December 7th, 2011
11:24 AM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
The new ENMAC Quran MQ3500 phone, launched last month in India, comes with Islam's holy book translated in 29 languages and a compass that directs users toward Mecca. Muslims bow in the direction of the holy city for prayers five times a day.
The $76 phone also features an Islamic calendar, downloaded holy books, a calculator for zakat (donation to charity) and an automatic ring silencer that can be set up for prayer times at mosques.
Niyas Ahmed, a 35-year-old New Delhi engineer, traded in his old Nokia for the new Quran phone 10 days ago.
"They are providing a great service," he said about being able to read the Quran whenever he had time to spare, no matter where was.
Network engineer Mohammad Mohsin, 28, bought the phone for his father.
"The concept is great. It maximizes one's reading time," he said.
Mohsin said the phone is sure to do well in India. All his father's friends, he said, are curious about the uniquely Islamic device that is the first of its kind in India.
Anuj Kanish, head of TolMol, the Indian online comparison shopping network that launched the phone, said the Quran mobile is already on back order. He said it will be more widely available in stores starting in January.
ENMAC, a Malaysia-based Islamic digital products company, developed the Quran phone - also available in several Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan and Malaysia.
But India, said Kanish, has potential for massive sales.
India is home to 180 million Muslims, the world's third largest Muslim population, and a rapidly growing mobile phone user market. More than 800 million Indians - from the poorest rickshaw pullers to wealthy entrepreneurs - own mobile phones.
Unlike Hindus, who form a majority of India's 1.2 billion people, Muslims have well-defined daily rituals, Kanish said. The Quran phone is ideally suited for Islam, he said.
Sirajuddin Qureshi, president of the India Islamic Cultural Center, agreed. He hopes the new cell phone will reinvigorate interest in Islam.
"Until a Muslim understands the Quran, he cannot understand Islam," Qureshi said. "One should read the Quran every day. This phone will help a lot."
Mohsin, the young network engineer who bought the phone for his father, wasn't so sure how the Quran phone would play among those of his generation who can afford more sophisticated phones.
His friends, he said, may still opt for emails, Facebook and Twitter on an iPhone. Or perhaps download an Islamic app. But for millions of other faithful, the Quran phone could just very well be the "in thing."
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.