Photo: Süleymaniye Mosque WOW Turkey
The holy month of Ramadan is very auspicious to the Muslims the world over. It is celebrated the day after the crescent for the 9th lunar month of the Islamic calendar is sighted. Muslims are ordained to observe a fast for 30 days (sometimes 29 days, owing to the early sighting of the crescent) starting with the sighting of the new moon and ending after seeing the new moon the next month.
Islam uses a lunar calendar, that is, each month begins with the signing of the new moon. The lunar calendar is about eleven days shorter than the solar calendar therefore Islamic holidays "move" each year. In 2013 Ramadan will begin on July 9.
Oruç (Fasting) is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam and is mandatory for all adult Muslim men and women, except the insane, infirm, sick or traveling and pregnant or feeding mothers. They can complete the prescribed number of fasting days by choosing to fast on some other days. Those who cannot fast, except with great hardship, should arrange to feed at least one needy person in lieu of the days one missed out on fasting.
Fasting means to stop eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. Dawn is the time which is about one hour before the sunrise while sunset is the time of "evening call to prayer". Sahur is the early morning or pre-fast meal eaten before the sun rises. Ramazan Davulcusu (Ramadan drummers) woke up people by walking around the neighborhoods with a big double-headed drum. They beat out variety of rhythms and sometimes may also sing a mani, a rhyming couplet. The drummers may surprise the newcomers. However they try to keep alive an old tradition from the times alarm clocks were non-existent. Just before Bayram and certainly during Bayram the drummer of your district will knock on your door for a tip.
The fast is broken with a meal, which is known as Iftar just after sunset with "evenming call to prayer". Please keep in mind that cannons are fired at Sahur and Iftar times.
For most of the muslims these two meals are more than a ritualistic part of fasting; they are pleasure. Many families have busy lives recently, with both parents working and the kids are in school. Therefore these meals are time for gathering and spend some more time together during Ramadan.
When Ramadan was falling in winter months when the nights are longer it was easier to fast since there is almost 10-11 hours between the meals (sahur and iftar). Now Ramadan begins to fall in summer months and the fasting time gets longer which is almost 17-18 hours in June and July. This year it is around 16 hours. It is wise to have light and simple meals such as breakfast at sahur in summer Ramadans.
Iftar usually begins with dates, sweet drinks, breakfast and soup followed by traditional dinner. Iftar invitations are wide spread in Ramadan. You may have Iftar gathering calls from family members, friends, and neighbors. You can also invite Muslim family and friends who are comfortable interacting with non-Muslims to such events.
During Ramadan, the night praying (yatsı namazı) is followed by a special "namaz" called Teravih. It is a kind of ritual worshipping performed only at Ramadan nights. The Muslims try to visit different mosques to fulfill the teravih praying.
Please also note that some restuarants are closed during the day time and most of the restaurants do not serve alcoholic drinks in the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is considered holy because Koran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad during this month. Apart from bringing the Muslims face to face with the hard realities of life such as pangs of hunger, thirst and deprivation, Ramadan is an annual training period inculcating discipline and declaration of subservience to the laws of God, enumerated in the holy Koran.
A Muslim is told to give Sadaka (charity) and Fitre (alms given in Ramadan) to the poor before going to say the Bayram prayers. Muslims recite Koran intensively during this holy month.
The last 10 days of Ramadan are more important as the faithful watch for Kadir Gecesi (the Night of Power) during which the revelation of the book to the Prophet was completed. In a way it is considered the climax of Ramadan and Muslims stay awake all night praying or listening to sermons from the Imam (religious leader).
Fasting is practiced by followers of all religions in one form or other. Fasting enables one to understand the deprivations of hunger and thirst, which in turn encourages one to be kind to the poor and the needy. It is also viewed as a health care ritual by many. The establishment of an obedient and disciplined society is also fulfilled when people observe Oruç (Fast). Ramadan is a month of brotherhood, renewal of relationships and festivity and the rigor of fasting ends with the celebration of Şeker Bayramı (Sweet Festival) which is on August 8, 2013.
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