The first time I became aware of Ramadan–it was, in fact, my first-ever significant exposure to Islam–several 2nd grade boys in my international school classroom in Tokyo come running to me, their teacher, to inform me that one of their classmates wouldn’t eat. He was a boy from Qatar, and he usually wouldn’t eat pork or grapes, but this was the first time he wouldn’t eat. At all.
He told me he wasn’t eating for forty days. How is that possible? I wondered. I couldn’t imagine going without food for forty hours, let alone forty days.
As I learned later, Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, which is lunar; each new month begins with a new moon. This year, Ramadan fell during the summer. For Muslims, it is a holy month. It commemorates the time when Muhammad, their founding prophet, received his first revelation from Allah, or God. During Ramadan, they avoid all food and drink between sunrise and sunset.
They do this for a few different reasons: to discipline themselves, to remember the world’s poor, and to focus on the blessings from Allah. Eid ul-Fitr, is a joyous festival that ends the Ramadan fast and lasts for three days. At Eid, they eat special meals, give food to the poor, visit with relatives, and exchange gifts and cards. It was clear from the pride that both the student in Tokyo showed, as well as the students in my school who chose Ramadan for the subject of their posters in the library project (see previous post), that this is a very special time for the Islamic community.
Last year, our school district welcomed many new Muslim families into our schools. I’m glad to have learned a little more about these new neighbors! If you’d like to learn more, the library has a lot of interesting books on Islam, such as Celebrations! by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley, that talks about Islam and many other celebrations around the world.