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Google wants to be Muslims’ go-to source for all things Ramadan

This Saturday, July 20, 2013 file photo shows sun setting behind minarets of a mosque a few minutes before Iftar, the meal served at dusk when Muslims break their day-long fast during the month of Ramadan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
Planning for Ramadan.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Google is taking its YouTube videos, traffic data, and information about local businesses and neatly packaging them into a Ramadan guide for observing Muslims.

The web app, called My Ramadan Companion, includes local tips and other relevant information, such as the time for sunset, to help Muslims plan their days during their 30 days of fasting.

“With My Ramadan Companion, we hope we can help you take care of the little things, so you can focus on the big things,” associate product marketing manager Zain Kamal Masri wrote in a blog post.

My Ramadan Companion

The guide will also push relevant information to Google Now, the search giant’s intelligent assistant. The Mountain View, California company’s been working to improve Google Now so it better understands context and ultimately becomes more actionable (for instance, giving users the option to hail an Uber or make restaurant reservations on OpenTable from their phones based on their schedules, location, or what they’re talking about, without having to launch a separate app).

Depending on users’ location, Google Now will surface relevant information, such as Ramadan news, nearby Halal restaurants, popular YouTube videos, and app recommendations on their smartphones.

Google may have a hard time convincing Muslims that it can be an authoritative source on Ramadan. In some parts of the world, Muslim conventions are decided upon by religious hierarchies, whereas in other parts the holy month leaves some room for interpretation. For example, in the US, where 0.9% of the population identifies as Muslim, it’s debatable when Ramadan even starts (was it last night, June 18, or tonight?). Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a columnist at the Muslim Observer, previously described the predicament to Quartz as follows:

Some Muslims believe that astronomical calculation alone can tell you when the first crescent moon which marks the start of Ramadan will appear, and so have their answer in advance. I, however, belong to a second camp that believes that the Prophet Muhammad specifically said one must combine calculation with a physical sighting of the moon.

Muslims in Northern Europe, meanwhile, disagree on how long they should fast each day during Ramadan. Fasting typically happens from dawn to dusk, but days in that region can last as long as 21 hours, which has led some to shorten fasting time.

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