Locals in Şanlıurfa have begun practicing "itikaf," which is an Islamic practice of staying and praying at a mosque for a certain period of time, especially in the holy month of Ramadan, and staying away from worldly affairs. Şanlıurfa, which is also called the "City of Prophets," since it is said that Abraham was born there, and Job, Elisha and Shuaib lived in the city, ranks number four in religious tourism popularity around the world. The city is outranked only by Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
The tradition of itikaf is one of the sunna, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. So far, the province's mufti office has prepared a total of 450 mosques for itikaf and locals have already begun practicing this tradition in 200 mosques in the city.
Şanlıurfa, which is also called the "City of Prophets," since it is said that Abraham was born there, and Job, Elisha and Shuaib lived in the city, ranks number four in religious tourism popularity around the world.
Şanlıurfa mufti İhsan Açık talked to Anadolu Agency (AA) and said the people of Şanlıurfa have shown great interest in the practice, which means "breaking off from all worldly things in the last 10 days of Ramadan and praying in the mosque to earn the grace of God." He said the office of the mufti in Şanlıurfa prepared 450 mosques from a total of 840 mosques in the area in order for people to practice itikaf in better conditions. "Normally, people practice itikaf one or two at a time, but in Şanliurfa, people practice it en masse. For example, one of the mosques in Şanlıurfa is hosting 46 people who are practicing itikaf. Here, they chat, recite the Quran, and pray and spend the day in the mosque. They break the fast, make sahur and spend the night in the mosque. Some of them practice itikaf for three days. People also flock to mosques for itikaf on Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Decree), in Islamic belief the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad. Our people will spend 24 hours a day in the mosques," Açık said.
Açık also claimed that most of the Şanlıurfa locals spend most of the day in mosques during Ramadan due to the hot weather, and continued: "We were criticized as we let people to spend their entire day in the mosques, but we decided to undertake the necessary arrangements to enable people to spend the night as well. Therefore people will be able to spend their nights in prayer and Quran study. We want to encourage people to practice prayers."
In order to inform the locals about the practice, the Şanlıurfa mufti office also prepared a five minute video to promote practicing itikaf. Açık said that their aim with the video is to inform people why they should be practicing it. "The video features people who are lost in the chaos of everyday life, going to work, market and sitting in front of a TV or computer. We want them to question themselves. We want people to make time for themselves. We aim to encourage more people to practice itikaf, inform people more about itikaf and revive the sunna of Muhammad. I encourage people, especially children, to watch the video."
Ramazan Bilgin, who is one of the Şanlıurfa locals who has been practicing itikaf, said religious men encouraged him to do so. Bilgin said the atmosphere in the mosque was perfect for itikaf and continued by saying: "We are listening to Quran recitation for five days. We also pray in the night. Our elders used to practice itikaf, so we are continuing this tradition. We wanted to spare some time for ourselves. We go to work 355 days a year so we spare 10 days a year for ourselves."