The evening of Saturday, June 28th, marked the beginning of Ramadan 2014, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan is a 30 day period during which many Muslims around the world fast from food and drink during daylight hours. For them, it is a special time for prayer, charity, and thanksgiving for the revelation of the Quran to the Muslim prophet Mohamed.
While it falls this year between the end of summer school and the beginning of the fall semester, in years when Ramadan occurs in the fall or winter, fasting students face challenges at school as their sleep schedules shift to accommodate eating after sunset and before sunrise.
According to Ms. Anab Aden, Parent Liaison at KCPS, when Ramadan occurs during the school year, students observing it wake up to eat around 4am and go back to sleep until 6am when they get up to prepare for school. They may go to sleep after school and wake up to eat when the sun goes down around 8 or 9pm.
In addition, at school, students may find it uncomfortable to be in the cafeteria at lunch or participate in PE – intense physical activity may be avoided especially when Ramadan occurs during summer months, as those observing the holiday fast from water as well as food and other drinks, and longer summer days result in longer fasts.
In 2010 when Ramadan coincided with the first month of school, Muslim Matters posted an article providing recommendations for Muslim parents and insight for educators into the holiday’s importance to the identity of Muslim students and their families. The article suggests Muslim parents ask principals to allow student presentations on the holiday, help organize a craft project on phases of the moon, advise students to visit the library or help a teacher during lunch, or organize a fast-a-thon fundraiser that invites non-Muslim students to try fasting for a day. There are also several recommended titles on the holiday.
Resources for educators, available from the University of Illinois’ Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, include a handout on Middle Eastern festivals and a lesson about Ramadan with more book recommendations and a lantern craft project.
The end of Ramadan falls on July 28th this year, and the celebration marking its end, Eid el-Fitur, will begin that evening with feasting, time with family and friends, and for some, new clothes, home decorations, and gift-giving.
Teaching Tolerance, a site “dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children,” provides a history of American Muslims in the United States along with a page on commonly misunderstood terms and practices of Islam.