By EKREM DUMANLI
It has been common in Turkey that during every Ramadan some people appear to disrupt the peace and glory of fasting. Meaningless discussions and baseless allegations become part of the media agenda, while the people, be it those who fast or those who do not, keep leading their lives.
The media used to make aggressive and offensive reports more frequently in the past. Now these reports have changed in terms of content and method. But the old habit still persists. In the past, however, fabricated reports on religious fundamentalism were more popular. Instead, the media now makes room for baseless discussions that they present as scholarly discussions on Islamic jurisprudence. Do these discussions matter at all for regular people? No, they try to experience the divine atmosphere during Ramadan instead of paying attention to these discussions.
Some people, for instance, frequently appear no different TV programs as if they have invented something. What is their purpose? To confuse the people. They argued that there is no such prayer as salat-i tarawih (an exclusive prayer for the holy month of Ramadan) in Islam, that there is no need for fasting after age 50 and that the number of daily prayers is not five. In fact, for those who are familiar with this tendency of fabrication, the allegations are nothing new. In recent years some people have made such arguments. They actually received the answers they deserved every time; however, they apparently do not pay attention to these well-versed and drafted answers. If you fail to understand sunnah and recognize the Prophet Mohammad as the living exegesis of the Quran, you would eagerly defend your absurd comments and views. Will this contribute to your recognition and fame? For a short period of time, yes. However, in the end, the consciences of the people are pure and mature enough to understand and follow the path defined by the Quran, the exegesis of Quran by sunnah, the practices of the prophet and his companions as well as righteous scholars.
The ummah, from the very beginning, pays attention to what is being said and who actually says it. Therefore, even though the media shows some people seeking further fame lead through discussions during this time, nothing stops the people from performing their prayers. But those who are just getting familiar with the religious issues are affected by these discussions. The responsibility for their perplexity rests with those who initiate these discussions. Listening to one’s own conscience is enough to realize that the tarawih prayer does not just evaporate as a duty just because you do not perform this prayer; you may not fast after age 50, but why are you interfering with the people who still want to pray to Allah. If it is all about health conditions, there is no need to set the bar at the age of 50; Islam is very lenient to anyone suffering from a vital health problem regardless of their age. So what is this all about?
I should note that the media inserts some arguments in these discussions to resurface the old propaganda about religious fundamentalism. For instance, a recent news report alleged that a young girl wearing shorts was beaten in public transportation. This young girl argued that she was brutalized just because she was wearing shorts and that violence committed against her was associated with Ramadan and fasting. However, the contradictions in her statement raise some doubts. She argued that she was injured on her lips; but doctors found no evidence of such injuries. Likewise, this young girl further argued that the people on the bus, instead of helping her, asked her to get off. But her statement does not make any reference to shorts. In addition, the incident took place two days before the start of Ramadan and the media published the report on August 8. This is really weird. But still, if she was really beaten by someone who justified his action by reference to Ramadan, this should be taken pretty seriously.
However rare, such incidents may take place. Many years ago, I had an experience like this during the holy month of Ramadan. Some people attacked others because they were smoking a cigarette during Ramadan, but the attackers were not even fasting. Such incidents may take place any time and anywhere. It is really unfair to attribute such acts to the people who are fasting and to raise propaganda about religious fundamentalism over such incidents. Relying on an isolated incident to disrupt the social harmony and peace is an unpleasant attempt that is likely to have an ulterior motive in an environment where people who want to fast do so, while those who don’t want don’t. Besides, it became evident by eyewitness accounts that the incident did not start over wearing shorts. I would like to say that people who are fasting have to respect others who are not. But those who are not should be empathic towards religious people and try not to irritate them. There is no good in unfounded and unhelpful discussions initiated by arrogant people who consider themselves proper scholars of Islam. The best thing to do is, I think, to tell those people to do whatever you want, but please, do not undermine the month of prayers with your ego and do not disrupt our peace.