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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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Latest comments about this article

 By senem  1.4.2010

Have you heard the website www.notyboard.com ? it is very popular in Turkey (especially in Istanbul).. no memebership , no charge...it is like craigslist ...you can post your annoncement to this web site...there are many users from Istanbul... I want to inform you about this useful site

 By annonymous  5.5.2009

I would like to say that I also agree that the comment that the article makes about scarves and prayer hats is offensive. I am Turkish and Muslim also and I find it offensive to say that just because someone is wearing either attire it makes them a symbol of some form of increased Islamic radicalism. It is wrong to say such a thing, there are elderly Turkish people who have worn that attire all their lives and have a right to do, as do anyone who is young and chooses to as well. After all, Turkey is a Democratic country. In other countries when someone wears religious attire (for example a Crucifix) it is not seen as a symbol of increasing Christian radicalism. Also, Islam has been a part of Turkish society for centuries and the Ottoman empire hosted the Caliphate. The comment that the article makes is very biased and offesnive. I long to see the day when Turkey will not fight with it´s many identities but embrace each of them to the extent that the individual chooses.

 By sazji  10.12.2007

I meant also to comment on the exchange below. I would not deny that there is more radical Islam than before. But the argument that a woman who fulfils a basic obligation of Islam is a ”radical” because the state has forbidden her from adhering to that obligation is rather facile. I would wager that such a prohibition creates radicals; though certainly it is not the only cause, it has become a huge rallying point in Turkey recently. As for ”what is Turkish,” that changes around the country - what is tradition for women in Bayburt is very different from that of Turkmen women in the Toros Mountains. Also, Istanbul women most certainly did wear a veil, the ferace, at one time, and not only in the palace. Islam itself was once not ”Turkish” but now it is, and there is as much regional and social variation in its observation as there is in other aspects of Turkish life.

 By sazji  10.12.2007

Alevism is commonly defined as a ”heterodox sect of Islam.” The question of whether Alevis are Muslim or not might get several different answers depending on who you ask, even which Alevi you ask. Some strict Sunnis might say that if they don´t follow the five pillars of Islam then they are not Muslim period. Some Alevis insist that they are Muslim, some will say they are ”true” Muslims and the orthodox Muslims have become too focused on a legalistic form of Islam. Others downplay the religious aspect of Alevism and say it is a philosophy and way of life. Some want to revive some of the religious aspects that have been lost, others want it to contine becoming more humanistic. There is no central Alevi clergy to dictate answers to these questions, and the migration of large numbers of Alevis to cities and the disruption of the traditional way of life have brought great changes. So has the increased openness; in the 80s it was still quite secretive and people hardly mentioned the word ”Alevi,” now there are cem evleri all over Istanbul, the sema is danced in public performance and the subject is common in the media.

 By qdemir  30.6.2007

´They have no prohibition for wine and alcoholic beverages.´ Aren´t Alevis muslim? Alcohol is ´haram´ (banned) in Islam.

 By techie  21.1.2007

i would like to comment to what rayna0215 said... i am turkish, and i am muslim. if it is a question in any sense. You wrote that you were offended by ”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.” first of all i think you have been living in turkey long enough to know about the law numbered 2596 if not, i hope your turkish is strong enough to comprehend this website; http://www.ataturkiye.com/devrimleri/kilikkiyafetkanunu.html under the laws you cannot wear veils or skull-caps, which means that by doing so you are automatically breaking the law which means you are a radical. I hope you understand that the style of clothing has for most people ceised to be a method of approaching god, and has become a political statement, a statement by people that wishe to remove the Republic of Turkey from the modern world, and instead place it among nations like Saudii Arabia. It is absolutely true that Turkiye has been experiencing a wave of fundamentalism. It is unfortunate that you have not lived in turkey long enough to have known its better days, which started vanishing in the early 90s. Another thing is that turkish customs do not originally include a veil, that is a middle eastern concept, which was practiced by the women in the palace, of course that is a completely different concept seeing that the sultan/padisah had his harem, which made him overly protective of his women. anatolian women on the other hand, used and still use to this day a simpler kerchief. THAT is turkish. Anything beyond that, is NOT.

 By rayna0215  24.10.2006

This article states ”there is a great increase in veiled women and bearded and scull-capped men which is an indication of radical Islam movement in Turkey.” I just wanted to say as a an American Muslim (that lived for a year in Turkey) I find this statement highly offensive. Why is it that if someone chooses to wear a veil or scullcap that they are necessarily ”radical Islamicists?” People choose to dress in these ways for a multitude of reasons including purely cultural reasons. I have worn hijab (headscarf) for about 6 years in the U.S. and in Turkey. I am peaceful, generally liberal-minded, and have friends from all walks of life and religious persuasions. Almost entirely without exception, both in Turkey and the U.S., those I have met who dress in this way are the same. I´ve also worked in several jobs with people of a variety of beliefs with no problem or conflict with co-workers or customers. I wish that people would drop this kind ”war on terror” secularist rhetoric and deal with others as people with similar needs, desires, etc. in life. People with different beliefs CAN live and work together in a spirit of understanding and cooperation.

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