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Pragmatist Traditions in Islam in Turkey

The month of Ramadan represents the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. It is obligatory for people of Islam to fast during this month.

For 30 days, from sunrise to sunset, practicing Muslims deprive themselves of basic factors such as eating, drinking, and every pleasurable item for the entire period of Ramadan; and they try to better understand its absence.

Historians know the Turks as somewhat idiosyncratic. We always use our own style in love, war, peace, and traditions.

We can say that we are somewhat pragmatist Muslims when it comes to religion.

The traditions of our shaman-rooted ancestors, which we have adapted to the daily routine of the religion we live in Anatolia, wink at us from time to time.

It is stated by both theologians and philosophers that pragmatic justifications are tools to persuade the believer rather than being solid philosophical ones. We see that pragmatist arguments are simpler and more understandable, based on experience.

So, what can we give as examples of some of the habits (or superstitions) that have taken place in our daily lives, distinguishing us, Turks, from most Islamic societies?

Let's see together.

- Immediately picking up the bread that fell on the ground, kissing it, putting it to our forehead and then leaving it on the table:

Its origin comes from the Sabians who believed in Tammuz, one of the Sumerian Gods. According to belief, Bread is the flesh of Tammuz offered to people and that is why it is added sacredly. A healing ritual has developed for Tammuz, who lay/died during the wheat harvest period.

- Knocking on the wood to avoid the evil eye:

In shamanism, people were hitting trees to make sound to amke evil drive away and hidden spirits. Today, getting rid of evil eye is by knocking on the board to drive the bad, negative traits and people you call evil away.

- Not eating pork and consuming alcohol:

Maybe a vegetarian? Hahah, no, we're not talking about that; I think this title may be the title that expresses us Turks most colorfully. You may hear various reasons;

For some, "a pig is not an animal that grows and feeds in a clean environment so that its meat can be healthy." For some, it is the thought of "I am already committing a sin by drinking alcohol, so I should not commit any more sins."

Some people say, "I'm modern, but not that much." Some people exemplify the mistakes of others by saying, "What kind of hodji hodjas there are, they are stealing and cheating."

There is no source for this idea and its development process, but you can be sure that it is difficult to find pork in Turkey, and even if you do, it is difficult to find really good one.

- Tying rags to old trees / shrines:

Another tradition originating from Shamanism is "tying a cloth". While sacrificing to the gods, Gokturks offered a piece of cloth or a pinch of horse hair to the god with the intention of sacrificing. This is one of the shaman traditions that Turks did not abandon after becoming Muslims. I believe that while it was more common a generation ago, it is still a habit that can be seen in small provinces. You can see people praying for pregnancy, wishing to get rid of diseases, wishing for success and plenty of money while tying cloths to the tombs of people believed to be saints and to old trees...

- Pouring water after a departing guest:

This is a tradition you will come across mostly in Turkish, Balkan and Georgian cultures. As you leave the house, you may see the owner pouring water behind you.

Since unstoppable water symbolizes mobility, fluidity and ease, water is poured behind the person who is leaving, wishing him to go like water.

Although it creates a funny situation in apartments or houses in city centers today, it is still a tradition you will come across in villages when you move away from the city.

- Write your wishes on paper and bury them under the rose tree:

Hidirellez, a Turkish day, is celebrated on the night between May 5th and May 6th. The day when Prophets Hidir and Ilyas come together is known as Hidirellez. In fact, this tradition dates back much further than the Islamic Prophets. In this tradition seen in the Central Asian Turkish culture, young girls who wanted to be lucky would write their wishes on papers and bury them under the rose tree. Although there are differences in dates and traditions in various cultures and countries today, for those who want to experience Hidirellez with pleasure in Turkey, the Thrace region of Turkey is the region where you can experience it most enjoyable.

Even though they have numerous superstitious habits spread from the east to the west of the country, Muslim Turks always think that they are the community that lives Islam in the most beautiful, most up-to-date and respectful way to the other and the world.When we put social media set aside, we are proud to be part of a society that strives not to waste food, prefers honesty to loss, and respects the religion of their neighbor.


Sanem Yucesoy

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