Muslim ELS Students and RamadanPosted: August 1, 2011
As some of you homestay families may be aware, the Muslim month of Ramadan begins today. There was talk about some of the Muslim ELS students returning home to their respective countries during this season, but as of this writing none have managed to do so. This means that for those of you with a Muslim student, the coming weeks will require some understanding and flexibility on your part to accommodate the needs of your student. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
So what is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting. It is one of the five pillars of Islam along with daily prayers, charity, the declaration of faith, and pilgrimage to Mecca. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink (even water), and sensual pleasures from dawn until sunset. They are encouraged to reflect, purify themselves in thought and deed, give thanks for the things they have, and pray/act on behalf of those in the world less fortunate.
How does Ramadan work?
Beginning Monday, August 1st until Tuesday, August 30th, 2011, our Muslim students will not eat or drink anything during the daylight hours to quench their thirst. They will join observant Muslims worldwide in observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslim adults and young people who have reached puberty are required to fast from food or drink from dawn to sunset.
In Muslim-majority countries, people often scale back their business activities and life flows at a slower pace during the days of Ramadan. This frequently means that most people nap or rest throughout the daylight hours and are more active after nightfall. In countries such as the U.S., where Islam is a minority religion, most Muslims are expected to go about their day as usual, though they are observing the holy month. Along those lines, our students are still expected to complete their studies and homework as usual.
Students should start each day, before sunrise, with a good breakfast and are welcome to partake of the Iftar meal (the post-sunset meal that breaks the fast each evening) and nightly prayers at the Islamic Society’s Mosque. You are not expected to prepare this meal for your student(s) – they need to be responsible for this, themselves.
The Iftar meal and subsequent prayers will draw many people to the local Mosque on weekends. Fewer people gather for the weekday Iftar meals because most families hold Iftar gatherings at home. But 400 to 500 people are expected to gather at the Mosque on weekends and our students are welcome to attend this meal.
At the completion of the thirty days of Ramadan is the holiday Eid ul-Fitr. On this day, morning prayers are followed by feasting and celebration among family and friends. Eid is a day of great thanksgiving for Muslims: an opportunity to show their gratitude for making it through the month of fasting and a chance to share their blessings with others.
How does this affect you, the homestay family?
If you would like, you can choose to join your student in observance of Ramadan. But mostly it will be an opportunity for you to observe and learn about the religious practices of another culture. It will also be a chance for you to provide additional support for your student, as this is an especially hot summer in Oklahoma and the fast needs to be undertaken with care. Finally, please be sensitive to what your students are going through during this month. In general, avoid eating and drinking or talking about food in front of your student while they are fasting. This is just simple courtesy.
Weather forecasts for the Oklahoma City metro area on Monday show sunrise will be about 6:30 a.m. and sunset will be about 8:30 p.m. The extreme heat may test some fasting Muslims, but most local Muslims are familiar with the sweltering hot summertime weather with which they must contend during the holy month. The consecutive 100-degree-plus weather across the state was unexpected, but most Muslims likely will persevere through it. Muslims fasting during the parched conditions are encouraged to break the fast should they start to feel lightheaded or sick.