A local online newspaper in Saudi, Aen Hail, recently introduced an interesting technical tweak to align its website with a local Saudi custom by shutting its doors during prayer, five times a day.
It is customary for commercial enterprises in Saudi Arabia to shut down during prayer time, five times a day, for somewhere between 20 minutes to half an hour.
Aen Hail, or Hail’s Eye, is a local newspaper based in Hail, Saudi Arabia that has introduced that measure to the web.
During prayer times, visitors to the Aen Hail website will be met with the following image informing them the website is now “Closed for prayer.” This message will last 20 minutes.
The idea behind the move is to encourage people to pray on time.
Prayer times differ daily and by location, so this was no simple technical feat as Majid Al-Mismar, the site’s online editor, explains:
The page is built with integration of a software that replaces the index page with another… We believe that prayers come first. The electronic newspaper is off during Hail prayer times and is back on after the prayer is done.
This decision was met with mixed reactions.
Some, like Professor Mohammed Al-Nojaimi at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University’s High Judiciary Institute, commended this move and said: “Closing a Saudi website for half-an-hour during obligatory prayers is a noble Islamic act. It’s free from any search for fame or unacceptable rigidness. It contributes to reviving the habit of individuals praying on time.”
Others, though, believe that the measure is only superficial. A comment left on the site said, “You are focusing on appearances and presentation rather than the original principles of the religion. What if the person wishing to surf the page is a non-Muslim”
Regardless of which side of the debate you may be on, this is an interesting example of off-line and on-line situations being brought closer together.