Muslims observe Holy Month of Ramadan

  • Published
  • By Tanju Varlikli
  • 425th Air Base Squadron Host Nation Adviser
Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series on Ramadan and the Ramadan Holiday.

Members new to Turkey may wonder why their Turkish co-workers and neighbors are not eating, smoking or drinking during lunchtime or breaks. Asking a Turkish co-worker to join them for lunch might earn a polite "No, thanks," because they are fasting from sunrise to sunset every day during Ramadan. This year's month-long observance starts July 9 and ends Aug. 7 prior to the three-day religious holiday "Ramazan Bayramı" or "Şeker Bayramı" that marks the end of Ramadan.

Muslims observe the Holy Month of Ramadan as a period of prayer, fasting and cleansing their souls from sin.

Ramadan, known in Türkiye as Ramazan, is based on the Fourth Pillar of Faith laid down by the Prophet Mohammed. This pillar says, "It is the duty of every true believer to keep the Fast of Ramadan."

During the Ramadan fast, the faithful spend as much time as possible in a mosque. Lanterns are hung from minaret tops in many communities. Lamps are also lit inside mosques for evening prayer. The brilliant glow of the mosques commemorates the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Mohammed and Mohammed's illumination on the Night of Power. This year, the Night of Power is Aug. 3.

Ramadan is a month of self-discipline and self-control for those who fast. Fasting is observed daily two hours before sunrise until sunset.

Every morning and evening, a cannon or gun shot is heard to announce the rising and setting sun. In some communities, drums are beaten in the streets.

Lighted windows appear before daybreak each morning as meals are prepared and many people still sleep.

One shot is fired around two hours before sunrise to give warning that it is time to prepare for the early morning meal. This first meal of the day, eaten before sunrise, is called "Sahur."

For Sahur, the whole family gathers around a table, which is presided over by the master of the house. After Sahur, ablutions, or washings, are performed and the first of five daily prayers is said.

Following the prayer, a vow is made to keep the fast of the day. This vow is essential as it constitutes obligations. The family then returns to bed, only to rise again at the normal hour. The day then proceeds as usual except neither food nor drink pass Muslims' lips until sundown. Because smoking is associated with drinking, it is likewise forbidden.

At sunset, a shot is fired marking the official end to that day's fast. It is time for the "İftar Meal" - the breaking of the fast. Then the voice of the Müezzin calls everyone to prayer.

Since Ramadan is also a month for drawing closer to relatives and friends, it is customary to invite relatives and friends to "İftar." Every day, those who fast will break their fast a minute or two earlier than the day prior.

Another Ramadan obligation, and one of the five conditions of being a good Muslim, is the collection of money and giving to the needy. Each family member contributes.

The Müftülük, or the senior Muslim Hoca's office in each community, sets the amount according to income and cost of living. Traditionally, this is given to the needy during the third week of Ramadan, but no later than the first prayer on the first day of Ramazan or Şeker Bayramı, which starts Aug. 8 this year.