So, when is Ramadan? A month-long observance of fasting, prayer and reflection, Ramadan occurs on the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslims around the world fast from sun up to sun down as a means of cleansing the soul. They also give up bad habits and reflect on ways to lead better lives.
The exact date of Ramadan changes from year to year, because the Islamic calendar is based on the stages of the moon; therefore, it is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. In addition, a month does not start until the New Moon. When the thin crescent of the New Moon is seen, then the month can begin. If, however, the weather prohibits the Moon from being seen, then the month does not start until it is visible once more.
In this lesson, students will:
- Compare and contrast the lunar and solar calendars
- Develop an understanding for the history associated with Ramadan.
- Recognize the terms and vocabulary.
- Reflect on the meaning of fasting.
Activity #1 – Lunar or Solar Calendars
Ramadan is the perfect time to teach students about the different ways humans have used to tell on day, week, and month from another. Begin by explaining to the class that while traditionally in our culture, as well as internationally for business, we use the Gregorian calendar which has 12 months based on the cycle of the sun. Other cultures use the cycle of the moon, including Islam. The Islamic calendar is called the Hijra calendar.
To tell if a date is in the present time, as opposed to ancient times, we put CE after the year. CE stands for Common Era. In the Hijra calendar, the dates are followed by AH, which stand for After Hijra. Hijra is the historical event that is associated with the migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, where he established the first Islamic government in the year 622 CE. The word hijra is translated from Arabic to mean migration.
The first day of the week is Sunday and is called in Arabic, First Day. The month names have meanings that correspond to various events or times of year. This handout gives both the names in English, Arabic as well as the definitions.
Have students brainstorm recent historical events with day, month and year listed. Then, using a calendar converter (these can be found online) find the corresponding Hijra date. For instance, the man landed on the moon on 20 – July – 1969 CE, which is Sunday 5 Jumaada al-awal 1389 AH.
Have students create timeline cards with their historic event, the date from both Gregorian and Hijra calendars. They can illustrate their event if they wish. Hang the cards in chronological order.
Activity #2 – Good Works
During Ramadan, Muslims give to charity and do good deeds. This is believed to help to keep believers from thinking of themselves and being selfish.
Brainstorm with the class ways they can be charitable and/or do good deeds. Have them think locally (within their classroom and community). Make a list of the most doable ideas. Have the class attempt to accomplish at least one act of kindness or charity each day for a month. (Note: These acts should be done as unobtrusively as possible. Making a big deal of doing a kindness negates its value.) Keep a chart of their accomplishments.
At the end of the month, have students write a reflective essay on the process of doing acts of kindness or charity every day. What did they notice about themselves from doing this? What was the reaction of others to their kindness or charity?
Activity #3 – Traditions: Compare and Contrast
As with all holidays and holy days, there are traditions. Ramadan has traditional foods and gatherings of families as well as the traditional countdown to the last day of the month – much like the countdown to the days before Christmas or the days of Hanukkah.
Have students do research on the celebrations of various cultures. This can either be done by means of a mini WebQuest or with a trip to the school library. Have students make a list of various celebrations from different cultures. Using a graph, have them list similarities and differences. Have the students form groups to discuss what they learned.
After discussion, have them write an essay comparing Ramadan with one or more of the other observances they researched.
At the end of this lesson, students will not only know when Ramadan occurs, but they will also understand the difference between the Hijra (Islamic) calendar and the Gregorian calendar. In addition, they will have gained a clearer understand of the various cultures of the world.
- Islamic Finder: Gregorian/Hijra Calendar Converter – http://www.islamicfinder.org/dateConversion.php
- Colorado State: Islamic Holidays – http://www.colostate.edu/orgs/MSA/events/Ramadan.html
- Web Exhibits: The Islamic Calendar – http://www.webexhibits.org/calendars/calendar-islamic.html
- World Muslim Congress: Ramadan Traditions – http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2009/09/ramadan-traditions.html