Celebrating world festivals and occasions in the classroom not only raises awareness amongst children about different faiths, worldviews and cultures, but also helps to instil pride and a sense of belonging in children about their own culture and background. The holy month of Ramadan will start this year on 22nd March, with Eid ul-Fitr taking place on April 21st and 22nd.
What is Ramadan?
Mosque - A place of prayer for Muslims
Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered one of the holiest times of year for Muslims across the world. Marking this important festival, as well as other key religious festivals in the classroom helps to acknowledge and respect the cultural and religious diversity of your students and the wider community and is an important step towards creating a more inclusive classroom and society where all students feel valued and respected.
Ramadan is marked by Muslims in different ways, in different regions, but there are some common practices that are observed by most Muslims around the world during this holy month.
Fasting, which takes place each day from dawn to dusk, is the most important and well known aspect of Ramadan. Fasting is a way to purify the soul, demonstrate devotion to Allah and provides an opportunity for self reflection and spiritual improvement.
Ramadan provides a highly social time for the community to invite one another to break the fast and meet for prayer. Mosques often host iftar meals for the community to allow people to break their fasts together.
Ramadan is also an important time for charitable giving, refraining from negative activities like gossiping, lying or arguing and for additional Quran recitation and prayer.
The Taraweeh Prayer is a special nightly prayer performed during Ramadan. The first Taraweeh Prayer is performed the evening before the fasting begins and then each evening throughout Ramadan.
Kaaba in Mecca during Eid al-Fitr
The end of Ramadan is marked by celebrating Eid ul-Fitr or the "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast", a major holiday and celebration. This year Eid ul-Fitr will start with the sighting of the new moon on the evening of April 21st.
The celebration of Eid ul-Fitr typically begins with a special prayer, called the Eid prayer, performed at the mosque or a designated prayer area after which, Muslims greet each other with "Eid Mubarak", meaning "Blessed Eid".
The celebration of Eid ul-Fitr is a time for Muslims to express their gratitude to Allah for the blessings of Ramadan, and to celebrate with their loved ones. Food often plays a major role in any Eid ul-Fitr celebration with special dishes being cooked and shared.
How can educators support students during Ramadan?
Learn about Ramadan and its significance to Muslims. Talk about the occasion to students whether you have Muslim students in your class or not. Discussing faiths and worldviews offers an excellent opportunity to talk more broadly about empathy, diversity and respect for others.
Be sensitive and accommodating! Students who are fasting may require a quiet space to rest or an adjusted schedule to make sure that they're comfortable and able to participate fully in class.
If it is feasible, schools should provide a separate lunch/break space for students who are fasting and avoid any food-centric activities in school during Ramadan.
Practitioners should be mindful that PE may present a challenge to fasting students and adjust accordingly.
Consider making and displaying Ramadan decorations to acknowledge the significance of this month and help Muslim students feel seen and valued. Islamic art is beautiful and running a school project to create posters, lanterns and Islamic art is a great way to learn and ensure everyone can participate.
Celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan with all students. You can host a party in class, encourage students to bring in food to share and use this as another opportunity to discuss religious festivals more broadly.
Remember that every Muslim student's experience of Ramadan is different. Talk to students and families to understand any individual needs and the best way to support them.
Using Lyfta to support further discussions about different faith, culture and community
Asmir in storyworld series Becoming Me
Talking about and celebrating different religious festivals at school is a great way to start a conversation about different faiths, cultures and communities. To take the discussion further take a look at Lyfta's Becoming Me series. This series of storyworlds centres around the lives of six young people from Denmark who come from different communities and have differing faiths and worldviews. We see how each of them approaches growing up, practising faith and being part of a community. The teaching resources (including 12 lesson and assembly plans) emphasise the diversity within and across religious traditions and illustrate the national context of the worldviews featured.
Each child's identity, worldview and sense of belonging are complex. Tackling these themes with students can be challenging, but it can also lead to impactful discussions that have cross-curricular value - particularly as part of religious education, but also as part of PSHE, citizenship, or any subject where discussing identity is relevant. Exploring these themes also gives teachers the opportunity to highlight the diverse ways in which people can express their identities and worldviews.
Lyfta resources for subscribers
Below are links to lesson plans and resources for RE that subscribers can use in the classroom. Not yet a Lyfta subscriber? Join a free training webinar for 30 days of free access.