each weekday with all sorts of activities to build good habits and a routine. You can also set reminders for yourself.
Another really good app is “QualityTime”. It tracks how you spend time on your phone, monitoring usage time for each app. QualityTime helped me re-evaluate the use of certain apps on my phone (like Facebook). It’s helped me increase productivity.
It’s 2 hours and 15 minutes into the new day – QualityTime reports that I have
accessed 42 seconds of the settings menu in my phone
Read as much as you can! Learning should only cease when you die. Seek obligatory knowledge first. There are numerous Islamic apps that can help you with this (e.g. Muslim fortress, Tafsir ibn Kathir, Zakat calculator, etc.).
Furthermore, if you own a smartphone you should download the Qur’an on it. Although reading from the Mushaf is better, there are numerous apps you can use to recite from. Two of my favourites are – ‘Quran’ and ‘Memorize Quran’.
The night mode of the Android ‘Qur’an’ app is easy on the eyes and also saves battery life
I also enjoy ‘Memorize Qur’an’. It has a minimalist interface – choose the Surah, download the recitations of your favourite Qurra, and then select verses you want to memorize. To help you with memorization, you can put verses being played on repeat.
Nothing like the voice of Sheikh Maher-al Muaiqly to assist you with your memorization
It is also important for Muslims to increase their knowledge in other areas of life. I recommend downloading the Kindle app on your phone, especially if you find reading from paperback difficult. I find that with the Kindle app on my phone, I have to carry less paperback books around. It’s like carrying the library in the palm of your hands. Also books sold in digital format are often cheaper than their paperback versions.
Currently reading “Guarding the Tongue” alongside some career-related books
4. Lock Screen Hack for Reminders
This is about using your smartphone in a way that maximizes its effectiveness. This means tweaking even your wallpaper to make sure that it benefits you. Since the lock screen is the first thing you may see on your phone, it is important to create/enable important reminders for yourself.
In the photo below I used a text editor to write down 2-3 reminders for myself. I then took a screenshot of what I wrote and saved it as a wallpaper for my lock screen. Now, whenever I turn my phone on, it’s the first thing I see.
The screen I see when I turn my phone on. Here you see one of my religious reminders
Constantly being reminded of such messages can help to internalize them, helping us think, feel, and behave in better ways.
5. Finish tasks
It is one of the oldest and most mundane things on earth. It has saved millions of lives and transformed how medicine is practiced. And it is used in many professions and industries to improve efficiency and effectiveness. It is… a checklist.
Whether handwritten or on the phone, checklists are my way of keeping track of tasks and completing them. For this reason, ‘Wunderlist’ is one of my favourite apps. With Wunderlist, I can create multiple to-do lists, set tasks to complete for each list, create subtasks and notes, set reminders for each task, and share my list with others.
A very rudimentary checklist of mine to help get the point across
Additionally, I have configured Wunderlist settings in two ways. First, I changed my smartphone display settings to show me reminders from ‘Wunderlist’ on the lockscreen. This is way my phone keeps me accountable to get things done. Second, I added the Wunderlist widget on one of my home screens keeps my tasks in focus. Constantly seeing the same unfinished tasks on the screen frustrates me into evaluating what I need to change within myself or my environment to get things done.
Other categories of checklists in Wunderlist with pending items!
6. Maintaining Family Ties via Your Smartphone
Allah and His Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) have commanded us to be merciful to our parents and not break ties of kinship. Neglecting either is a major sin.
My first recommendation would be to learn to put your phone away during family time. One way of doing this is to keep a smartphone basket near the dinner table. A volunteer family member takes the lead and goes around the table asking family members to put their phones in it. The basket is subsequently put away for the remainder of family time.
Choose from an assortment of baskets! Keep yours ready during family time!
An app that I really enjoy using is ‘Textra’. Textra is a SMS app that allows me to personalize the colors and content of each contact. For instance, I can add different personal signature for each of my contacts, a feature I absolutely love.
Grey is moi! You can change the signatures to anything you want.
And you can change the signatures around for different members of your family. This is why I love ‘Textra’.
7. Build a Community
Be a leader. Start a WhatsApp group with a purpose in mind. Some ideas maybe a group for:
- Bringing family members together
- Having religious Q&A with scholars
- Creating a network of like-minded individuals that bring value (e.g. entrepreneurship)
- Bringing your close friends together
Keep in mind that you will need to moderate it well so that the group purpose isn’t lost. Or else you may end up with a group full of spam messages and group members may end up feeling frustrated.
A Whatsapp account with people across the world.
(Pixelated for Privacy; Photo credit: WealthinIslam)
What are some ways you earn Jannah through your smartphone?