When you run a website/app, you watch your traffic like an investor keeping track of a stock portfolio. On the first day of this year’s Ramadan, we were doing exactly that. That is when we realised something unusual was happening on HalalTrip.com and the mobile app. Within a few hours of the day, the total visitors to the site/app was way more than normal. When we analyzed further, we realized it was revealing a fascinating phenomenon that probably occurs at the beginning of each Ramadan.
Muslims are already accustomed to seeing an increase in the mosque congregations during Ramadan, but the “Big Data” of visitor traffic on the first day of Ramadan on HalalTrip not just validates some of those observations, but reveals much more.
In April 2016, HalalTrip setup an online page (tool) to help find prayer direction as accurately as possible wherever you are. It provides three different ways of finding the Qibla direction; dynamic compass, static compass and a map based tool. The map feature has been particularly popular, since it solves the issue of finding prayer direction inside buildings, where a compass based method will not be always accurate.
After a year, the page now ranks consistently in the top 3 to 5 results on Google for most of the searches related to Qibla direction. The traffic to the page has been steadily growing and it is one of the most visited pages on HalalTrip.
On the first day of this Ramadan, the traffic to the Qibla direction page more than tripled! From an average of around 2200 page views a day, during the last couple of months, to more than 7900 page/screen views. This single stat reveals a lot.
HalalTrip has pages/tools to find prayer times while on land, in-flight prayer times, mosque finders, travel dua(s) etc., and the traffic to these pages does increase during Ramadan. However, those do not reveal the unique behaviour pattern of some Muslims, which the traffic increase on the Qibla direction page highlights.
Having seen this behaviour we looked at how it compares to the first day of last year’s Ramadan, and found that it was very much the same; the traffic to the Qibla page had tripled on that day compared with the average visits around that time. Although we probably did not notice it last year, since the overall traffic volume was not high.
The more than tripling of traffic to the Qibla direction finder suggests that there is a huge increase in Muslims who decide to start performing their Salaath with the start of Ramadan. They were either not performing their prayers regularly before or have not been praying at all.
The second observation is that they have started praying at their homes or workplaces, as you do not need to know the Qibla direction if you are praying in a Mosque. This suggests that the resolve to start praying is a conscious private decision and the intention (“Niyyat”) is probably much stronger. The visitors this year came from more than 100 countries. As such, it is not just a phenomenon of a particular country or region.
The data for both the years show that it is the Millennial and Gen Z Muslims who were looking for the prayer direction. This year, close to 50% of them were between 25 to 34 years old, followed by around 30% between 18 to 24 years old. 90% of them visited the page using a mobile device compared to 84% last year. All of this indicates the younger generation are interested in practicing their faith, and Ramadan is possibly considered as a good time to start.
There may be other reasons for some of the increase in traffic: Re-checking the Qibla direction at home or the workplace at the start of Ramadan, or just having moved to a new house/workplace. Although, if we have been praying regularly at home, you rarely re-check the directions, and not many Muslims will be moving house on the first day of Ramadan! There is of course a good percentage of visitors to the page who are travelers, which is part of the usual traffic to the page.
We do not need Big Data to validate Hadiths, but this helps strengthen the understanding of Hadiths which indicate the Shayateen being locked up during the month of Ramadan!
With this new group of Muslims who are starting to practice their daily prayers, there are many implications to workplaces, mosques and communities. As for the impact to the travel industry, our recent Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index 2017 (GMTI 2017) already highlighted the growing Muslim youth/millennials segment in the Muslim Travel Market. The HalalTrip traffic data further validates the impact they will increasingly play in this travel segment.