Aug 2, 2012

Bayram in Bosnia

Bayram (spelled Bajram in Bosnian, called Eid in Arabic)— Muslim holiday celebrated twice a (moon) year. The first Bayram is the feast after the end of the fasting month Ramadan or Ramazan. On this Bayram, 1992, the war started in Bosnia. The second Bayram, also called Kurban or Hadz (Hajj) Bayram, comes not two and a half months after the first and is the first and the time when pious people reach the end of their pilgrimage journey in Mecca (and other holy sites).

Ramazan in Sarajevo

For such people the month of Ramazan may be a period of compensation for eleven months of omission. Some will fast for the whole month and many make the effort to fast for the first day or two and on the 27th, the festival of Lejletul-Kadr. At the end of each Ramazan day the lamps of Sarajevo's minarets are illuminated in signal that it is time for iftar, the breakfast. The meal, an especially delicious one, will have been prepared In advance and the minaret lights provoke instant response and rapid consumption of its many courses.

Iftar is a family rather than a neighbourhood affair, but after it, neighbours often gather together to go to the mosque (either a local or a central one) for the prayer service of teravija. They may then attend mukabela, all night Quranic recitation, at the town's largest central mosque.

The final days of Ramazan are the occasion for the payment of zekst and sadekatul-fitr  (Islamic alms) which will be discussed in the following chapter. Members of a household who fast and attend teravija are likely to make these payments not only on their own behalf but on that of other, less observant members of their household.
Ramazan is followed by the three day festival of Ramazanski Bajram, an occasion on which Muslims pay visits to kin and neighbours. Such visits begin with the traditional Turkish/Arabic congratulatory greeting:
Visitor: "Bajram Mubarek Ola! " (Happy Bajram to you! )
Host: "Allah Razula" (As God wills It)
The inevitable coffee is served along with sweet, heavy Turkish pastries prepared for the occassion - baklava, kadaifa or ružica. Both visits and cakes are made even by those who have not fasted and prayed.
About two months after Ramazanski Bajram falls the festival of Kurban Bajram at which sheep are ritually sacrificed. For the week or so before this occasion the hill at the north-east end of town is alive with animals which have been driven into Sarajevo by shepherds from the surrounding countryside. Here they graze and are prodded, appraised and bargained over by potential purchasers. Once vendor and purchaser have shaken hands on a deal, the latter must somehow get the unwilling beast home and there feed and shelter it until the day of slaughter. The presence of so many sheep in so many neighbourhood garden provokes much discussion of and, because of the pervasive spirit of interhousehold competition, deception about, the relative size, quality and price paid for various sheep.
A butcher is invited to kill the animal. Its throat is slit, it expires through loss of blood and is f leeced and quartered. The butcher's work is now done and the carcass is left to its owners who chop It into smaller pieces. Of these, some, including the head and internal organs, are retained for household consumption. Others are given to kin living within Sarajevo. The majority is distributed to neighbours with the formula:
Distributor: "Bajram Mubarek Ola! " ("Happy Bajram to you! ")
Receiver: "Allah RazuIa. Kabulosum.  ("As God wills it. May God witness/accept this good act of yours". ie. the gift of meat.)
Distributor: "Halalosum“ ("My forgiveness on you"). Halaliti = to forgive.
A single street or neighbourhood area will be crisscrossed all day long by the bearers of these small parcels. The meat is said to be given to the male head of household but it is women (or young girls) who make the actual door-todoor deliveries. Thus, as in everyday life it is the economic and socialinteraction of women which unites the neighbourhood, at Kurban Bajram it is their ritual interaction which does so.

The majority of religiously inspired practices fall within this category. I lost count of the number of times I was told that to do X, Y or Z "is beautiful" (Iijepo). To say a fatiha when passing a grave, to fast the ten days of Muharem (Islamic New Year) and many other actions are considered beautiful ones. One extremely important action that falls within this category is the making of the pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca. The Hajj is one of the five "pillars" of Islam and, according to scripture, is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to perform it. Yet in Sarajevo it is treated more as a desirable than as an obligatory act. To go on pilgrimage is so expensive and so far out of the reach of most Sarajevans that there is scarcely occasion to begin to think of it as a necessity. Yet many have the desire, however unrealistic, to perform the Hajj. Returned pilgrims speak of the experience with great feeling, describing the Joy and tears of the moment of arrival in Mecca in moving terms. The title of Hadži, is pre-fixed to their names, or they may simply be addressed as Hadžija. They become objects of great respect, their hands are kissed by others on the occasions of the two Bajram and their opinions sought and valued on all religious matters. Both men and women may go on Hajj, however, a married woman is unlikely to go without her husband, thus gaining a status which he lacks.