As I mentioned in the previous articles of mine, while I travel in the city if I run across foreign visitors I converse with them. It is enjoyable to see how they feel about Istanbul and I have new perspectives this way. The conversations I have with them keep me in the loop! Some visitors are very open to communicate with and some are not. I do not push anyone to talk to me! Because I don't like to be pushed to talk to someone when I want to enjoy the city in tranquility! My favorite chat mates are German, Spanish, Indian and American people. I find English and especially French people some snob! It does not make sense! They behave like they are visiting their colonial places! However I have had a lot of conversations with English and French people, too.
The distinction between to be hungry and to be fasting
Once I was coming to Uskudar from Eyup Sultan by boat and it was Ramazan Month during which we fast. I noticed a lady on board and said ''hello'' to her. She, too, smiled at me and said ''hello'' to me. After we had a conversation about Istanbul, she asked me a question inquisitorially about fasting (not eating and drinking from morning to the evening): ''I believe you fast now. Is it not difficult to be hungry all day?''
I smiled and said: ''Yes, I am. You are right, if you take it that way it seems difficult. However, it is rather different than just being hungry. Otherwise is not possible to bear up under this pressure on such a hot day. Fasting is totally another process.''
After I phrased my answer she said: ''In what way?''
I replied: ''Fasting is a decision which has emotional and mental causes that build up a reasoned behavior. Yes, to be hungry is the essential part of it but when you break the process of fasting down, you will see other elements and that just being hungry does not explain the whole thing. For example you eat some snack in the morning and if you skip the lunch, than you are hungry. It is discomfortable but if you have sahur (the meal you have at a time which a lot later than midnight) and decide to fast, it is totally different from just being hungry and it changes everything. It is a mindset which is totally different than just being desperately hungry. Your heart and mind work in a different way and they back up you.''
The lady was an artist and she found my explanation rather explanatory.
The awareness fasting gives us: We are not Gods!
One of the amazing things about fasting is that it give us the chance to compare ourselves with God. God does not drink and eat anything because God does not need them like we do. Then why do we take an example by God during Ramazan? I believe while in the the end of the day and at end of the day, when we are allowed to eat and drink, then we see that we are not Gods, just human beings! So in Islamic Culture, people are taught not to compete with God: ''There is no God but Allah'' No human being has a share in Allah's divine power. Nobody is God's son or relative or has a chance to be a kind of God! It is not something like ''divine jealousy'', but something that keeps us away loading too a heavy burden onto ourselves!
The difference between just to know about something and to feel this knowledge
To me one of the most interesting things about fasting is a remarkable distinction that fasting process teaches us. It is the distinction between just knowing about something and feeling the knowledge with all heart. To fast in Ramazan helps the individual to see this big difference between just knowing about something and feeling this knowledge to the bones. This is one of the essential needs of the modern lives. For example, some people do not know what valuable things they have. Yes people may know the prices if the things have ones. But they do not literally know what they have. Also most of us know what valuable things we have but because we are too familiar with them, we do not feel their value to us to the bones. Knowing is the first step to feel, but mostly we are stuck at the first step. So in Ramazan we do not know that water, food etc are vital things only, but also we come to a stage where we feel how valuable and vital they are! To know that something is valuable, but not to feel this knowledge is a kind of poverty-deprivation. Because what makes us to start to move is not just knowing a truth but also feeling it with all heart.
Modern age and our needs
There are a lot of things we know about in this modern age. To know about something, it is enough to google it! But to feel what you know about something, you need practices. And fasting gives us a chance to practice to learn how to feel what we know. It can seem just about eating and drinking. But fasting gives you thoughts and a lot of associations. You start to think about many other things which you have but about which you do not think very often! You transfer this mindset to other areas in your life and start to think about the things you have but also you ignore!
However, muslims fast because Allah wants them to do it! That is the essential thing and others are just some side benefits!
Ramazan and Uskudar
When it comes to the connection between Ramazan and Uskudar, let me tell you something, Uskudar is one of the best places where you can see the spirit of Ramazan and Fasting! Mosques, muslim environment, iftars (Special dinners in Ramazan), public iftars on the streets that the municipality organizes, Ottoman ambiance and many other things make you experience a real Islamic, peaceful neighborhood and atmosphere.
Once we had a guest from Spain and she did not know Turkish or English, I did not know Spanish. She was a beautiful lady and had friends in Istanbul who can take her to very nice places. However we invited her to iftars in Ramazan, she came to every iftar mostly every day when she was in Istanbul. I asked her what the most interesting thing was to her at the iftars and she simply said: ''You have dinner (iftar) with all members of the family and I love it!''
I love Ramazan, fasting and the lessons they help us to learn and to feel. Of course, Uskudar has a very special place in this big and beautiful picture!
If you are interested my seminar: ''If I were younger again, What things would I do different?'' please contact us at both the two email addresses below: The seminar can be presented in Turkish or English.