Recognizing Ramadan at UM
As educators and campus-community members at the University of Montana, it is essential that we recognize and respect the various religions of our students, faculty, and staff from around the globe. For our Muslim students, faculty, and staff, the holy month of Ramadan is an important time to reconnect with other followers of Islam on campus and in the community and to reaffirm their faith. Ramadan may also be a challenging time physically because of fasting and emotionally because our Muslim students may feel homesick and wish they could celebrate with their families back home. This holiday is a wonderful opportunity for our campus to help Muslim students feel welcomed, included, and respected. Ramadan is also an excellent opportunity to educate others about Islam and the many cultures and countries where it is practiced.
During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or even drink anything from sun up to sundown, sometimes during the hottest months and longest days of the year.
How can we be supportive of our students and faculty/staff observing Ramadan?
- Prayer occurs five times per day and Muslim students should be allowed a quiet, private place to pray.
- Prayers are especially important during the first day of Ramadan and the last three days of Ramadan known as Eid al-Fitr. Professors can be proactive by asking ahead of time if students will need to leave class (including synchronously delivered online courses) to pray and allow students to be excused from class and work commitments during that time.
- If you offer events or programs (including virtual ones) that involve food during Ramadan, consider having them after sunset to be inclusive of Muslims.
- Offer take-out boxes from the dining hall during Ramadan to accommodate Muslim students and be sure to advertise these special efforts.
- If you don’t know, ask. Respectfully. Students, regardless of their beliefs, just want to be loved and accepted and not ostracized for their traditions. Ask questions like, “How do you observe Ramadan?” and “How can I help you be comfortable during Ramadan?” Take the opportunity to educate yourself.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Islam uses a lunar calendar – that is, each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays “move” each year. In 2020, Ramadan begins at sundown on April 23, but in 2019 it began on May 5 which means that it will be starting earlier in the spring semester each year moving forward. Ramadan continues for 30 days. In 2020, Ramadan will end the evening of May 23. Ramadan is considered very important because the Qur’an was first revealed during the month of Ramadan.
Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of Ramadan. This means they may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam. As with other Islamic duties, all able Muslims take part in sawm from about age twelve. During Ramadan in the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours. Families get up early for suhoor, a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar. Iftar usually begins with dates and sweet drinks that provide a quick energy boost.
Want to learn more about Islam? Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/
This was article adapted from: Adawe, I., & Cordell, A. (2014, July). Campus and community programming during Ramadan. For further questions about how you can support students, staff, and faculty during Ramadan, please contact Senior International Officer & Executive Director of the Global Engagement Office, Donna Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org