ISTANBUL – Sharing the spiritual experience of Ramadan fasting, Turkey non-Muslims are celebrating the holy month’s customs with their Muslim counterparts like one family.
“Ramadan, to me, is a time of celebration like American Thanksgiving, for 30 days in a row,” Roberta Olson Ozgunduz, an American married to a Turk who has been living in Istanbul since the 1980s, told SETimes on Thursday, July 26.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
After sunset, a special atmosphere colors Istanbul with illuminated mosques and crowded restaurants offering special Ramadan menus.
Sharing Muslims iftars, non-Muslims find such customs colorful, with delicious dishes specific to Ramadan.
“It is always a nice feeling because when breaking the fast with Muslim friends even when I don't fast is still very special, and it makes everybody feel a part of the same family,” said Ozgunduz.
“So, it is one of my favorite times in Turkey.”
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.
During Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Turkey celebrated the start of the holy fasting month on Friday, July 20.
Capitalizing on the holy fasting month's spirit of sharing, Ramadan offered non-Muslims a better opportunity to foster relations with their Muslim neighbors.
“Ramadan is for us to socialize, blend with other religions of the society, and to understand them,” Ceki Baruh, a Jewish resident of Istanbul, said.
For Baruh, sharing iftar with her Muslim friends is always a celebrated event.
“One of my favorite activities is to share Iftar with my Muslim friends and live that enthusiasm,” she said.
“And if I can, I try not to eat during those days in order to bring a value to my activity.
“We should also emphasize that during Ramadan, the representatives of different religions in Istanbul organize joint dinners to celebrate the holy spirit of that month.”
Muslims make up approximately 99 percent of Turkey's population, but the country is also home to several ancient Christian communities and Jews.
They include nearly 70,000 Armenians, 20,000 Greek Orthodox -- mostly based in Istanbul -- and 20,000 Syriac Christians, who speak a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.