The five pillars of Islam differ slightly between the major sects, but can be basically summarized as: (1) profess monotheism and accept Muhammad as God’s messenger, (2) do the five prayers daily, (3) alms to the poor, (4) make the pilgrimage of the hajj, and the one that is relevant to this particular blog (5) to fast at various times, but especially during Ramadan. The last one is the one this particular post focuses on.
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to fast (during daylight hours) for the sake of Allah and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
As it turned out, I was in Istanbul at the beginning of Ramadan last year. On the European side of the Bosporus lie some of Istanbul’s most famous buildings: the Hagia Sophia , the Topkapi Palace, and the iconic Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). Immediately next door to the Blue Mosque is a public park, where families congregate in the early evening hours during Ramadan to await sun down and the call to prayer.
As they wait, they set up their soon-to-be-consumed feasts of food and drink on the tables. All around the park are vendors, selling Turkish food delights. After sundown, the evening call to prayer plays over the loudspeakers of the adjacent mosque and then, the fast is broken and the revelry begins.
Ramadan in Istanbul reminded me a bit of a county fair in the American South. Quite a bit different type of county fair, in that whirling dervishes were some of the main entertainment, but nonetheless, it was that same spirit of community and family that infused the entire place. That and the children, running around with wild abandon. It was a great festival to witness.