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Holy month Ramadan starts for millions of worshipers

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Millions of Muslims across the globe and in Türkiye welcome the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan, one of the three months of great importance for the faithful with the first night prayer (tarawih) scheduled for Wednesday.

Aerial view of Taksim mosque decorated prior to Ramadan, Istanbul, Türkiye, March 20, 2023. (IHA Photo)
Aerial view of Taksim mosque decorated prior to Ramadan, Istanbul, Türkiye, March 20, 2023. (IHA Photo)

 In most countries in the Middle East, the fasting month will commence on Thursday at dawn.

The first Tarawih prayer of the “Sultan of Eleven Months” – Ramadan – will be held in mosques across Türkiye on Wednesday evening, with preparations including traditional cleaning of places of worship being undertaken days in advance.

The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque being cleaned prior to Ramadan, Istanbul, Türkiye, March 21, 2023. (IHA Photo)
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque being cleaned prior to Ramadan, Istanbul,
Türkiye, March 21, 2023. (IHA Photo)

Ramadan in Türkiye will last 29 days this year, according to the lunar month calculations of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), and the High Council of Religious Affairs as the crescent of the month of Shawwal will be sighted on the evening of the 29th day of Ramadan.

On the first day, the longest fast – lasting 13 hours 56 minutes – will be observed in the northern province of Sinop, and the shortest with 13 hours 47 minutes in the southeastern provinces of Adana, Hatay, Kilis, Mersin and Şanlıurfa.

Ramadan, solidarity

This year’s Ramadan in Türkiye will be highly centered on providing support, relief and solidarity to the survivors of last month’s earthquakes that devastated vast swathes of the country’s southeastern region.

“We aim to continue the sensitivity to heal the wounds of our earthquake survivors by strengthening the awareness of social solidarity with programs we will conduct during the month of Ramadan,’’ Diyanet President Ali Erbaş noted earlier this week.

The Diyanet, which determined this year’s Ramadan theme as “Ramadan and Solidarity,” fixed the amount of Fitra (charity) to be distributed at the end of Ramadan at TL 70 ($3.7).

And while Türkiye and a number of other Muslim nations across the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait determined the first day of Ramadan fast to be on Thursday based on a moon-sighting methodology, whereas authorities in Morocco, Jordan and Algeria were expected to announce their decision whether Ramadan would start on Thursday or Friday after observing the crescent on Wednesday.

The fasting month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. During Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Hijri calendar and the month when verses of the Quran began being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is the period during which observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk and traditionally gather with family and friends to break their fast at sunset.

However, the sick, travelers, children, the elderly, nursing mothers and pregnant women are exempted from the religious obligation; and yet they can observe other lighter activities to extend their bond with God such as donating financial aid (Sadakah) to those in need, or engaging in meal preparation activities for other household members who refrain from eating and drinking.

Apart from the religious aspects of Ramadan, there are several traditions preserved by Turks to mark the beginning of the holy month such as purchasing fresh products and dates in open markets and old bazaars. Every year, regardless of weather conditions, citizens huddle to Istanbul’s Grand and Spice Bazaars to purchase dates and other dry fruits served for iftar.

Erdal Yusufoğlu, a tradesman in Eminönü, in Istanbul’s historic peninsula speaking to Ihlas News Agency (IHA) said, “Saturday, Sunday was beautiful. There was no crowd yesterday, but today there is more congestion,” referring to a number of visitors at the bazaar. “There’re no problems, sales are going good, and products such as white cheese, olives are preferred,” Yusufoğlu noted.

The start of Ramadan in the northwestern province of Bursa meanwhile will be marked with voluntary Tarawih prayers in the city’s landmark mosques as well as the six-centuries old Sultan Orhan Bey Mosque that will be open for prayers after a three-year-long restoration process that is 98% complete.

On the other hand, Ramadan in the earthquake-hit region will be marked in a completely different manner this year, as many survivors will welcome the arrival of the holy month in temporary settlements – some 480,000 tents and around 25,000 containers established in the region since the ”disaster of the century.” At the same time, the Tarawih prayers will be held in improvised objects and tents instead of mosques, as dozens of them including the historic Ulu Mosque in Dıyarbakır, New Mosque in Malatya and Abdülhamid Han Mosque in Kahramanmaraş sustained damage from the powerful tremors.

NGO activities

Some associations and foundations in the country, which deliver humanitarian aid all over the world, will prioritize the disaster-hit area for the 2023 Ramadan campaigns.

Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which have completed their preparations, are planning to set up iftar tables in the earthquake-affected region and to distribute food, blankets, clothes, baby food and materials to those in need.

Organizations including the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), Federation of the Associations that Value Humanity (IDDEF), Hayrat Association, Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) and Türkiye Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) have shared their plans for conducting activities and programs to heal the wounds of earthquake victims.

Representatives from TÜGVA noted they will organize various events as part of “Children’s Festivals” in Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Gaziantep, Osmaniye, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman and Kilis, offering the concept of Ramadan Street and a puppet show for the children. Similarly, providing relief with the slogan “Goodness is with you” (“Iyilik Seninle”), IDDEF noted it would provide 20,000 iftar meals daily in the region affected by Feb. 6 earthquakes.

The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration of a three-day holiday called Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, which is set to be between April 21-23 this year.