Celebrating Ramadan by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, Lawrence Migdale (Illustrator/photographer). 2001. Holiday House, Inc.
A photo-essay, text and photographs combine to present information about Islam and the special month of Ramadan, as well as a picture of the family life of an American fourth grader, Ibraheem. Topics include a general introduction to Islam's beginning, basic beliefs and practices, the revelations received by Muhammad, the Qur'an, the Islamic forms for praying, and more. Ibraheem and his family are shown as they celebrate Ramadan, the month of daylight fasting. Emphasis on the variety of Islamic peoples is provided within Ibraheem's own family, of Bosnian and Egyptian backgrounds.
Grade Level Focus: 4-5
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and a time when Muslims across the world will fast during the hours of daylight.
It is common to have one meal (known as the suhoor), just before sunrise and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset. This meal will commonly consist of dates, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Because Ramadan is a time to spend with friends and family, the fast will often be broken by different Muslim families coming together to share in an evening meal.
At the end of the month, once fasting has been completed, a big celebration takes place known as 'Eid-ul-Fitr', the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. During this celebration Muslims dress in their finest clothes, give gifts to children and spend time with their friends and family. At Eid it is obligatory to give a set amount of money to charity to be used to help poor people buy new clothes and food so they too can celebrate.
Do all Muslims have to fast during Ramadan? Certain people are exempt from taking part in the Ramadan fast. Children, the sick, the elderly, the mentally handicapped, and anyone who would be putting their health at serious risk by fasting are not obliged to do so during Ramadan. There are also certain circumstances where people normally able to fast are unable to, such as when people are on a tiring journey or if a woman is pregnant, and in these instances the person must make up the fast at a later date, or provide meals to the needy in order to make up for breaking the fast.
When can Muslims eat and drink during Ramadan? Muslims can eat and drink as long as the sun has set. It it sometimes said that the way to tell whether it is dark enough to break the fast is to hold up a white thread with a black thread outdoors and see if you can tell the difference between the two. It’s only OK to eat when you can no longer tell the difference. However, British Muslims all receive a timetable each year, which they follow, containing precise calculations for the time of dawn and dusk.
Why do the dates of Ramadan change each year? The exact dates of Ramadan change every year because Islam uses a lunar calendar, which means that each month begins with the sighting of a new moon. Because lunar months are shorter than the solar months used elsewhere, Islamic holidays begin on different days each year. The start of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each year according to the western Gregorian calendar, and consequently is not associated with any particular western month. For Muslims living in Britain, the fast may therefore be comparatively short if Ramadan falls during the winter months, or much longer if it occurs during the summer.
Special Days There are a number of special days during the month of Ramadan, which are considered special. They are:
Battle of Badr: This was a key battle in the year 625 CE and which occurred on the 17th of Ramadan.
Retaking of Mecca: On the 19th of Ramadan in the year 630 CE it is believed that Muhammad manage to return and retake the city of Mecca from his opponents.
Deaths: A number of important deaths occurred during the month of Ramadan: Muhammad's first wife, Khadija (10th) and both Ali and the eight Shiite Imam, Ali Reza (21st).
Births: A number of important births also occurred during the month of Ramadan: Hussein (6th), who was later martyred and Ali (22nd).
Laylat al-Qadr: This literally means "the night of power," and is celebrated on one of the last ten days during the month of Ramadan, but always on an odd numbered day. Tradition holds that on this night, the prayers of a sincere and devout Muslim are sure to be answered because it is believed to be the night when the Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad. Many Muslims also believe that, on this night, the tree of Paradise is shaken and the names of all those who will die in the coming year can be found on the fallen leaves.
Eid al Fitr: On this day a large feast is celebrated on the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, and is held on the first day of Shawwal, right after the month of Ramadan. Also called "Eid," on this day many elaborate dishes are served at banquet-like gatherings. Additionally, houses are decorated and gifts are exchanged.