Ask Mehmet: Ramazan

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@us.af.mil.

Question: Mehmet, can you tell me more about Ramazan?

Answer: Starting this weekend, you will notice most of your Turkish friends will stop eating and drinking during the daytime. If your gardner working in the yard under the summer sun is soaked with sweat and refuses to accept any food or drink, don't get upset. This means he is fasting for the holy month of Ramazan.

Saturday, more than one billion of the world's population will change their way of doing things overnight. The Islamic month of fasting, called Ramazan, begins Saturday, June 28, this year. This is the month where Muslims commemorate the revelation of God's gift to humanity - the Holy Koran.

Ramazan is considered to be the Sultan of the Eleven Months since Prophet Muhammad started to receive the Holy Koran in this month. It's the month of great spiritual and material blessings that Muslims all over the world look forward to. The religion of Islam is based on five principles:

· Belief in one God and Prophet Muhammad as his messenger
· Prayer, five times daily
· Giving alms to poor and needy people
· Fasting during the holy month of Ramazan
· Pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime.

Ramazan is the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar. The months on the lunar calendar begin and end with the sighting of the new moon.

The lunar calendar is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, and because of this, from year-to-year, Ramazan rotates throughout the four seasons and rotates throughout every month of the solar calendar.

Children, pregnant women, sick people, travelers and soldiers at war are exempted from fasting. The fast starts daily from almost one hour before sunrise to immediately after sunset.

During the daylight hours one should abstain from food, drink and intimacy between husband and wife. Those fasting do not let anything pass their lips. Along with not eating, they abstain from smoking as well.

After the sunset, Muslims are permitted to break the fast for the day. However, one is not to over eat, over drink or over indulge in any self-gratifying activities as this can take away from the spirit of the fast.

The Ramazan fast is not just a fast of physical food, or a fast for spiritual benefits, it's a fast for the benefit of the total person physically, spiritually and mentally. While fasting, Muslims are concious of the need to appreciate and respect both man and outer world as a creation of the almighty God.

The fasting Muslims also get a better understanding for the needy ones who cannot find food to eat.

Things to avoid during the fast are the tendency to be spiritually idle or morally absent minded, or missing daily prayers without an acceptable excuse.

The time one would spend watching television, listening to music or playing sports should be spent in prayer, contemplation and religious study. During this time Muslims read one thirtieth of the Holy Koran each day so as to complete the reading over this 30 day fast period. According to the Islamic faith, time spent in devotion to God will help keep one in tune with the spirit of the fast.

As being guests and respecting the beliefs of our hosts, do not eat and/or drink anything in public during fasting hours in the month of Ramazan. Smoking is also prohibited while fasting, so be respectful and try not to smoke around fasting individuals.

Ramazan ends July 27, and then Muslim world will observe a three-day Ramazan Festival July 28-30.

Your Turkish co-workers, maids, gardeners might be fasting. As a result of that, mainly in the afternoons, their sugar level might drop, they might become nervous, less conscious and weak, and some might feel dizzy. For that reason, you should be more concious about safety.

Please pay more attention to the ones who operate machines and vehicles. Drivers on base and off base might be very nervous and drive more offensively. Especially right before fast breaking time in the evenings some people rush and becomes impatient, so drive defensively. Keep those facts in mind and think of your own and the others' safety during Ramazan.