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Breaking the fast: Stories of a different Ramadan in 2020

What is Ramadan and how has observing the traditions of the Muslim faith been adapted in 2020?

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Breaking the fast: Stories of a different Ramadan in 2020

Ramadan, the thirty-day Islamic holiday marking the time when Qur’an is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad by God, is currently underway. The holy month requires Muslims to spend this period abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours, as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith.

Recep Ay, a Certificate I student in Spoken and Written English at GOTAFE, is the Imam (religious leader) at the Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre and Mosque. His role is to lead daily prayers and to teach the people and children of the mosque about the Qur’an. Recep has kindly offered to give us some insight into what Ramadan means to him and how observing these traditions of the Muslim faith have been adapted in 2020

What is the significance of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. It is seen as being a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement and a chance to practice increased devotion to the religion. Muslims believe that during Ramadan the gates of heaven are opened, and the gate of hell closed. Through fasting, it is believed that a person is showing sincere faith and will therefore be forgiven all sins by Allah.

The Qur'an

What is the spiritual significance of fasting?

Fasting is one of the 5 pillar of Islam – the fundamental rules that Muslims follow. The ritual involves abstaining from all food and drink, even water, from dawn to sunset. It allows followers to understand the suffering of others.

Every evening, Recep recites the Tarawih, a special nightly prayer to break the fast. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, worshipers are not allowed to visit the mosque so Recep has been uploading virtual prayer sessions so that the members of his community continue to feel connected to their faith.

Praying in the mosque

What are some of the other common ways this month is honoured?

Ramadan allows worshipers to concentrate their minds on their devotions to their faith. This includes abstaining from acts of anger, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness and helping the needy by giving monetary donations to charity. Honouring this month allows Muslims to appreciate food, thank God for what they have and makes them closer to each other and to other people around them.

Are there any variations to the way Ramadan is observed this year?

Recep explained that this year is a much more somber and considered Ramadan. He says that the closure of the mosque has had a huge impact on the way that the Ramadan traditions are followed and celebrated. Muslims would usually pray together at the end of the day and celebrate the break in fasting with communal meals. He fears for older generations who are particularly isolated during this time. He described how Muslims are social people and that the mosque has an open-door policy to anyone who wishes to learn about Islam and share in a meal with the Muslim community. This is now not possible under the current restrictions and Recep says that while it gives everyone an opportunity to make use of other technologies to keep in touch, he is looking forward to a time to celebrate altogether again!

Praying in the mosque for Ramadan

Are there any traditional foods you eat during Ramadan?

Iftar is the meal eaten to break a day of fasting at sunset. Recep explained that the first sip of water is hugely anticipated and that it is also common practice to break the fast by eating date, a fruit mentioned multiple times in the Qur’an.

Recep says that the Iftar meal is usually as much a social event as it is a gastronomical adventure with plenty of stews, curries, soups and pilaf rice dishes adorning the table. However, there is one cultural practice that he particularly enjoys! In Turkey, where Recep hails from, yoghurt-based drinks are very popular accompaniment to the Iftar meal – and very healthy too!

Dates to break the fast during Ramadan

Here is a recipe for Aryan – a deliciously unusual salty yoghurt drink that goes well with spicy dishes! Give it a go!

  • 400g natural yoghurt
  • cups soda water
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • Handful of ice cubes
  • Mint and cucumber finely chopped (optional)
  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz till combined and frothy
  • Serve chilled
Ayran Turkish Yoghurt Drink

A great deal of focus of Ramadan is on prayer - what will you be praying about this year?

Congregational prayers are common place during the month of Ramadan; a chance to come together as a community after facing the struggles of fasting for the day. This year will see a change to that as prayers are being directed from home and Recep thinks while this will dampen the usual spirit, he will be praying for the continued safety of the community and using the opportunity to access a deeper level of self-reflection.

Recep Ay student of GOTAFE
Thank you, Recep and Ramadan Mubarak to all!

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