As you may know the Muslim month of Ramadan will begin next week. The district equity team would like to share some information with you about this holy month of observance. Ramadan is on a lunar cycle and starts on a different day each year. The exact start and end dates depend on when the new moon appears that month so an exact date can not be determined. However, this year it will begin in the evening of April 12th and conclude in the evening of May 12th. The day after the month of Ramadan ends (May 13) is known as Eid al-Fitr and is a holiday and celebration for the Muslim community.
Ramadan is a month devoted to spiritual renewal in body, mind, and spirit. Muslims abstain from food and drink (including water) from dawn to sunset. They also place their focus on praying, reading and celebrating the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, as well as developing and exercising empathy via charitable acts. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam for our community members observing Ramadan, it is common to awake before 4:00 am to have their first meal of the day with family and in the evening to be involved in prayer at home or at their mosque each of the 29-30 days. As we strive to create a welcoming environment for all of our students, staff and families, it is important for us to understand that students and staff observing Ramadan will be tired from the lack of sleep, may lack focus, have a hard time concentrating on tasks, and not be physically capable of strenuous exercise. The first week of Ramadan is usually the hardest for most Muslims as their body is being adjusted to a completely new schedule for sleeping, eating, and drinking.
Here is how you can help create a welcoming environment for our Muslim students, staff and families during Ramadan. Although these recommendations were developed by our team prior to the current pandemic, we believe that they apply to both in person and virtual classrooms and interactions:
- Make accommodations available to all students rather than just for students who practice Islam. A person’s faith and choices around practicing one’s faith are highly personal and oftentimes are not something individuals are comfortable sharing. Rather than asking students to identify themselves, build accommodations into your teaching routines that support all students.
- It’s important to note that Islam allows exceptions to fasting. Muslims are excused from fasting when they are traveling, ill, elderly, pregnant, or menstruating. Please don’t assume that a student is fasting or ask them why they aren’t fasting. Some Muslims also choose to explore other aspects of their spirituality and religiousness during this month which can manifest itself in different ways. For example, Muslim girls might decide to try wearing hijab and some Muslim students might choose not to listen to music. Please keep in mind all of these decisions do not dictate a person’s religiosity, and as teachers, our job is to create spaces in which our students feel comfortable exploring their identities, however they choose to do so.
- Let your students know that you are aware that the month of Ramadan has begun and invite students to talk with you if they are having a challenging time completing a requirement for your class.
- For students who are Muslim it is fine to say, Ramadan Mubarak or “Happy Ramadan.” (Same as Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah).
- Be sensitive to fasting students and consider providing extended time when an assignment might be challenging to complete because of evening prayers or sheer exhaustion.
- Plan food-centric events for a time before or after Ramadan or if necessary, allow students to opt-out of activities where there might be food or snacks.
- Reduce physical activity that could be potentially dangerous to individuals who are fasting. Abstaining from food and drink can result in feeling weak or becoming dizzy if one overexerts oneself. Some students will be fine engaging normally; however, giving students the ability to engage differently in classes such as physical education goes a long way in supporting them through their school day.
- Many students may be absent from school to observe Eid al Fitr on Thursday, May 13, 2021 with their families and community. Any absence on this day should be excused and work permitted to be made up.
We are including a few links to some additional information about Ramadan for your reference. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact an equity team member in your building. As you encounter those who are making such devotions this month, thank you for extending encouragement, understanding, and empathy for our Muslim families, students, and staff.
Maine Township District 207 Equity Leadership Team
14 Things You Don’t Have to Say This Ramadan (Teaching While Muslim blog post)
Ramadan Considerations for Teachers during Distance Learning (Teaching While Muslim blog post)