A Ramadan primer for expats in Türkiye
We have just entered the holiest month of the year for Muslims and in Türkiye, many have begun a 29-day fast from dawn to dusk. Here is a summary of the most important details of this sacred time
he month of Ramadan has begun, with many Muslims in Türkiye starting the 29-day fast that will take place from Thursday, March 23 to Friday, April 21. Muslims in Türkiye and across the world will fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, which in Türkish is referred to as “Ramazan.”
Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, self-discipline and renewal. Thus, it is considered the holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The dates, therefore, are set by the sighting of the moon and move by 30 days each year.
On April 21 to 23, Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, will begin, which is the three-day national holiday that follows the fast and is referred to as Ramazan Bayramı in Turkish. It is also colloquially referred to as “Şeker Bayramı,” which means the Feast of Sweets, because there is a tradition of children being gifted sweets by family members and neighbors.
In some neighborhoods, kids even knock on their neighbor’s doors, similar to Halloween in the U.S. sans the costumes and during the day. But, it is handy to have a selection of treats or chocolates to offer to the visitors on Eid, which is also a central custom of this very important holiday in Türkiye.
Traditions of Ramadan fast
The Ramadan fast begins with sahur, the last predawn meal before the start of the daily fast. This meal ends before dawn and in some neighborhoods in Türkiye, the custom for strolling drummers to bang a beat intended to wake people up so they can eat this sacred meal before sunrise is still being practiced. The meal served in the morning is similar in most regards to a Turkish breakfast, however in this case there are also soups, compotes, and dried fruits and nuts. This is because, throughout the day, those adhering to the fast will not intake any food, water or other vices such as cigarettes.
That is until sunset when the special Maghrib prayer is read and iftar, a dinner to mark the breaking of the daily fast, begins. While sahur begins with the beating of drums, iftar in some areas also begins with a cannon blast! The iftar is the most highly anticipated meal and most times it looks like a feast that is shared amongst family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. Villages, towns and cities across Türkiye also have iftar tents set up where people can attend and break the fast with members of the community.
While the iftar meal is also generally a huge spread of soup, meat stews, beans, vegetable dishes, rice and desserts, the meal traditionally begins by partaking in three dates just as the Prophet Muhammad would do. The Prophet Muhammad would also share his meal and recommended others to do the same as a charity, which is the essence of many Ramadan tents set up in various neighborhoods. Charity by giving to those less fortunate is highly practiced in the month of Ramadan.