Do you have children in public school? Whether they are fasting or not, it is important for their school to be informed about Ramadan. While some districts and individual teachers may be savvy about different religious and cultural practices, it is not always the case. Use this month as a teachable moment and share information about Ramadan with your local public school staff and your child’s teachers and classmates.
Not sure where to begin? Do not despair, we have you covered! The following is a sample letter that you are welcome to download, modify, and use.
Sample Letter About Ramadan to Principal/School Staff
Dear [Principal’s Name],
Ramadan Mubarak! The month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar begins this week. It lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon indicating the new month has arrived. It is an exciting and busy time for Muslims all over the world. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from right before dawn to sundown. The fast consists of abstaining from food and drink (including chewing gum, candy, and water!) and giving up all sorts of negative behaviors or vices.
The fast is completed by Muslim adults who are physically and psychologically able to fast, with exceptions for some like travelers, pregnant and nursing mothers, and menstruating women. Although young children (who have not reached the age of puberty) are not required to fast, some still like to try fasting to prepare for when they are older and to feel like they are part of the celebration. Depending on their ages, they may try a partial fast or give up some type of food or drink.
Muslims believe that God revealed the first verses of the Quran (or Koran), Islam’s holy book, during the month of Ramadan, so aside from fasting, Muslims also try to read as much of the Quran as they can. They also partake in an extra congregational prayer called “Tarawih,” in which the Quran is divided and recited in 29 or 30 parts, one section daily. Tarawih is performed after the night prayer, which may be from approximately 9pm-10pm during daylight savings time and can last for an hour to an hour and a half.
Ramadan is a time for families to break fast together, share their food with the needy, perform prayers in congregation, and study the Quran. It is a time of cleansing, both physically and spiritually, for the body and soul. Because a lot of the extra rituals take place after sunset, this may affect a family’s regular schedule. For this reason, we humbly request that you offer your support to Muslim families and children who may be taking part in these exciting activities.
My own children will be attempting to fast during the day this year, so I would appreciate it if you would help accommodate them during this month. Here are some ways your school and staff can help:
- Teach all students about Ramadan and what it means for Muslims. This will provide an environment of inclusion and understanding. There are many resources about Ramadan available online for teachers.
- Implement one or two activities centered around Ramadan to reinforce whatever students have learned about different religious celebrations and traditions.
- Give Muslim students an option on where to go during lunch time. They may not want to be around people when they are eating, so providing an alternative safe space outside the cafeteria for them can be helpful.
- Please allow fasting students to opt out of or modify physical education activities that may be too rigorous, to avoid dehydration and/or fatigue.
- Show them your kindness and understanding. A smile and encouragement can go a long way! Children need to feel a sense of acceptance and love from the adults in their lives. Knowing that their teachers respect their faith and personal choices can boost their self-esteem and determination, which will, in turn, enhance their performance in school.
- Consider inviting a guest speaker to offer a presentation on Ramadan or offer a story time with a Ramadan-themed book. Muslim parents and/or authors may be more than willing to volunteer as a special guest!
Indeed, Ramadan can be greatly beneficial with the right intention and support. Muslims learn to be more disciplined and empathetic through fasting, performing extra prayer and good deeds, giving in charity, and reflecting on the world around them. Hopefully, our children will take these lessons and implement them in school, as well as in all aspects of their lives.
Let me know if you have questions or concerns. Thank you so much for your consideration and understanding.
You can also include a link to this downloadable Ramadan brochure that can provide them with more detailed information: www.whyislam.org/brochures/ramadan/. (These brochures are also nice to pass along to your non-Muslim neighbors!)
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.