Ramadan is a very special time in Muslim countries around the world. Ramadan in Turkey، for example، is very similar to Ramadans in any other Muslim country. Life takes a different rhythm; the observant Muslim tries to focus more on his or her prayers; even the others who consider themselves more liberal try to do a little better.
In Turkey، a typical day during Ramadan starts with Ramadan drummers walking around the neighborhoods with big double- headed drums to wake up people for Suhoor (pre-dawn meal). They beat out a variety of rhythms and sing some Ramadan rhymes. Here is a common Ramadan rhyme they sing: Uyansana، uyansana Ne bulursun bu uykuda Al abdesti، kil namazi Cennet mekan olsun sana Which translates to: Come on wake up What do you find in this sleep? Make Wudhoo’، perform you prayers May there be a place in Paradise for you
Usually، the lady of the house wakes up first and prepares a light pre-dawn meal and wakes others up. Suhoor meal is usually an early breakfast with typical breakfast food، good bread and Turkish tea. Most TV channels and radios have special Suhoor programs at this hour and it is not surprising to be able to watch “The Message”- an Islamic film- right before Fajr (dawn). During the day، people go back to their daily routines and there is no special scheduling at the work place during Ramadan. However، the rush hour usually starts earlier during Ramadan because everybody tries to go back home early for Iftaar (breaking fast). When it is the exact time for breaking fast، cannons are fired، and the Athaan (call for prayer ( starts simultaneously from thousands of minarets، most strikingly in the big cities like Istanbul، as if a giant switch had been turned on، and the whole city is galvanized. The big mosques with more than one minaret are illuminated at night and sayings are written on the ropes stretched between the minarets of mosques. It is a Ramadan art in Turkey called “Mahya”. Some examples of these sayings are: “The Sultan of 11 months arrived”“Welcome Ramadan”“Islam is good manners”. Restaurants that have been sleepy all day come to life. Some 5 star hotels، renowned restaurants، and even fast food restaurants offer special Ramadan menus. Around the big mosques، hundreds of vendors start serving cotton candies، sweet corn، roasted chestnuts، pastries، and herbal teas to fasting people. At the courtyards of big mosques like Sultan Ahmed، you can find enormous book fairs where Turkey’s leading religious publishers present their newest books. In the time of the Ottoman Empire، Pashas، government ministers، and rich people held Ramadan Iftaar in their homes
throughout the month، and these were opened to the public to enable the poor to be fed. Today، however، Ramadan tents are set-up in the big squares of the cities and long lines appear in front of these tents near Iftaar time. Philanthropic and charity foundations also set up their own Iftaar tents and host fasting Muslims. During Ramadan، there is often more frequent food shopping than usual. Even though there is no set menu for Ramadan، there are still a few special items associated with it. Dates، for example، which Turkish people are oblivious to most of the year، start to be displayed everywhere in great piles. Another Ramadan special is the “Ramadan Pide Bread” in the bakeries. This is special flat bread، sprinkled with black seeds. It is very soft and rich bread. People wait a long time in lines in front of bakeries to get this bread right before the Iftaar. A typical Iftaar menu of an ordinary Turkish home starts with olives or dates to break the fast. There is always a small breakfast plate to start with. Warm Ramadan bread accompanies the soup. Then come rice، meat and vegetables. Iftaar ends with dessert، mostly Gullac and Turkish tea. Ramadan is a time that people try to read Quran more than usual. Housewives especially get together everyday for small study circles and read at least one part of the Quran everyday. They also perform more voluntary prayers. Even people who don’t perform prayer five times a day start doing that during Ramadan. There are also more religious programs on TVs and radios. Some TV channels have daily Quran teaching hours. On the evening news، TV channels give the exact times of Iftaar for all the major
cities. People think about the needy more in Ramadan and most people give their Zakah (obligatory charity) during Ramadan. Children are encouraged to fast as much as they can and they go to the Taraaweeh prayer with their parents. Mosques are full for Taraaweeh every evening and beautiful sermons are given in mosques. On the 27th night of Ramadan، which is seen as the most probable night of Laylat Al-Qadr، mosques are even more filled with people and they stay awake all night worshipping. ‘Eed is very special for everyone، practicing or non-practicing alike. Even people who don’t fast during Ramadan observe this celebration and attend the ‘Eed service. It is always a good idea mto stay in the mosque from Fajr to the ‘Eed prayer because there is usually not enough space there for everybody، especially in big cities. There are always some who have to perform prayer outside the mosque. After the ‘Eed prayer and sermon، everybody meets in the courtyard of the mosque and embraces each other. During the ‘Eed days، the shops are closed but the buses are free for three days as everybody begins the round of visits to family and friends—a tradition which lies at the heart of the Turkish way of ‘Eed celebration. Even people who were not on talking terms are brought together during the ‘Eed. Children kiss the hands of the adults as an act of respect and get money from them to get ‘Eed gifts for themselves. The elderly give handkerchiefs and Turkish delights to the kids. All kinds of sweets are served to the guests and this goes on for three days until the end of the ‘Eed. That evening، high above the minarets of the mosques، Mahyas read: “Elveda Ramazan (Farewell Ramadan)”.