Ramadan stands for many Muslims as the highlight of the year and something you look forward to. It’s an annual celebration (and trial), where you for a whole month celebrate Islam and the Quran, which came to the Prophet Muhammad from the Archangel Gabriel for about 1400 years ago. Ramadan starts at different times each year. It depends on the Muslim calendar, which is not quite the same as the Gregorian calendar, that the Western World follows. Generally speaking, the time of Ramadan is about 10 days behind each year. This year, Ramadan started May 26 and lasts for a whole month. Next year, it will start around May 16th.
It is very different, how the Ramadan is celebrated in Turkey. Far from everyone celebrates it, some does only partially and others keep it to the point. It depends very much on how strongly one believes and how one’s options is for fasting a whole month. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, traveling, having a menstrual period, being sick, old or an competing athlete, you can be “exempted” to keep it. But one are obliged to keep the Ramadan another time during the year.
To travel during the Ramadan:
I have rarely experienced anyone holding Ramadan. In my family there is – besides one or two, nobody who is highly believers. My husband and his close family are by no means, but occasionally other parts of the family or some of our friends have celebrated the Ramadan – if nothing else, so only partially. But one can never quite know, who holds ramadan and who doesn’t.
As a starting point one must assume, that the Ramadan is being kept. And you can also sense it a little while traveling in turkey during Ramadan. Not in any big and violent way. You will just find considerably more, who goes out and eat at the restaurants after dark emergence (which is just early there – already around 20:00). So if we are in the country under the Ramadan, we always make sure to go a little earlier, when we eat out, so it’s possible to get a seat and doesn’t clashes with so many people out there.Oh, oh, complain if you’re running a bit late and first go, when it darkens and the Muessin starts his prayer. Then you are too late.
One should also be aware, that several restaurants doen’t serve alcohol this month. However, this does not apply to most hotels. Some restaurants also have regular menus this month in connection with Iftar (the time of day when the fast finishes).
The prayer of the Muessin is also a bit higher and a little longer during the Ramadan, but you should probably be a regular Turkey-traveler before you really notice it.
Otherwise, we almost do not notice anything about it. My husband always says, that there might be a little more irritable people during the fast (because they are hungry) and things are going a little slower during the day. But I do not really know, how true it is.
What is important during Ramadan:
During the fasting month there are of course some things to strive for. Since the Ramadan is part of the 5 pillars of the Quran (= the main points in Islam), it is a fairly essential part of the faith. Thus, not saying that you are not a Muslim, if you do not adhere to the fast. Some just want to question how true believers are. A bit like if you only go to church this Christmas Eve or you do it all year long.
However, the fast can be postponed if you pay “Fidiya“. It’s a kind of booth for every day, you have not been able to adhere to the fast. Then you are obliged to give food to the needy and the poor. The attention to charity is great – especially this month.
The month will be used for calmness and reflection and to study the Quran’s teachings. During this month, one should strive not to speak, think or act evil against other people. You are therefore also determined not to lie, talk and discuss (something that may lay quite deep in many Turks). Bad habits must also be minimized, as well as not having sex this month. The month allows forgiving, forgetting and focusing on the most important.
Spiritual Reflection and Personal Growth:
Beyond the fast, which is the most obvious and immediate of the Ramadan, there is of course a deeper meaning to adhere to it. The fast is to remember and pay attention to the poor and less wealthy, who are not so privileged to be able to go to bed every day with a full stomach. The scales between rich and poor must be minimized or wiped out. Therefore, the month is largely about spiritual reflection and personal growth towards a better self. The idea is that by fasting from bad habits, one gets peace in mind, so one can better think clearly and rationally without having control of ones feelings.
How to keep the Ramadan:
During the fast, you only eat while it’s dark. The day starts with a simple meal. Some then go to the mosque, while others go to sleep again. The next time you are allowed to eat is when the sun goes down and the Muessin calls for prayer. Some keep large, sumptuous feasts at night while others eat more simple, but maybe some extra delicious meals. Heavy food is often very hard for a fasting stomach, so healthy and light food are better. There are special breads, cakes, desserts and bolts, which are only available under the Ramadan. I especially love the delicious bread.
It is a welcoming that, if possible, one pray 5 times a day as the Quran prescribes.
Finishing with a big party:
When the Ramadan month is over, it ends with Seker Bayrami – Sugar Festival or Eid al-Fitr, as it is called in Arabic. On this last day of the Ramadan, the day is marking the day, when the Prophet Muhammad received the Qur’an. “Lailat ul Quadre” the day is called. It’s a true party day, where nothing is saved. The best of the best food is on the table, you celebrate it with family and friends, enjoying and having a good time throughout the night. Often the party ends with spectacular fireworks.
Often the women and children gets presents at this party, and it often compares this festive day to Christmas Eve, as we know it. Filled with good food, traditions, loved ones, gifts and cohesion.
So maybe the religions and their ideologies do not differ so much from each other? That’s how I’ve always thought. The command of moderation and charity is at least the same, regardless of who and what you belong to.