JERUSALEM — Nisreen Biqwaidar wore a pink Apple Watch to count her steps and a green ring to count religious recitations as she walked in the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem one afternoon.
“I say ‘God is great’ 1,000 times and ‘Praise God’ 1,000 times every day,” said 13-year-old Nisreen as she left the afternoon prayer. The ring is superior to rosary because it “faster and stays in your hand,” he said.
He says throughout the day, every time he reads, he presses a silver button on the ring and his tally on the digital monitor increases. At the end of the day, he presses a smaller reset button, clearing the ring for the next day’s memories. She has been using a digital counter since she was 10 years old.
Many Muslims around the world have long used the rosary for religious readings and eulogies. The practice, in addition to the five most frequently performed prayers, is a way of instilling religious memories into their day. Palestinians like Nisreen are increasingly turning to digital prayer counters to keep track of their recitations, such as a Fitbit for Allahu akbars, Arabic for “God is great.”
Shopkeepers in Jerusalem’s Old City say the stalls first started appearing there five or seven years ago, but their exact time of arrival is uncertain. Interest in them began after the return of the Palestinians from Egypt. pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia brought them back. They became instant hits.
Now, in shops in the Old Town, long rows of multicolored rosaries sit next to a row of prayer stalls. The digital counters there usually cost a little more than $1 to about $10 and are especially popular during the holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to end on Sunday for most of the area.
Rings and other prayer counters can be found in most of the Muslim world. Users in Jerusalem vary in age, and some said they use both rings and beads, but prefer the digital option when they are not at home.
While many Christians use rosary beads in a similar way, shopkeepers in the Old Town’s Christian quarter said digital counters have yet to catch up because Christians are likely to say dozens of Hail Marys or Our Fathers a day instead of hundreds. more.
That last afternoon, Nisreen forgot to wear her prayer ring before leaving her home in Beersheba in southern Israel. But as we walked the streets of the Old City, a woman was handing out dates and prayer rings. Nisreen bought one.
“If there’s no ring, I use the rosary,” said Nisreen, who often keeps the rosary in her backpack. “And if I don’t have rosaries, I just use my fingers.”
As children, many Muslims are taught to recite religious eulogies on their hands using the wrinkles on their fingers. It is said that some of them still use their fingers. He prefers to emulate Muhammad.
Most Muslims still prefer rosaries, which are usually around 100 beads long but can be even longer, and older faithful often keep their beads on hand at all times.
But remembering the total can be difficult. Enter the prayer counters.
“If you want to sing 1,000 compliments, it’s hard to track down,” said 35-year-old Ahmad Natsha, who works at his friend’s shop on the edge of Al-Aqsa Mosque the other day. “Some would take 10 rosaries and use each to keep track,” he said, but “much easier with the bench.”
Ibtihal Ahmed, 60, agrees. “There is peace,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know how much praise I sing.”
Sitting with his back to the Dome of the Rock, he stared at the blue plastic counter on his ring finger, next to two gold rings of almost the same size. The screen was already showing that it had reached 755.
But he said that he had more prayers that day.
“When people see a high number, they feel a sense of accomplishment,” said Sham Ibrahim, 16, sitting next to her.
Ms. Ahmad says she gave her young grandchildren prayer rings when they were bullied and told them to recite a prayer 500 times – giving them some time to think and some quiet time for her.
Just as Fitbits and other wearable health trackers inspired competition or bragging for essential walking action, prayer meters encouraged a sense of religious competition.
In a religious WhatsApp group she is in, 60-year-old Nadia Mohammad and Sham’s grandmother said the members regularly share daily prayer numbers. One of the oldest members usually posts posts.
“It encourages the rest of us,” she said as she held traditional rosaries just after the afternoon prayer last week.
Others post their daily accounts on Facebook.
Shopkeepers in the Old Town said a new model and design pops up every year to fuel the excitement.
The last one looks like a fish and had to be embraced in one’s palm. A protruding wheel can be rotated with the thumb – mimicking the feel of moving the finger between the beads.
Although Mr. Natsha worked in a shop selling beads and looms, he was critical of what he saw as new forms of worship. He doesn’t use either.
“We should not use this or that in our religion,” he said, pointing to the rosaries hanging above the rosary boxes. “In our religion, we should only use our hands. It’s just capitalism.”
For Akram, 66, who didn’t want to give his last name, he felt, like many others interviewed, that discussing his daily remembrance seemed like religious bragging, the counters are more than just a daily record of his prayers.
Three years ago, Akram, from the northern city of Acre, said he started maximizing the rings. The display on some rings, including hers, can reach 99,999 before resetting automatically. Now, every time it hits 99,999, it places tape over the reset button to keep its record intact. Then he puts the ring in a box for safe keeping. He has collected 30 so far.
He instructed his family to wear all the rings around his neck when he died – the ultimate, digital proof of how much he praised God in life.
“You can do it 100 times with normal prayer beads, but what is the proof that you did it 100 times? There is none,” he said. He pointed to a box of prayer rings that looked very similar to the one he was hiding.