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Ramadan is a holy month celebrated by Muslims around the world. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Quran, the religious book of Islam, was revealed to the prophet Muhammed.
Who Observes Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holy month of Islam. Islam is one of the major world religions with 1.8 billion followers around the world. About 24.1 percent of the world population is Muslim, which is the term for people who follow the religion of Islam.
In the map below, you can see that many followers of Islam live in North Africa, the Middle East, West Asia, and Southeast Asia. Because of global diasporas, there are followers of Islam in most countries around the world today. During Ramadan, Muslims around the world will fast from sunrise to sunset. Many Muslims also travel to Mecca during Ramadan. Mecca is the origin of Islam; a pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the Five Pillars of Islam all Muslims must fulfill in their lifetime.
When is Ramadan?
Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar when the first sliver of the crescent moon appears. The Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar, meaning it follows the cycles of the moon. The Gregorian calendar, popularly used in North and South America, follows the solar calendar.
In 2021, Ramadan will begin on April 12th and end on May 12th. In 2022, Ramadan will begin on April 2nd and end on May 2nd. In 2023, Ramadan will begin on March 23rd and end on April 23rd.
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration marking the end of Ramadan. The holiday begins the day after the last day of Ramadan.
How is Ramadan celebrated?
During Ramadan, Muslims over the age of 12 years fast. This means that from sunrise until sunset, they do not eat or drink. There are two meals during Ramadan. There is an early meal before sunrise called suhoor. The fast is broken with a nighttime meal after sunset called iftar.
For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is a time to focus on faith, generosity, and charity. Sadaqah are good deeds that Muslims carry out during Ramadan. Some choose to food, money or time. Others might participate in community events like picking up trash or assisting a local food drive.
During Ramadan, some Muslims make make their pilgrimage or “Hajj” to Mecca. According to the Quran, the holy book of Islam, Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Kaaba or the “House of God”, in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The photo above shows a Muslims completing their pilgrimage in Mecca.
After the last day of Ramadan, there is a three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr means the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” Families and friends gather together to celebrate. Some families have the tradition of decorating their homes and giving gifts. As for food, people eat all sorts of delicious treats. Traditional foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, cheeses, and desserts. During this time, fasting is not allowed.
3 Ways to Introduce Ramadan in a Multicultural Classroom
1. Read The Gift of Ramadan by Rabiah York Lumbard
The Gift of Ramadan is a beautiful story about a girl named Sophia whose family begins their observance of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer, and community. Early in the book, the whole family observes the thin crescent moon in the night sky and Sophia feels excitement and anticipation to try fasting for the first time. Sophia learns that fasting is hard, and that’s alright! This is a beautiful book that portrays Ramadan in a thoughtful, memorable, and graceful way. Your students will love it.
2. Complete Fun Activities while Learning about Ramadan
The Ramadan Flipbook covers so many engaging topics on Ramadan. Kids will learn about Eid al-Fitr, Islam traditions and practices, and other cool information about how Muslims observe Ramadan. It answers big questions about Ramadan like who celebrates Ramadan and what do people do during Ramadan? The Ramadan Flipbook pairs well with the Islam Flipbook. This flipbook is a fun and fact-based way to teach young kids about this world festival that a quarter of the population celebrates!
3. Have an Eid al-Fitr Celebration
Introduce students to Eid al-Fitr through music, food, and dancing! Use apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio to access music from around the world. Play traditional songs for Eid al-Fitr. Bring some sweets and snacks for students to try. You can even use YouTube to do a quick lesson on how to write Eid al-Fitr in Arabic. Small details bring cultural celebrations alive for students. Teaching these traditions and rituals from many different cultures gives our students an understanding that there is no one “right” way to observe or honor a holiday. Instead, there are many beautiful traditions around the world that allow people to celebrate their faith and their culture.
Tips for Supporting Muslim Students During Ramadan
1. Avoid making incorrect assumptions about your students.
Never assume that a student is Muslim. Not all people from the Middle East are Muslim. Not all Arabic speakers are Muslim. Many people who are Muslim don’t fit into stereotypes. You can be Muslim and be from anywhere.
2. Respect their faith.
Students should never be forced to share their faith. If they choose to share with you that they are Muslim, that is great. Use the conversation as an opportunity to ask if they would like to share more about their faith with the class and respect their answer either way.
3. Acknowledge Ramadan in your classroom.
Make preparations on your bulletin board and in your newsletter so students know this important holiday will be acknowledged. Connect with parents and wish them a Happy Ramadan (Ramadan Mubarak,” which means “Have a blessed Ramadan“). Use this opportunity to ask if their child will be fasting during Ramadan. Children at the age of 12 usually begin participating in the fast. It’s a very exciting moment for the child! While parents and families are never obligated to share if they observe fasting for Ramadan, it is helpful information for you to make accommodations.
4. Make accommodations for mealtimes.
Ask students if they prefer to sit in a different space like the library during lunchtime. It can be difficult to be around food during a fast, although some students may want to spend time with friends. Ask their preference. If you work at a boarding school, ensure that students have access to meals in the late evening hours after the sun has gone down.
5. Be kind and lenient during classes.
This applies especially to recess and physical education. Students may have less energy, feel groggy, lethargic, tired, or grouchy during the day. Be encouraging, and let them know they are doing an amazing job!
6. If a student is not fasting, do not pry.
Sometimes people don’t fast for personal or medical reasons. Sometimes young women do not fast on their period. It is private.
7. Be aware of the challenges of standardized testing during Ramadan.
You may be able to get religious accommodations for your students to take state tests before or after Ramadan.
8. Make accommodations for prayer.
Muslims traditionally pray five times per day, a few of which are during the school day. There is one prayer at noon and one in the afternoon that must be completed within certain times. Make sure your students have a private and clean place to kneel and pray in silence.
9. Be gracious, kind, curious, and supportive.
Students always need this from their educators, but Ramadan is an especially important time to be flexible and understanding as students observe their fast and prayer.
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