With its own unique spiritual air, enthusiasm, and excitement—its communal prayers and its Iftaar and Suhoor meals to which friends family are invited—Ramadan has always been a very special month, as it still is today. Muslims spend a month in an atmosphere of spiritual union and unity and by the end of this blessed month they experience the spiritual abundance of the Night of Power (Lailatul-Qadr) and together enjoy the festivities and peace of ‘Eed al-Fitr that follows.
In Ottoman Times Preparations for Ramadan Began Three Months Ahead of it.
The first thing that comes to mind for Turks when Ramadan in former times, especially in the Ottoman period, is mentioned is, of course, the joyful spirit of oneness, love, respect, and friendship. People today are longing for the feelings of union and brotherhood of those times, the unconditional and disinterested love, friendship, and sincerity of speech.
They all want a new age in which people love one another, in which there is a predominant conception of deep love and respect among people, in which everyone greets everyone else very politely on the streets, whether they know one another or not, in which there is no need for people to lock their doors, and in which peace, security and solidarity reign.
It is an acknowledged fact that there was much more friendship in the Ramadans of the past. There is no doubt that Ottoman Ramadan traditions contain a great many virtues that people need today and can learn from. Indeed, the spirit of love and friendship peculiar to those times were naturally reflected in Ramadan, with a “holiday” spirit spreading everywhere. All Muslims benefit from the spiritual richness of this blessed month and improve on their already good moral values, and embrace their faith even tighter.
The excitement of Ramadan began making itself felt three months before-hand during the blessed three months (shuru selase). The streets, masjids, and minarets were lit up and an air of eager anticipation dominated over the city. Homes, Mosques, streets, and roads were specially cleaned, and everywhere readied for the true spirit of Ramadan.
Lights Strung Between the Minarets Were the Finest Decorations During Ramadan in Istanbul
Under normal conditions, the Old City Istanbul, which lived by day, then would also begin living by night with the coming of the month of Ramadan, and that would lead to a complete change in the appearance of this lovely city. As still happens today, lanterns were strung between the minarets of those Mosques with double minarets, and the dark nights of the city in those days were brightly illuminated.
Lanterns were first strung between the minarets of the Sultanahmet Mosque during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I, and were so popular that the custom quickly spread, with lanterns soon being hung between the minarets of all those mosques in Istanbul that had two.
The most frequent message on the lights was “Welcome to the Month of Ramadan.” At the end of Ramadan, the writing was generally altered to “Al-Firaak” (Farewell). Pictures were sometimes hung from the lamps rather than inscriptions.
Of course, the lanterns in those days were different than those of today. Today they are electric lamps. The lanterns of that time burned oil. Although today’s lights are pleasing to the heart and eye, the lanterns in those days that so lit up the darkness had an extraordinary effect on and caused huge excitement in people.
People engaged in friendly conversation all through the night in the streets illuminated by those rare lights, after which they would meet up in gardens or on the balconies of their houses, wherein they would remember Allaah Almighty until it is time for the Suhoor (pre-dawn) meal and give thanks to Allaah for all His blessings.