The Five Daily Applications

As we enter the month of Ramadan, where the obligatory fast and fourth pillar of Islam takes center stage, the holiest month in the Islamic lunar calendar is also a time for reflection, harmony and multiple opportunities to augment the standard five daily prayers with plenty of other forms of supplication. Incidentally, the five daily prayers are the second pillar of Islam, the first, the simple acknowledgement that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) is his final Messenger and Prophet, what in Islam is known as the Shahada or Faith.

Five Islamic Pillars

Shifting to the world of technology, the First Pillar of Application Development should be to design and develop an application that is used five times a day at least. In a corporate culture that should promote a captive customer focus, five times day feels like the bare minimum, especially when most of today’s app barely make it past the proverbial sunset.

The more successful applications, just like the more pious supplications, should be more frequent. Just as Muslims during Ramadan are encouraged to augment their five daily prayers with a further seven sunna (or what I will roughly translate to for lack of a better term as ‘encouraged’) prayers.

Praying at Home(Screen)

Another cīnquetessen milestone for App developers should also be this simple: Can your app muscle (and hustle) its way into the Five Most Active Apps on that coveted home screen? Research show us that users on average have about 27 apps on their smart phone but only five see heavy use. Interestingly enough, the same research shows us that 85% of smart phone usage time is spent on native apps (take that web browsers, SMS text messaging and you left over technology from the twentieth century called talking) and from that 85%, 84% is spent using just five non-native apps they’ve installed from the App Store.

Toothbrush Test vs. the Miswak Test

Back in late 2014, Google Co-Founder and flying car enthusiast Larry Page famously coined the term “toothbrush test” to summarize his own thought process on determining whether a company is worth buying. He’ll ask, “Is this something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?”

Larry Being Larry

The TT test was by far my favorite Silicon Valley lexicoin from 2014, the 2013 title most obviously belongs to Cowboy Aileen‘s blockbuster buzzword — Unicorn. To test your knowledge of Silicon Valley Slang, check out this cool Time magazine test here.

Taking a page from Larry’s book (see what I did there), I frequently look for applications that follow the Miswak test. The Prophet PBUH is one of history’s earliest proponents of oral hygiene and was so adamant about its importance that he would have commanded his followers to use the miswak or siwak prior to each prayer. A quick aside worth mentioning are the medical benefits of this medieval chewing stick have been extensively uncovered over the past millennium, including an interesting study commissions by the Wrigley (Chewing Gum) Company. A topic worth covering another Ramadan.

Rakaa Analysis

Muslims are obliged to touch their forehead to the ground a minimum of 34 times a day (obviously this is only obligatory on those that are of able mind and body). The act of prostrating on the ground is called a sajda and follows the rakaa portion of the salat (prayer). There are two sajda’s per rakaa whose numbers differ according to which of the five daily prayers. In Islam, the five daily obligatory prayers are based on the positioning of the sun in the sky (see below) and follow a sequence of 2–4–4–3–4, resulting in a total Daily Rakaa Rate (DRR) of 17 per day which translates to the aforementioned 34 sajdas. I am sure there are many Muslims that probably check their WhatsApp, Instagram and SnapChat far more frequently…each.

The more devout Muslims, will typically achieve a much higher Daily Rakaa Rate as Muslims are generally encouraged to pray certain sunna prayers before/after each of the five daily prayers. These include two rakaas before Fajr (Sunrise), two during Duha (Mid-Morning), two or four before and two after Duhur (Noon), zero to two before Asr (Afternoon), two before and two after Maghrib (Sunset), zero to two before and two after Eisha (Evening) prayers and three as Witr (Night) prayers. Now this translates to an sDRR (the s is for sunna) of 17 to 23 which translates to a tDRR (t for total) of 34 to 40. The quantified nafs (self) is born. Now what application developer wouldn’t want those levels of engagement? Furthermore, Muslims are encouraged to pray their obligatory prayers collectively at a mosque and are also encouraged to pray two sunna rakaas prior to any prayer at the mosque, which translates to a further 10 rakaas added to the sDRR leaving us with a total of 44 to 50 rakaas thus equaling 88 to 100 daily sajdas. That’s one hundred holy haptic events per day. An app with a similar level of engagement must truly exhibit that killer U/X (user experience). Now there are certain applications that lend themselves to the ultra-religious zealots. They usher a certain collective cult status with little or no practical benefit to society (I’m snapping at you Snap Chat) in my humble opinion. So let us try to develop more apps that bring about both positive intellectual and communal benefits please.

But wait, one more thing (miss you Steve). During Ramadan, many Muslims are encouraged to engage in collective group prayer in the mosque which is very specific to the Holy Month. Beyond the spiritual, there is a practical communal benefit to joining your neighbors in supplication to the Almighty, especially given how much time we are prone to spending on our phones. Morever, the beauty of Ramadan is that the sunna prayers bestow as much reward as the obligatory prayers and the obligatory five daily prayers during Ramadan are known to bestow between 70 to 70,000 time the reward when compared to the rest of the year. Indeed, there are plenty of opportunities for forgiveness during Ramadan. There are the Tarawih (Break) prayers that typically occur between Eisha and Witr and usually number between eight to 20 Rakaas in addition to the Qiyam Al Layl or Tahajud (Standing) prayers that typically amount to further eight (albeit quite long) rakaas, boosting the typical sDRR to 16 to 28 thus increasing the tDRR to 50 to 78 rakaas translating to 100 to 156 sajdas per day.

Now wouldn’t it been fun to compares DRRs to DAUs (Daily Active Users), especially when pitting the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim against the world’s 2 billion Facebook users? Perhaps next Ramadan.

Of course, a core tenant of the Islamic creed is that it’s certainly not a numbers game. Prayer should be a focus of faith and the quality of the experience and the escape from the trial and tribulations of daily life. This should be exactly similar to the central goal of the world’s most successful digital applications. To quote renowned author, doctor and creator of Sherlock Holmes and the original Jurassic Park, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; “life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence.”

Ramadan Mubarak!

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