The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is referred to as the month of “Aşure” in Turkiye. A month which is considered sacred by Muslims. There are countless beliefs and practices in Türkiye regarding the month of Aşure.
According to popular belief, when Noah’s Ark settled on land, following the flood, the last remaining ingredients on board the ship were used to prepare a soup and that was how Aşure, the dessert that is made to celebrate this month, was first prepared. The 10th day of Muharram is the day on which many prophets were granted many blessings.
Other than being the day that Noah’s Ark landed on soil following the flood, on this day the repentance of Adam was accepted, Prophet Idris was taken up to heaven, Abraham was saved from the fire which he was thrown into by the King of Urfa, Nimrud [Nemrut] Bin Kenan. David’s repentance was accepted, Job regained his health, The Prophet Moses and his tribe were saved from the Red Sea, Jonah was saved from a whale and Jesus was taken to heaven.
The skies were created on the day of Aşure and as it is noted by Sahih Bukhari and other sources that the Prophet Muhammad advised fasting on the day of Aşure, as he himself fasted on this day.
This day also coincides with one of the saddest days in Islamic history -- the day on which Husain, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, was killed in the city of Karbala. In the province of Konya, water is not consumed from a glass cup on this day. In Konya, in the middle of the month of Muharram, on the 15th day, at least 10 food items are purchased for each home. It is widely believed that the blessings from the food purchased on this day will last for an entire year.
Türkiye’s Aşure, the dessert, is a dish that is loved by one and all. In Türkiye it is prepared with bulgur, rice and other legumes in addition to its main ingredient, dövme (hulled wheat).
It is believed that whoever has sacrificed an animal must prepare aşure and distribute it, as a small part of the sacrificed animal -- either its tail fat or actual meat -- is added into the aşure. Although there are different numbers of ingredients for the dessert in each region, any ingredient that is seen as being appropriate can be added to aşure. Even if 40 different ingredients are added, this dish still remains a light dessert that is delicious. As a sweetener, one can use grape molasses or honey instead of sugar, which ıs prefered in some regions. There are various practices while preparing aşure throughout Türkiye. When beginning to cook aşure, half of Surah Yasin, chapter 36 of the Quran, is read. When the dessert is completed, the other half is read. In addition, when aşure is cooked, the pot is covered with a tray and the steam that condenses on the tray is believed to alleviate eye pain.
Around Bilecik, corn is added into the dessert as this is seen as a representation of the milk of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. The poorer women of Uşak, in a neighborhood, are invited to a dinner called “üç tencere” [three pots]. In Antakya, two types of aşure are distributed -- keşkek [made with meat] and the conventional sweet and flavorsome dessert. After distributing aşure, most plates or dishes are returned to owners empty and unwashed, although some people return the dishes with a reciprocal dish.