Islam in Turkey

29th September 2014

In the Ottoman era spanning from the 13th to the early 19th century, Turkey was at the center of the Islamic empire.

But it was not until 1923, that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the 1st President of Turkey, changed the way that religion influenced the country and believed that in order to modernise, Islamic influence on the state had to cease and so transformed Turkey into a secular country.

Secular state 

Turkey is officially a secular state meaning that religion is not involved in the organization of the state, society, politics or education. Citizens of Turkey who belong to different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.

The government of Turkey monitors and regulates how Islam is preached and practiced.

For many decades Muslim women in Turkey were prohibited from wearing the hijab (headscarf covering head and hair) in schools, universities and women working in the public sector, including teachers, lawyers and Members of parliament. The ban was enforced throughout Turkey. 

These principles were based on a strict separation between the state and religion.

It was in 2013, that Turkeys former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lifted the headscarf ban, allowing devout female Muslims to wear the hijab in public and official institutions and public spaces including schools and universities.


99.8% of the population of Turkey is Muslim, of which the majority are Sunni Muslims.

The 5 pillars of Islam – (fundamental religious duties)

1. Shahadah: declaring there is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.

2. Salat: ritual prayer offered five times a day.

3. Zakat: giving an annual 2.5% tax of one’s savings, which is distributed among the poor.

4. Sawn: fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca for those that are able. 

You will hear the call to pray (Ezan) 5 times a day from the beautiful mosques located in every town, village & city across Turkey.

Turkey is the most moderate nation of the countries in which Islam is the main religion. Although many are practicing Muslims there are some Turks who do not practice Islam. Alcohol is drunk in many areas throughout Turkey and the well-known Turkish alcoholic drink 'Raki' (an aniseed-based liquor that is often mixed with water) is very popular.

You will find that in cities such as; Izmir and Istanbul the people are very cosmopolitan.

Turkey is tolerant of other religions; ancient Christian churches still exist in Istanbul and throughout Turkey. The house of the Virgin Mary is located at Ephesus, it is believed to be her last residence.

In Turkey today lives approximately 120,000 Christians and 26,000 Jews. 

Islamic law
Turkey does not use Shari'ah Law; it is not practiced nor enforced. As a secular country Turkey follows a democratic state of ruling.

Countries such as Morocco and Afghanistan, where Islam is the main religion, do adopt Shari'ah Law and it's practices.
Even countries with a growing Islamic community such as the UK and America also incorporate some elements of Islamic state law into there legal system –
Although not 'Common Law' in the UK/America. 

Polygyny is against the law in Turkey.

What is Shari'ah Law?

Sharia law – Is the legal system based on Islam.

Islamic country’s what use Sharia as common law regulates Muslim men and women’s public and private life.

Sharia law governs all areas of day-to-day life, which include: politics, economics, banking business law, contract law, sexuality, and social issues.

Sharia law rules: Laws of inheritance, Marriage, divorce, and childcare, Foods and drinks (including ritual slaughtering and hunting), punishments of law breakers and Warfare and peace. 

Islamic festivals
Turkey celebrates the following Islamic festivals:

- Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of fasting for Muslims all over the world, the fasting period lasts from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.

Also Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourse, from sunrise to sunset.

Muslims are urged to perform extra prayers, especially at night; recite the Quran; donate to the poor; and refrain from any misbehaviour throughout the course Ramadan.

- Şeker Bayramı (after Ramadan)

Seker Bayram (Ramazan Bayram) is the three-day festival, which celebrates the end of Ramadan.

It is a time to visit friends and relatives – starting with the older generation first.
It is customary for elder relatives to give children money or gifts when they visit.

Lots of sweets are consumed during the festival, hence the name – seker Bayram meaning sugar/sweets in Turkish. 

- Kurban Bayramı

Kurban Bayramı is one of the most important Islamic religious festivals of the year.

The date of ‘Kurban Bayram’ or ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ changes each year and takes place 70 days after Ramadan

The Feast of the Sacrifice is to honour the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his first-born son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of faith and submission to God. Before Abraham could start the sacrifice, God intervened and provided Abraham with a Lamb to sacrifice instead of his son.  

All Muslims now sacrifice an animal during the festival to commemorate this prophet. 

During the four-day, festivities people take time out to visit family and friends and give donations of food or clothing to the less fortunate.


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