Cultural Considerations: Ramadan to begin Aug. 1

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri and Staff Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Prayer five times per day. No food. No drink. All in the month of August when temperatures in Turkey are breaking mercury.

That's what people will see in and around Incirlik Air Base when the Islamic month of fasting, called Ramadan, begins Aug. 1. Ramadan ends on Aug. 29 followed by a three-day Ramadan Festival Aug. 30 - Sept. 1. On the last day of Ramadan, many offices and businesses may be closed in preparation for the festival.

Ramadan, also known as Ramazan in Turkey, 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. Because of this, from year-to-year, Ramadan rotates throughout the four seasons and rotates through every month of the solar calendar.

It is believed within the religion that Ramadan is considered the Sultan of the Eleven Months as the prophet Mohammed began receiving the Holy Koran, God's gift to humanity, in this lunar month. Because of this, the month is said to be one of spiritual and material blessings.

The religion of Islam is based on five principles:
· Belief in one God and Prophet Mohammed as his messenger;
· Prayer, five times daily;
· Giving alms to poor and needy people;
· Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and
· Pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime.

More than one billion of the world's population will change their ways overnight as Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Most Muslims observe the fast; however children, pregnant women, sick people, travelers and soldiers at war are exempt.

During the day, nothing is to pass the lips of a fasting Muslim, though the Ramadan fast is not solely for food and drink. The fast extends to tobacco, gum and intimacy. For the extremely devout, the fast may even extend as far as not licking stamps.

Before the sun rises and after the sun sets, Muslims break the fast but still refrain from overindulgence. A large, early-morning meal is prepared and eaten before sunrise. Also, a hefty feast is prepared at the day's breaking of the fast at sunset. Non-Muslims may be invited to join in the evening's festivities, and it would be an eye-opening opportunity to accept such invitations.

Prayer, contemplation time and religious study often take the place of watching television, listening to music, playing sports and other leisurely or entertaining activities.

During this time, be conscious of actions around our Turkish hosts in consideration of their beliefs. Avoid eating and drinking in public unless seated as a patron in an open restaurant, café or other establishment. Alcoholic beverages may or may not still be served during the month.

Turkish co-workers, maids and gardeners may be fasting. As a result, their sugar levels might drop, they might become nervous, less conscious and weak, and some might feel dizzy, especially near the day's end. For that reason, be conscious of the safety of those around you. Pay more attention to those operating machines and vehicles. Right before fast breaking time in the evenings, people often become rushed and impatient; so drivers on base and off base should drive very carefully.

To be respectful guests, Team Incirlik members should be mindful of the activities celebrated and recognized by the host nation - during Ramadan and always.