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What You Should Know About Ramadan

Almost two billion Muslims around the world will begin to celebrate Ramadan, a month-long fast of worship and learning self-restraint. Muslims will abstain from food, drink, and intercourse while fasting.

Muslims fast as an act of worship to God, described in the Quran: “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (Q 2:183)”

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a month in which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk for 29-30 days. Ramadan begins with the sighting of the moon, in accordance with the lunar calendar. Ramadan ends with a celebration of ending the fast, called Eid Al-Fitr.

When is Ramadan?

This year Ramadan will be the evening of April 12-May 12, 2021.

What does the fast entail?

Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn until dusk. Muslims practice good deeds such as giving charity, helping others and attempt to rid themselves from ill habits such as gossiping, cheating, jealousy, and anger.

Who fasts? Who is exempt from fasting?

Muslims are required to fast once they hit puberty. Families often encourage younger children to practice shortened fasts, sometimes starting at 7-years-old. Those who are chronically ill or mentally disabled do not have to fast. Pregnant and nursing mothers are also exempt from fasting. They can make up the fasts at a later time. However, many pregnant women fast with no adverse effects to their children’s development.

Here are some ways I involved my kids in Ramadan.

How do Muslims celebrate Ramadan?

During Ramadan, Muslims increase their worship in God by reading Quran, the holy book for Muslims, giving alms and charity, and doing good deeds. Muslims pray a night prayer after breaking their fast, called Tarawih, usually at the mosque in the congregation. Muslims believe good deeds are increased in blessings during this month. During the pandemic, many organizations and mosques have created virtual programming.

Check out this master list of virtual activities during Ramadan on Haute Hijab.

Are there any traditions associated with Ramadan?

Muslims come from all walks of life and therefore Ramadan is celebrated in various ways across the world. During the morning people eat a pre-dawn meal prior to fasting often called sehri or suhoor (and other terms in various languages).

Learn about my sehri experience during Ramadan here.

Some traditions include breaking fast with family, friends, or neighbors at home or at the mosque. Breaking fast is called iftar or iftari. During the pandemic, many mosques are not hosting iftars. Some people are doing virtual iftars while others are having iftar at home alone or with immediate family.

People usually break their fasts with dates and water. In my Bangladeshi American family, we often eat specific meals during Ramadan: lentil fritters, chana, fried chickpeas, khichuri, a rice and lentil porridge, salad, biryani, and other treats.

A sample Bangladeshi iftar meal. (Photo Credit: Nargis Rahman)

How can people who do not celebrate Ramadan participate?

Give your Muslim neighbors baked goods.  Wish them a Happy Ramadan or Ramadan Mubarak.  Avoid scheduling work meetings early mornings or around lunch meals.  Ask Muslims how they celebrate Ramadan and what it means to them. Join an iftar party with your local Muslim neighbors and community. Colleges usually sponsor a Fast-A-Thon, a dinner that raises money for a cause. Be mindful of scheduling virtual events during late afternoons when many will be preparing meals.

How can I teach my kids about Ramadan?

Reading is a great way to learn about Ramadan. Here are a list of books on Amazon.com which share the experience of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr:

It’s Ramadan, Curious George” by H. A. Rey & Hena Khan

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns” by Hena Khan

Night of the Moon” by Hena Khan

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets” by Hena Khan

Once Upon a Ramadan” by D.N. Hockey

Raihanna’s First Time Fasting” by Qamaer Hassan

Yusuf’s Ramadan Lanterns” by Jasmin Zina

Ramadan Moon” by Na’ima B. Robert& Shirin Adl

Under the Ramadan Moon” by Sylvia Whitman & Sue Williams

Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle” by Reza Jalali & Anne Sibley O’Brien

Owl & Cat Ramadan Is…” by Emma Apple

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