The holy month of Ramadan is a period of fasting and spiritual reflection for Muslims. Ramadan corresponds to the ninth month of the lunar year and requires Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, to pray and to help those in need.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to be in Turkey during Ramadan. Even though I’m not a Muslim, and consequently, I wasn’t fasting, it was a valuable and interesting experience. The “noisy” city became suddenly quiet, the rush calmed down and the ezan (call to prayer) became the dominant voice of Eastern Turkey. During the day, although most of the people continued to respect their daily routine, the city was sleepy. People seemed weak, powerless, but in the same time serene and grateful. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, the streets were deserted and burnt by the sun’s aggressive rays, while citizens withdrew to the coolness of their homes or workplaces. After the sunset, people gathered for iftar, a special Ramadan meal, and the city came to life. I’ve participated in iftar together with the personnel from the office where I was undertaking my internship and their families. It was nice to see how work collegues were acting like a big, united family. All over the city people came together and enjoyed the meal after sunset. I will never forget the night our neighbours, some cheerful women of all ages, invited me and my collegue to join them. They were chating and eating on the benches in front of our apartment building. Although we didn’t speak Turkish at the moment we accepted their invitation. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I discovered that even conservative, veiled women can be very funny and crazy. We talked (how we could) about Tarkan, found out that they like Brad Pitt, ate sarma (grape leaves filled with meat), baklava and pistachio, and made pictures. They were so nice and kind! That’s what I love about Ramadan, besides its spiritual meaning, it has the power to bring people together.
During the holy month of Ramadan you may hear/use the following words and expressions:
- If you have Turkish friends you can greet them by saying: Hayırlı Ramazanlar!/ İyi Ramazanlar!/ Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun! (hayırlı=good, fortunate; ay=month/ayınız=your month; mübarek=blessed)
- Ramazan ayı=month of Ramadan
- oruç tutmak= to fast
- namaz kılmak=to pray
- ezan=call to prayer
- ramazan pidesi= round and flat bread eaten during Ramadan
- iftar=traditional meal, eaten after sunset to break the daily fast during Ramadan
- sahur=meal before sunrise
In the end I would like to cite Mevlâna Celâleddin-i Rûmî, one of my favourite Turkish author and spiritual leader: “Oruç, can gözünün açılması için bedenleri kör eder. Senin gönül gözün kör de, o yüzden kıldığın namazlar, yaptığın ibadetler sana o aydınlığı vermiyor, hakikati göstermiyor.”(www.memleket.com.tr) According to my amateur translation the meaning of Mevlana’s words are “Fasting, blinds our body in order to open our soul’s eye. If your heart is blind, your prayers, worship won’t enlighten you, won’t show you the truth.”
Image source: http://turkiyemayyildiz.com/showthread.php?tid=1221