Soon, Muslims around the world will be preparing for the holy month of Ramadan. The date of Ramadan varies each year, but for 2018 it’s predicted to be the 15th May. The reason that the date is only predicted is because it’s determined by the sighting of the new moon, which is only confirmed the day before the start of holy month.
The word ‘Ramadan’ comes from the Arabic word ‘ramida’ or ‘ar-ramad’ which means intense heat or dryness. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory for all adult Muslims, although there are some exceptions. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, sick, diabetic, elderly, severely mentally ill or travelling on a journey of 50 miles or more away from home are not required to fast.
For those that are too ill to fast during Ramadan, they must make up for every missed day of fasting at a later date. Those who are exempt from Ramadan must not eat or drink in public places, as it’s still considered offensive to publicly break the fast.
As well as fasting for the month, Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Quran (Muslim holy book) before the festival of Eid al-Fitr. This marks the end of Ramadan and is a period of group feasting and celebration.
Why Muslims fast during Ramadan
Fasting from sunrise to sunset is seen as one of the 5 pillars of Islam. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-discipline and devotion to worship. Experiencing hunger forces people to think of those less fortunate than themselves. It’s also a time for Muslims to reflect and show their gratitude to Allah (God).
For those observing Ramadan, there is a pre-dawn meal before the day starts called ‘suhur’. The meal at sunset which breaks the daily fast is called ‘iftar’. Suhur is normally eaten between 2.30am and 3.00am, whilst iftar is usually taken around 9pm-9.30pm. This means that Muslims must endure a daily fast which is 18 or more hours long.
As well as not consuming food and drink during daylight hours, Muslims also try to abstain from other ‘sinful’ behaviour such as smoking, swearing, insults and telling lies.
Children and fasting
Children who have not yet reached puberty (usually under the age of 14) are not required to fast during Ramadan. However, they’re encouraged to gradually start giving up some food and drink during holy month so that they’re prepared to fast fully when they reach adulthood.
For children, Ramadan advent calendars are a way of keeping track of the countdown to Eid al-Fitr. These calendars are filled with toys and treats.
Celebrating the end of holy month
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, and is set to place on or around the 14th June. Like Ramadan, the exact date is confirmed nearer the time. Eid al-Fitr is a time for feasting and festivities. Friends and family will often visit each other’s houses bearing gifts.
Charity, known as ‘zakat’, is a very important part of Islam and families will visit the poor and needy in their local community to ensure they have enough food and drink to celebrate Eid al-Fitr themselves.
Tips on how to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in your setting:
- Read the children stories about preparing for Eid al-Fitr
- Make and decorate Eid cards for children to take home
- Have a go at writing Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid)
- Throw a party with everyone looking their best. Get everyone dancing to the beat of the Arabic music
- Enjoy party snacks such as bhajis and samosas
- Find out about henna patterns used to decorate ladies’ hands and feet. Draw around the children’s hands to make paper hands which they can then decorate themselves