Muslims holy month of Ramadan to start tomorrow
Reuters PhotosMuslims in Turkey are set to begin fasting on June 18 for the holy month of Ramadan, when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset.
While Ramadan starts for many Turks on June 18, the first day of the fasting differs in several Arab and African nations, which will start their fasting after the new moon is sighted. Sighting the new crescent moon is essential for the start of any month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
Fasting, held from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, is one of the Five Pillars (fundamental religious duties) of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion. Ramadan is also a time of increased religious observance and socializing, with families sharing rich meals after sunset, followed by gatherings with friends or neighbors.
During Ramadan, which will continue for 30 days, Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
Welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, pious residents in Istanbul are expected to fill mosques to perform Tarawih prayers, an extra prayer specific to Ramadan, according to the practices of the Prophet Muhammad, which is performed by Muslims following the obligatory night prayer known as ‘Isha.
The historic Blue Mosque and the Eyüp Sultan Mosque are the two most symbolic spaces for these prayers during Ramadan in Istanbul.
The first Tarawih, which are held in mosques every night of the month, will begin on June 18.
During Ramadan, local municipalities in Istanbul organize mass public iftar meals - free meals consisting of soup, stew, pudding and juice - while street performances such as clown and shadow puppet shows are put on for locals.
Throughout the course of the fasting month, Muslims are urged to perform extra prayers, recite the Quran, give alms to the poor, and refrain from misbehavior. Ramadan ends with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Meanwhile, Muslims in the Nordic region can expect new guidelines for coping with a sun that never sets ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, a Swedish Muslim association said on June 16.
This year, Ramadan begins three days before the longest day of the year, when the sun blazes around the clock above the Arctic Circle and only sets for a few hours further south, presenting a problem for Muslims in Scandinavia who are expected to fast until sunset.
“We’ve got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting,” Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, told AFP.
“You’re supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm,” he said.
In previous years, Muslims in sub-Arctic towns like Kiruna were advised to break their fast at the same time as people in the south but a meeting of Swedish and European imams in northern Sweden this week recommended a new approach.
“Now you should go by the last time the sun clearly set and rose,” said Kharraki, adding that detailed guidelines were still being worked out and could also involve breaking the fast in the early evening to be more in line with the rest of the world.
The new rules being drawn up by a pan-European association - the European Council for Fatwa and Research - are expected to apply across the continent and will include advice on situations where Muslims can break the fast to avoid collapsing from lack of food and water.
“People can try to fast for 19 hours but not handle it. That’s not the idea ... If you can’t manage to do your work or stay on your feet, then it’s time to break the fast,” said Kharraki.