A Celebration of Solidarity, Friendship and Good Fortune…

Eid ul-Fitr is a three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.  But do you know what it all means?

Well, I am sure you are aware that Muslim people across the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.  It is the month in which the Qu’ran to was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed and, based on the Lunar calendar, it is the ninth lunar month, generally falling 11 days earlier each year.

The first revelation of the Qu’ran was said to have taken place in 610AD, during which time the Prophet Muhammed was visited by the Angel Gabriel in a cave located on the mountain Jabal an-Nour, near Mecca.

It is suggested by some news sources that first Eid was celebrated in 624AD by the Prophet Muhammad after the victory of the battle of Jang-e-Badar, a key battle in the early days of Islam and a considered a turning point in Muhammed’s struggle against his opposers in Mecca.  The celebration  was to give thanks to God for the strength, and the victory, he had provided.

“And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:123-124)

Fasting is the fourth of the “Five Pillars of Islam”, which are essentially five intentions to living a good life and are considered fundamental to being a good Muslim; the five pillars are Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ramadan is only observed by those considered to be “able”, which means children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, anyone suffering from a medical condition or who is ill, and the elderly, are all excluded from this obligation.

Fasting is observed from dawn until dusk and is considered to not be merely a physical self-restraint but also a time for purposeful action, generosity, and augmenting your relationship with God.  Many fasts are broken with friends or at organised iftar gatherings, to celebrate kinship. Most restaurants, both high end and budget, will offer iftar menus.  In Turkey, dates and olives are staple Ramadan mezes and fasts are traditionally broken with them.

Hadith from Prophet Muhammad
– The Prophet said: “Break your fast by eating dates as it is purifying.” (Narrated by Ahmad)
– The Prophet said: “ Whoever finds dates should break his fast with them and the one who does not should break his fast with water because it is pure”

Although the tradition is slowing disappearing, during Ramadan, you may well hear a drummer beating his drum loudly and rhythmically, a few hours before dawn, to rouse people from their slumber for sahur, their pre-dawn meal. The drummer will usually be adorned in traditional Turkish clothing.

One of the primary purposes that is supposed to be observed during the month of Ramadan, is to demonstrate generosity and give alms.  The wealthy are expected to donate money, communities prepare iftar meals for the less fortunate and Turkish Aid organisations attempt to reach out to more people.  Indeed, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) Kerem Kinik is quoted as saying that the aid agency aimed to reach a total of 10 million people during the Holy month of Ramadan (source: hiiraan.com).

The festival of Eid ul-Fitr begins with the first sight of the new moon in the sky.  In Turkey, Eid ul-Fitr is referred to as Şeker Bayramı (“Bayram of Sweets”) or Ramazan Bayramı (“Ramadan Bayram”) and is a public holiday.  It is a time when everyone puts on their best clothes, often bought especially for the occasion, and attends prayer services, visits loved ones and pays their respects to the dead.  Children will go around their neighbourhood, wishing their neighbours and friends a “Mutlu Bayramlar”, for which they will be rewarded with sweets, chocolates and traditional treats such as baklava and Turkish Delight.

Whether you are a tourist or living in Fethiye, it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement and energy surrounding Eid ul-Fitr.  A celebration of solidarity, friendship and good fortune, I cannot think of a better way to get to know the community and the people who live there.

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