Insight into Islam, the prophet and Ramadan

BY LEYLA YVONNE ERGIL

 ISTANBUL APR 14, 2022 – DAILY SABAH

Muslims break their fast as part of iftar, in Sultanahmet Square during Ramadan, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 10, 2022. (Shutterstock Photo)

Muslims break their fast as part of iftar, in Sultanahmet Square during Ramadan, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 10, 2022. (Shutterstock Photo)

As billions of Muslims take part in the planet’s largest communal fast, in which they refrain from eating, drinking and vices during the daylight hours, let us reflect on some of the deeper meaning behind the sacred month of Ramadan

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Faithful are seen performing the Tarawih prayer during the first night of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 1, 2022 (DHA Photo)

Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque holds 1st Tarawih prayer in 88 years

HAGIA-SOPHIA-GRAND-MOSQUE

The month of Ramadan is upon us and many devout in Turkey are practicing a 30-day daylight fast considered a special time of worship that is one of the five pillars of Islam. Held in the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, the dates of this sacred time of worship alter each year by approximately 10-11 days. This means that every year, the dates of this monthlong dawn-to-sunset fast shift by around the same days. This year, Ramadan is from April 2 to May 1, and next year it will take place from March 23 to April 20 and so forth.

It’s all around the moon …

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, each month begins with the sighting of the first crescent of a new moon. Similarly, the month of Ramadan kicks off with the sighting of the ninth crescent, which traditionally people would wait to witness in the night sky before embarking on this holy month of fasting. Ramadan is a highly anticipated time of the year in which people focus on self-reflection, self-control, gratitude and empathy for those less fortunate.

Muslims attend the first Friday prayer of Ramadan, at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8, 2022. (Reuters Photo)
Muslims attend the first Friday prayer of Ramadan, at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8, 2022. (Reuters Photo)

As the timing of the sighting of the moon differs based on where you are geographically located, these days many follow the times listed according to the moon’s placement over Mecca. Meaning “Mother of all Settlements,” Mecca is the holy capital of Islam and is revered as the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is also in close proximity to the Hira Cave atop Jabal-al-Nur, which means the “Mountain of Light,” where Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed in full to the prophet. Millions wait their whole lives to take a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca to become a hajji, which, like the month of Ramadan, is one of the five pillars of Islam along with alms, prayer and profession of faith.

Month the Quran was revealed

The month of Ramadan has always remained sacred for Muslims for many reasons, but most of all because it is the time in which the Quran is believed to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah. During this time period, the prophet is believed to have received the verbatim word of God, which he then shared. Thus, the Prophet Muhammad is considered to be the chief interpreter of the Quran and the only earthly individual to understand it fully. While the prophet has also been credited with creating a number of miracles, such as splitting the moon, he is more so revered for leading a highly moral-based life and his actions have always served as an example of how to best live this life. The Prophet Muhammad and his teachings and practices are also recalled in a text referred to as Hadith, which recounts sayings from the prophet and traditions from his daily practice. Hadith serves as a major source of religious guidance for Muslims, alongside, of course, the Quran.

Muslims attend the first Friday prayer of Ramadan, at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8, 2022. (Reuters Photo)
Muslims attend the first Friday prayer of Ramadan, at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8, 2022. (Reuters Photo)

A hafiz, or for women hafiza, which literally translates into the words “guardian” and “memorizer,” refers to those who have completely memorized the Quran by heart. While it doesn’t guarantee official status, hafiz are highly respected in their communities and have been known to be made imams in the past. Imams are the official religious leaders of mosques, and every mosque has an imam – and it is a challenging position to acquire. Many imams are appointed to various jurisdictions and thus, like us expats who reside in Turkey, they can also be referred to as “yabancı” and thus we have the opportunity to share a special connection with our local imams as being newcomers to a particular area.

Imams are tasked with leading prayers five times a day. A muezzin, like an imam, is a highly trained individual in Islamic scholarship and is tasked with performing the call to prayer from mosques. Muezzins are selected and trained also for their vocal skills and used to recite the prayer from the minarets of mosques. These days the person reciting the adhan, an imam or a muezzin, do not go up to the minaret’s balcony, given the technological advances in sound systems, so they recite it from inside the mosques, or through aa central system where adhan is recited by one person at a mosque and is broadcasted to other mosques.

Turkish dishes can be seen with the New Mosque in the background, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2006. (Shutterstock Photo)
Turkish dishes can be seen with the New Mosque in the background, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2006. (Shutterstock Photo)

During the month of Ramadan, there is a special communal prayer called Tarawih that is in addition to the five daily prayer ceremonies. The Tarawih is a voluntary prayer which traditionally people perform at mosques in a congregation following the night prayer and it can also be performed alone at home.

I bet you didn’t know …

A fun fact for any foreigner is that in the Shrine of Sacred Relics housed in Topkapı Palace, the Quran has been recited in full and continuously 24-hours a day in rotation by 12 hafiz for over 400 years. While it is indeed a sacred ceremony, it is one that visitors can witness in person, albeit as a silent and respectful observer.

Fog covers a mosque at night in Istanbul, Turkey, April 6, 2022. (AA Photo)
The historic Selimiye Mosque is adorned with "mahya," in Edirne, Turkey, March 30, 2022. (AA Photo)

Forgiveness on ‘The Night of Destiny’

There is an especially sacred night during the month of Ramadan, which is called Laylat al-Qadr when the Quran was revealed, and will take place this year on Wednesday, April 27. This night, referred to as “The Night of Destiny,” is spent by Muslims in prayer and meditation to seek forgiveness for past sins. This evening is considered to be an opportunity to have salvation from all wrongdoings and prayer during this time is said by the prophet himself, and in the Quran, to be better than a thousand months. If you do the math, this means praying on this evening alone can divinely be equivalent to a lifetime of prayer as 1,000 months adds up to just over 83 years.

Ramadan is also very much a time of charity and offering alms and doing good during this time is considered to be rewarded seventyfold. Meanwhile, according to Islamic belief, the Torah was also bestowed on the Prophet Moses during the month, the Gospel was bestowed on the Prophet Jesus and the Psalms on the Prophet David; thus this is understandably believed to be a blessed time of self-devotion to greater love.

source https://www.dailysabah.com/life/religion/insight-into-islam-the-prophet-and-ramadan

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