When speaking of Ramadan, the first thing that comes to mind is the fast. We embrace Ramadan with some related notes. Instead of what we all know, we’ll touch on some points from the history of faith. From the fast tradition of the Maya to the most “the strictest” fast in the world…here some amazing notes from all four corners of the world.

* Our first note is about the origin of the word. Oruc (fast) entered the Turkish language from Farsi. It’s from the Farsi word “Ruze” meaning “daily”. The word first transformed into “oruze” then “oruc”. In Arabic however, the word “savm” is the equivalent of oruc. Savm means abstention from eating and drinking and giving up worldly things.

* Oruc is one of 5 pillars of Islam but it is known that it’s also seen in monotheistic religions and Far Eastern beliefs. It has lost its popularity in some belief systems nowadays but it has been practiced at the same intervals in the Muslim world and in other faith systems over the centuries.

* One interesting example is Jainism, a Far Eastern religion. Jainists fast continuously for 30 days and some fanatics of this faith fast “until they die”. As the faster is dying of hunger. Other believers perform rituals around him, sing hymns, and honor him until he passes away. Indeed, Mahaviraz, the founder of Jainism who lived between 599-527 BC, died during such a fast.

* Fasting on the 12th and 13th days of each month is tradition in another Far Eastern religion, Brahmanism. Over these 2 days nothing is eaten or drunk except one gulp of water. Even though it lasts only 2 days, a fast like this can be considered harsh because the elderly, the sick and even childeren are not exempted. Fasting was practiced in almost every faith before “organized religions” in ancient times. For instance, the fast traditions of the civilizations in the Americas are recorded in history. In the Mayan civilization fasting was practiced in terms of both eating-drinking and intercourse. Performing their rituals meticulously according to the rules. Mayans gave much importance to fasting to appease their gods.

* Likewise in ancient Rome and Greece, fasting was perceived “as sacrificing oneself to the Gods” and was observed. They believed that the Gods would protect them in return.

* As for our lands, this fast tradition still goes on in Anatolia. Ezidis fast between the 3rd and 5th days of September because they believe God ordered a 3-day fast, but sacred writings have been misinterpreted and the period has become 30 days instead of 3. This is not the only difference. Azidis offer wine on iftar tables: a tradition which is unthinkable in Islam. Moreover, Ezidimen of God fast for another 40 days once a year making a total of 80 days of fasting. It is considered to be part of their duty.

* Fasting is seen in the Alevi faith. Alevis practice a Muharrem fast. Starting from the 10th day of the Muharrem month they fast for 12 days every year. Starting from the 1st day of Sacrifice Festival, they count 20 days, they start to fast on the 20th night with acts of contemplation. The fast begins at sunrise and ends with iftar at sunset. Over 12 days, it’s forbidden to hold a wedding, sacrifice an animal, eat meat, and drink water. The body’s water need is met with drinks such as coffee and tea. Asure Soup (Noah’s Pudding), consisting of 12 different ingredients, is cooked on the 12th night of the month of Muharrem and distributed to the neighbors to end the fast period. Let’s finish our notes with tradition from the Ottoman courts.

* In Ramadan, ceramic straw colored plates would be put on the iftar tables of the Sultan, who normally would eat from colorful, ornamented China porcelain. In conformity with the spirit of Ramadan, as the people’s meals got richer, his got poorer. The Sultan, who normally dined alone, would take iftar with Ulema (the wise men of Islam) and the leading men of the court.


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