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Ramadan in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Ramadan (Ramazan in Bosnian) is unarguably the most interesting and most discussed month of the year in Bosnia. It is one of few axial points in time for the people, even non – Muslims. Events and activities are talked about as being before and after Ramadan; vacations are planned according to it, working hours are adjusted to it, and at least two days off are given for Eid.

Experience-wise, the one month period of time that is Ramadan is actually many months in one: when it begins, what to do once it begins, when it ends; as is the case elsewhere in the Muslim world, at this time differences between various Muslim groups assume their distinctive Ramadan shapes and forms, and tensions resulting from them may even intensify. There are, however, some things that would make anyone accidentally finding themselves in Bosnia during Ramadan recognize what time of year it is, or at least give them a hunch that something different is under way. Everything slows down. The fast, of course, begins with suhur, and the sight of Sarajevo at suhur is heart-softening; lights in houses and apartments appear suddenly and strikingly, contrasting the surrounding darkness like stars do with the darkness of the cosmos when they appear.

In the old times, the task of waking people up was up to a telal, a man who would go through the streets and repeatedly announce in a loud voice that it's time to rise and eat (his other duties included making important announcements on the town square in a similar, i.e. loud, fashion).

Ramadan in Bosnia is felt through the fasting of Muslims (Bosniaks) and their traditions. The iftar is a very special moment when families and friends gather, and when special food is prepared (the traditional menu is soup, main meal with meat, then dessert and traditional Bosnian coffee). Of course, the bread - somun- is a "must" of every iftar. Iftar in Bosnia even has its own protocol: the closest family is invited in the last week of the Ramadan. Iftar is marked by the cannon.

The cannon used to be fired 3 times a day until the end of the World War II: first to mark the beginning of sahur, the second time to mark the beginning of the fast, and the third to mark the iftar. The tradition of the top ended in 1945 in Bosnia until being introduced again recently.

During Ramadan, there are always intensive religious activities at each mosque. The most attended are: the tarawih salat, "muqabela" (recitation of the Qur'an at the mosque by several hafeez, before or after one of the regular prayers) and "vaz" (lecture).

Most Muslims (Bosniaks) show a lot of interest for Ramadan celebrations - it is the month of purification and contemplation for all.

More people observe their regular prayers at the mosques; however, the mosques are mostly crowded on the night of Layletul Qadr.

What makes the Muslim month of fasting unique in Bosnia is the fact that all these Ramadan traditions were kept alive despite the communist regime.

Ramadan is truly important to Muslims in Bosnia - even those who do not regularly practice their religion feel obliged to fast or if not - at least to refrain from eating on the street or drinking alcohol during this month. Bosnia is a special country by itself because of the three major religions actively living here, which is especially visible in Sarajevo, the capital city.

That visible spiritual atmosphere makes all the people of the city like Ramadan, even feel sorry when the month is ending. As the hatib of one mosque in Sarajevo said:

"When the end of Ramadan is approaching it always brings some sadness in one muslim heart that's because we dont know wether we will live long enough to witness another one or not and if I would cry now it would be because of the fact , that so many wasted this wonderful opportunity , huge belssings provided in this sacred month of Ramadan from our Lord , Creator of the Heavens and the Earth."

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