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Islam in Turkey

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 12:22

Islam in Turkey

Hearing the call to prayer, called Ezan from the mosque five times a day, instead of church bells may come as a surprise to many of you. Some foreigners find the sound annoying, but once you understand what is being said, the Ezan may become a beautiful and peaceful sound to your ears. Each call to prayer is slightly different, but in general, what bi being said is "come to pray" "God is Great", and this call to prayer serves to remind us to take a moment out of ou busy day and "connect" with God. The actual Muslim prayers are performed shortly thereafter in mosque or in private, within homes, offices, or even in public.
Islam is based on the holy book “Kuran”, believed to be sent to Prophet Mohammed via the Angel Gabriel, by Allah (God).

In contrast to Christianity, Muslims believe there is no sin at birth and again that there is no sin that cannnot be forgiven. An important tenant in Islam is this: "There can be no compulsion in religion" (i.e. people must be free to choose their faith of their own free will). Muslims respect other religons and do not judge people of other faiths to be unbelievers. However they give no concession on the belief that there is only one God. In Islam, the word God is synonymous with Allah. Worship, helping each other, doing favors and cleanness are important principles in Islam.

There are five requirements in Islam (called the Five Pillars of Islam):

1. Belief that "There is no God but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is His messenger"

2. Offering of five daily prayers.

3. Fasting during Ramazan.

4. Paying Zakat, a compulsory annual tax of 2.5 per cent on savings and assets. It is distributed among the poor.

5. Haj: the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who can afford it financially and physically.

There are different beliefs in Islam, as in Christianity. In Turkey there are “Sunni” and “Alevi” sects. However, majority of the Muslim population is Sunni. Their belief is that Prophet Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. Besides abiding by the rules of The Koran they try to live according to Mohammed’s sayings, or Hadis as they are called. Worship takes place in mosques and there are separate sections for men and women within these mosques. All prayers are in Arabic. This is a subject that still fuels debate and arguments in Turkish public opinion. In Islam the consumption of alcohol is forbidden. In Turkey however, Islam is practiced in a more moderate way and whether or not you drink alcohol will depend to a large extent on the practice in your family.

Turkey is a republic based on secular, democratic, and pluralistic principles and religious law (Sharia) is not practiced or enforced in Turkey. However there is a great increase in veiled women and bearded and scull-capped men which is an indication of radical Islam movement in Turkey.

Sunni Muslims celebrate Ramazan, Şeker Bayramı (after Ramazan), Kurban Bayramı the end of “Haj” period, and 5 Kandils on various dates in throughout the year.

Alevi sects believe that Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed, should have become the next Caliph (religious leader). Turkish Alevi Muslims should not be compared with “Shite” sect found in Iran, Lebanon etc., for Turkish Alevis strongly believe in “Bektashism”, a kind of “Shamanism” prevalent in Anatolia. They pray in Turkish, not in Arabic. They do not go to mosques; instead they have Cem Evi where women and men worship all together. They have no prohibition for wine and alcoholic beverages. Their fast is not during the holy month Ramazan but on another lunar month Muharrem and lasts for 15 days. Muharrem is also Aşure time for both Sunnis and Alevis. The most important Alevi festival is Nevruz, which celebrates the beginning of spring. Alevis tend to be more open-minded and do not veil themselves as Sunnis. They continue to, contribute to the secular and democratic mission of the country.

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