Muslims around the world will begin marking the holy month of Ramadan today by fasting during daylight hours, feasting after sunset and devoting greater attention to spiritual matters
While people in Turkey rush to the bazaars to begin Ramadan food preparations, in Jordan, a vendor at a bazaar displays a lit crescent during the holy month of Ramadan in Amman. EPA photo
Muslims across Turkey and around the world will begin marking Ramadan today, kicking off a month of fasting and pious reflection ahead of next month’s Ramadan bayram holiday. Istanbul is expected to see an upsurge in the number of tourists during the holy month, which will last from today until Aug. 18. During the month, many of the city’s mosques will be open for special Ramadan prayers.
While the month provides Muslims the opportunity to engage in spiritual pursuits, the most visible sign of Ramadan will be the fasting habits of the observant, who do not take food or drink from sunrise until sunset.
As such, the shopping and eating habits change markedly during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the month in which the Quran is said to first have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Two main meals are eaten – often with family and friends – “suhoor” before dawn, and “iftar” just after sundown. During the day, the pious take in nothing although there are exceptions for people who cannot maintain the fast for health or other reasons.
The month ends with the Ramadan bayram holiday, which is sometimes a big feast and other times a more humble affair, where friends and family often get together to share food and celebrate.
Observant Muslims are required to eat food that is “halal,” meaning it meets Islamic dietary guidelines for what is permissible. Other than that, the food served is dictated by culture and preference. In Morocco, one might eat lentil soups, in India, curry, and in Indonesia, kolak, a fruit dessert, according to the Associated Press.
One thing just about every Ramadan meal has in common is dates. Most observers break their fast with dates because this is what the Prophet Muhammad did. Observers are usually eager to offer each other dates to break the fast as a gesture of goodwill and to aid fellow worshippers in breaking the fast. According to AP, dates are also an excellent way to restore blood sugar. “Whether you’re from Senegal or Detroit, you’ll try to break your fast with dates,” said Yvonne Maffei, a food writer and recipe developer who publishes the website www.myhalalkitchen.com. “It’s just something Muslims hold very dear.”
Meals often start with a crunchy appetizer, perhaps a samosa in Pakistan or an egg roll in China, then move on to soups; people do not typically jump into meat dishes, though they likely will be served at some point during the meal. “Whether you’re Chinese Muslim or American
Muslim, you’re going to have meat on the table because it’s considered important to feed and nourish your guests. This is a time to show exceptional hospitality to your fasting guests,” said Maffei.