April 2, 2013
RAMADAN is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is a twelve-month lunar calendar. The lunar year is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. This means that Islamic holy days and holidays, which are calculated according to the lunar calendar. will rotate around the solar calendar. In the 2012 academic year, Ramadan will begin around Saturday, July 21.
The beginning of any month is marked by the first appearance of the crescent moon after the new moon (when the moon cannot be seen). Although the rise of the crescent moon can be determined scientifically, many Muslims still like to watch the horizon and sight the moon visually. Those who rely on a visual sighting of the moon may begin Ramadan a day after the others if the sky is cloudy. This is why Muslims cannot know ahead of time the exact date for their religious holidays. Nevertheless, to recognize and accommodate Muslim students, school administrators should place projected dates for Islamic holidays on the general school calendar.
FASTING in the month of Ramadan is a ritual obligation for all Muslims. It is one of the “five pillars” of Islam in addition to belief in God and his prophets, ritual prayer, payment of charity tax and pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims must fast from the first light of dawn (about one and a half hours before sunrise) until sunset during each day of the month of Ramadan. Fasting means a total abstention from food, drink (including water) and sexual relations.
A TYPICAL DAY IN RAMADAN begins with the family waking before dawn to share a meal and pray the first prayer of the day. Once dawn arrives (signaled by the “call to prayer” from the minaret in Muslim countries) all eating and drinking stops. Some people will go back to sleep after the prayer, others will stay awake and recite the Quran, the holy book of Islam. During the day Muslims work or go to school as they do every day. Two of the five daily prayers Muslims are obliged to perform occur in the early and late afternoon. A student or worker may therefore try to find a quiet place to say these prayers, which take only a few minutes. This is true throughout the year, not just in Ramadan. At sunset, the family gathers to break the fast, traditionally with water and dates. Sometimes Muslim students find themselves in the middle of a class at the time they are to break the fast, and other Muslims may be still working, so they will nibble on a date or sip some water. It is important to break the fast on time every day to express appreciation to God for making it permissible to eat and drink once more. After the performance of the fourth prayer of the day, the family usually sits down to share a full meal. Once it is dark, it is time for the fifth prayer of the day. In Ramadan, many Muslims follow this prayer with extra congregational prayers in the mosque every night. Some people will stay up late into the night praying and reading the Quran.
MUSLIMS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO FAST IF THEY ARE ILL or physically weakened (including during menstruation for women) or traveling. They must make up the days missed fasting later in the year if it is possible. Fasting is a religious obligation for all Muslims who have reached puberty. Pre-pubescent children are not required to fast but they are encouraged to try to not eat or drink for part of the day. It is natural for Muslim children, like all children, to want to imitate adult behavior and try to fast the whole day if possible. Many children will fast during school but eat when they arrive home. It is important that school administrators respect the religious rights of these children and provide a place other than the cafeteria for them to stay during lunchtime.
RAMADAN IS A BLESSED TIME for Muslims. To those outside the community, it may appear to be a time of hardship and deprivation, but that is not the experience of Muslims. Fasting is aimed to increase our awareness of the presence of God, to remind us to be grateful for His blessings and to create empathy for the poor and hungry. Ramadan is a time of generosity. Just as we deny ourselves, we should increase our giving to others, by inviting people to share our fast-breaking meals, and by donations to the poor. Just as we control our physical appetites, we also must control our negative emotions and actions. Angry words, gossip and criticism can all invalidate one’s fast. Ramadan therefore teaches patience, kindness and self-restraint.
EID AL-FITR is the name of the feast of the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan. No Muslim can celebrate Eid until he or she has paid some charity—at least enough to cover a day’s food for a needy person. Then on the morning after the last day of Ramadan, everyone joins together for a short congregational prayer, preferably in an outdoor location. The next few days are spent visiting friends and family, giving gifts and special treats to children and thanking God for His blessings.
EID AL-ADHA-the Feast of the Sacrifice celebrates the end of the Hajj (Pilgrimage) to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. All Muslims are required to make this pilgrimage once in a lifetime if physically and financially able. Muslims who do not make the pilgrimage in any given year celebrate the feast in their lands. Many families sacrifice a sheep or other animal on this holiday and divide the meat among the poor, family and neighbors.
*IN SEPTEMBER 2001, THE U.S. POST OFFICE RELEASED A STAMP IN HONOR OF THE EID HOLIDAYS. THIS CAN SERVE AS AN EXCELLENT TEACHING TOOL.