Islam is a faith that developed the in 7th century during the life of Muhammad. Muhammad was born into a Quyrash tribe that wandered the desert as nomads with small herds of sheep seeking new pastures. This group of people largely known as the Bedouin became associated with excellent story-telling and beautiful poetry; their history was based on oral tradition. Muhammad was raised by his Uncle because he was orphaned as child. Family relationships, in Bedouin society, are critical to survival. Without clan membership it’s unlikely for a person to survive independently on their own. As Muhammad grew older, he met his wife Khadija, who was the daughter of a wealthy Meccan merchant. However, in 610 AD, Muhammad experienced a revelation at Mount Hira. The angel Gabril “Gibril” descended from the heavens with one key message that forever change the life of Muhammad and marked the start of a new faith known as Islam. Gabriel told Muhammad: to “recite in the name of God.” Thus establishing Muhammad as the prophet, or voice of God on earth, according to Muslim tradition.
Muslims follow many traditions and these traditions are marked by the five pillars, which include:
- Profession of Faith
- Alms (Zakat)
- Ramadan (Ramazon)
In Istanbul this week is Ramadan, which follows the Muslim lunar calendar and roughly falls about 11 days earlier each year. Ramazan or Ramada kicks off with something known as “iftar.” When “ifkar” first began in Istanbul, cannons rang and fireworks rang out next to our hotel. Since then, the days tend to be quieter but around 8:45 each evening, when the sun sets the city comes back to life again with merchants eager to sell their goodies and restaurants filing rapidly with those who fasted all day long. During Ramadan, faithful Muslims fast during the hours of sun up to sun down. Consequently, the pace and feel of the city slows. Less people crowd into the holy shrines, and the cafes that were once bustling with a mix of tourists and natives, dwindle to foreigners in foreign places.
Historically speaking, the tradition of Ramadan or fasting dates back to life before the Muhammad. The practice of fasting in early nomadic societies was a way to calm tensions between rival clans and tribes. Some may argue that this practice of peace through fasting is still a positive outcome. In fact, if you have been following the recent protests in Egypt, some journalists are describing how the same dynamic of fasting and peace, may bring some stability to the political entrenched region.
Just today I read an interesting news article about different religious groups gather to share an iftar meal together, and I was admittedly touched by the sign co-cooperation between groups that have a special, yet tenuous, tradition of co-existing in Turkey today. You can read more about it here: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/non-muslim-communities-join-fraternal-sisli-iftar.aspx?pageID=238&nid=50613
Also, I've posted a trailer to a movie about muezzins, or those that call Muslims to worship.
Their lives seemed fascinating, and if you are interested, I encourage you learn more and check it out.