Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

Ramadan, Coming to You on August 1st

with 2 comments

This is my second year in a Muslim country during Ramadan (Ramazan, in Azeri). And it’s another time that reminds me that Azerbaijan is not necessarily the most devout of Muslim countries. (Let’s chalk that up to 70+ years of Soviet repression, shall we?) When I head to the bank on Tuesday, it’s likely that 40% or so of my bank colleagues will be fasting in accordance to the Sawm. This is what I had to say about Ramazan last year, which I’m sure is still applicable (note, however, that we’re regularly hitting 100+F in temperatures this year):

One of the big concerns we’ve had is that this month has been extremely hot. We’re talking about mid- to high-90′s each day, no rain, all sun, all the time. That’s concerning for folks who are not even drinking water. There have got to be some alternatives that people are pursuing to keep this up. At the bank, I know there have been a few more people complaining of headaches and feeling ill recently, which I’m going to directly attribute to the fasting. Yet, I admire the earnestness with which these people approach the time of Ramadan. It’s an impressive undertaking, no matter how hot it is outside.

This is also another time to discuss the religiosity of Azerbaijanis, their relationship to Islam. We’ve seen other examples of ignoring Islamic principles, such as excessive drinking by Azeri men. Ramadan is no exception. While there are certainly a lot of people fasting during Ramadan, I think it’s fewer than I thought. An informal survey of the bank office showed that about a third of the office was fasting, about 16 out of the 50 or so people that work there. Talking with Miri, it’s about the same at the TV station. Miri’s also a bit more cynical about the whole enterprise. He suggested the other day that while some people fast for religious purposes, there is another subgroup of people who are fasting for more vain purposes, trying to lose weight, or for health. I’m not into criticizing people for fasting for those purposes. But I do find it a little surprising.

This year the month of Ramazan starts officially on August 1, 10 days earlier than last year, according to the Caucasus Muslims Board:

Qadi Council of the Caucasian Muslims Board issued a fatwa on the start of the Month of Ramadan.

An event was held on this occasion at the Caucasian Muslims Board. According to the fatwa, the first day of the Month of Ramadan falls on August 1 of the Christian calendar. July 31 is the night of intention. The Eid ul-Fitr falls on the 29th or 30th of the Month of Ramadan by the hijri calendar – August 30 or 31 by Christian calendar.

One feature that I find particularly interesting about Ramazan is that the myriad important dates during the (lunar) month are fairly vague. Notice above: we’re not sure which day the Eid falls on. Other dates, the days on which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet or the days on which Shi’ites commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali, are similarly uncertain. It all depends on the sightings of the moon.


Written by Aaron

July 31, 2011 at 6:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I go along with the theory that for most Azeris, Islam is a cultural identity rather than a religion and in that vein, Ramadan has become to many local people here, what Lent has become in the West. In other words a time to cut back on smoking, drinking beer or vodka not because of any religious beliefs but because we all need to detox from time-to-time. I am sure that there are plenty of devout Muslims in Azerbaijan who do fast during the hours of daylight and don’t eat to excess as soon as night falls but I suspect they are in the minority.


    August 1, 2011 at 3:31 am

    • Yep–I can’t disagree. Though, I can say that here in the south, it seems that the devotion is at least a bit stronger than in other areas.


      August 1, 2011 at 4:27 am

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