The sun has sunk behind the Galata tower with a cloud nibbling most of it..The ships are busy in the Bosphorus. I have prepared a simple meal for Iftar.
“Abla, Abla,…..” I hear him, a soft voice from the street, I look out of the balcony it is the cart boy, he is looking up from the garbage bins where he collects cardboard and paper to recycle, and forages for food.
“ One moment …” I tell him, I rush to the fridge and am regretful that it is pretty much bare. I bring out most everything in it, pack it and take it downstairs to the entrance of the building.
He is standing under the harsh lighting of the entrance, his forehead and arms glistening with sweat, thin as a rail his upper arms muscles are developed from pulling the cart with not a sliver of fat on his thin body. His eyes tell the story without words. He puts his pinched fingers to his mouth the universal posture of begging for food. I feel ashamed, sad and confused as he is saying something about his baby as I hand him the food and some money. it is not clear but he has come once before and also mentioned a baby. He speaks no English and I speak not enough Turkish to understand him fully.
He takes the money and food and leaves, asking if he can come back tomorrow “sonra”
Night falls and the mosques across the Bosphorus are lighted with the banners which say “Welcome the Sultan of the eleven months” meaning Ramadan, my neighbor two buildings down have put dancing fairy lights in her window, everyone is happy………and yet I see the eyes of the cart boy the “dead end eyes……” in my memory bank as I walk to Tarawih.
To my surprise where usually there barely two lines in the Mezzanine for women the entire Mezzanine fills rapidly, the lily-white hands of the Turkish women mingling with the dark skins of the Somali women as they sit for Tashahudd in a row.
The Iqama is called and after surah Fatiha, the Imam brings me memories and blessings from across the Atlantic. He recites Surah Tariq as his opening Surah for Isha, the room hushes and the walls absorb his mesmeric voice while I feel the angels around us standing with their hands outstretched to carry the salawaat and the duas to The Lord, His Majesty, of the Worlds.
No one comes late, no child cries, after every four rakah the congregation send salawaat on the Prophet pbuh and the invisible angels with a palpable presence scoop it up to carry it to the Heavens.
The men and boys are below, a young boy is wearing a green cap with the mark of the Prophets step embroidered on it, similar to the one I took for Rehan and my brothers.
Istanbul is immersed in the joy and spirituality of Ramadan. Yet I cannot erase the sad, begging eyes of the cart boy.
The Holly wood Restaurant and dance club is silent not because of some official decree but plainly out of respect.
After the Tarawih is completed, the Imam recites the last part of Surah Baqarah ending with the multitude of supplications, it is the icing on the cake, everyone is in harmony. They are here because they want to , because their ancestors have done this for centuries, and they are carrying on the tradition with ease.
Ramadan in Turkey is a joy unparalleled in any Muslim country that I have been to, including Mecca and Medina, primarily because everyone present in the prayer is in sync, they are here because they want to be and the love and respect of the Prophet oozes from every movement in salah, the etiquette is impeccable of the Turkish women as well as the yabancis like the Somalis and hopefully me too.
At the conclusion of the salah and duas the women greet each other by shaking hands and sending salawaat to the Prophet pbuh
It is said that the Salawaat is like a sports car for your duas. It carries them quickly and efficiently to Allah surpassing the usual speed of duas without the salawaat.
I walk out to the lighted street and the cool breeze of early spring. The skyline with the mosques is lit with the blessings of Ramadan, inside and out. The lighted banner on the Blue mosque beckons me to reciprocate the felicitation and I do so with Gratitude.