SUBTOPIC: Ramadan (Islamic Holiday)
GRADE LEVEL: 5-7
AUTHOR: Christy Ferguson
Islam is one of the most widespread religions in the world. Its followers, called Muslims, number between 850 million and 1 billion. Islam is practiced on the African continent in the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, and Mauritania. The Islamic religion is also practiced in Asia and in the area known as the Middle East in the countries of Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Israel. There are also Muslims in Russia, China, Europe, and North and South America. The three largest Muslim communities are found in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Islam is based on the belief in one god. Allah is the Arabic word Muslims use for "God." In Arabic, "Islam" means submission to Allah. The Muslims believe that in the 7th century Allah chose Muhammad to receive his message. Muhammad recorded the revelations he received. That text has now become known as the Koran (also spelled Qur'an).
The most important rituals practiced by the Muslims are often referred to as the Five Pillars of Islam. They are as follows:
- Shahadah - a short statement declaring the greatness and oneness of Allah.
- Salat - prayer that is offered five times daily
- Sawm - the fast that takes place during Ramadan
- Zakat - a religious tax used for the poor, the sick, and others less privileged in the Islamic community
- Hajj - the pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca
The third pillar will be the focus of this mini-unit.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This month lasts 29 or 30 days and occurs during different seasons depending on the cycle of the calendar. The fast of Ramadan lasts the entire month. All those who have reached the age of puberty (usually 12 years of age) are expected to observe the fast. Muslims are also expected to feed a poor person during this month. If one is ill or on a journey during Ramadan, one can fast the same number of days that were missed at a later time.
During this time strict restraints are placed on Islamic followers. They are not to eat or drink during the daylight hours, but they may break the fast at sunset. The fast begins again the next morning when one can see the white light coming through. One can have sexual relations in Ramadan only after sunset. Ramadan is a time to demonstrate self-mastery of one's physical desires.
Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to concentrate on the practice of their faith. Time is spent praying, worshipping, contemplating, and receiving religious instruction. Ramadan is a time to worship Allah; part of that worship includes reciting passages from the Koran. Ramadan is a time of profound joy for many.
During Ramadan, there is a festival-type atmosphere after sunset. In many cities Muslims go out after they have broken the fast to visit family and friends or to simply take a walk. Shopping areas and restaurants are open and busy and alive with conversation. On the 27th day of Ramadan, fireworks are often used to celebrate the Night of Power-the night that Muhammad first received revelation of the Koran in 610.
Ramadan is a time to celebrate and give thanks for the gift of the Koran. It is a time to remember the poor, to practice self-mastery, and to recommit one's self to the Islamic faith.
Jomier, J. (1989). How to Understand Islam. New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company.
Gordon, M. (1991). Islam. New York, NY: Oxford.
- Students will recognize that different groups of people have celebrations unique to them.
- Students will identify countries on a map where Islam is a dominant religion.
- Students will demonstrate their understanding of fasting and abstinence.
TIME ALLOTMENT: Approximately 3 to 4 class periods
- Islam Pretest
- world maps (as many as possible)
- materials to draw maps
- scheduled time in the library
A. Pretest. Have students answer the questions on the Islam Pretest (see Appendix) to the best of their knowledge. Then have students get with a partner to discuss their answers. Students may change their answers after talking with their partner.
B. Mini-lecture. Go over the answers to the quiz as a class. (Assure students that the quiz will not be graded. It was only to find out what they knew about Islam.) Have students change answers so they have the correct information. Discuss the answers in more detail. Focus on how Islam began, where it is practiced in the world, and the Ramadan celebration. Review information by asking questions.
C. Mapping skills. Review with students the different countries where Islam is practiced by large numbers of people. Provide world maps and have students draw and label the countries mentioned. Remind students to include large bodies of water and a compass rose.
D. Concept development. Review with students that Muslims fast and abstain from certain activities during the month of Ramadan. Define fasting (to go without food and sometimes water) and abstinence (refraining voluntarily from something). Give examples of abstaining from certain activities (abstaining from using drugs or alcohol). Stress to students that if something, such as a television privilege, is taken away by someone else, this is not abstinence because it was not done voluntarily by the person it affects.
E. Research. Have students research other groups, individuals, or times that involve (or involved) fasting and abstinence. Have students summarize the information on a piece of paper including WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, HOW, and WHEN. Some suggested topics include: Ember Days, Lent, Yom Kippur, Buddhist monks, Jainism, Hindu followers, Advent, Mahatma Ghandi, Dick Gregory, Great Plains Indians, Pacific Northwest Indians, Pueblo Indians of American Southwest, and those in the health and fitness arena.
F. Sharing. Have students get in groups of 4 or 5 and share their information with one another. As a class briefly discuss some of the reasons why people fast.
G. Conclusion. At the conclusion of this unit, give a summary of Ramadan. Include that Ramadan is a religious holiday practiced by those of the Islamic faith. It is celebrated through fasting and abstaining from certain activities. It is also a time to renew and remember one's faith.
- Responses to discussion questions will be assessed.
- Students' maps will be assessed.
- Students' summaries will be assessed.
1. People who practice Islam are called
2. True or False. The largest community of Islam followers is in Iran.
3. During Ramadan, the followers of Islam celebrate
- their great harvest
- their financial abundance
- the gift of the Koran
- the gift of the Holy Bible
4. During Ramadan, those who practice Islam are expected to
- fast for 29 or 30 days
- cover their body except for their eyes
- donate all their money to their church
- read the Koran 4 times
5. In the 7th century, Islam began when revelation was given to
6. True or False. The followers of Islam refer to their god as "Jesu."
7. True or False. There are 8 pillars of Islam.
8. True or False. There are less than 7million followers of the Islamic faith.
9. True or False. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
10. The word "Islam" means
- doing good to all man
- submission to God
- followers of Christ
- men of Muhammed
Return to Celebration Table of Contents
Note from Nathan Smith - 20 Sept 2001. TeacherLINK's webmaster: I had received several emails from members of the Muslim faith pointing out a few misconceptions or inaccurate information in Christy's lesson plan on Ramadan. I have made some corrections - this is the revised version. My thanks to those who helped with the revision. In the future, rather than revise the lesson plan, I will add any additional comments and corrections below...
On 21 September 2003 - I received the following email...
As Salaam Alaikum,
I have just looked over your sight and would like to respectfuly point a few things out.
#1 The fast during Ramadan is called Saum
#2 I dont beleive that it is correct to use certain sentences to teach something. it defames Islam to even suggest in any way that we Allah would be called any other than Allah. We dont do this sort of thing.
I do understand your commendable effort to teach something of Islam, but please consider rewording your text because students and others may become unintentionally misled and it is fairly offensive to some muslims that may visit your site.
08 November 2003 - I received the following email from Sheryl Siddiqui. My thanks to her and all others who are kind enough to write and correct misinformation. Here is the text of her letter...
God bless you for trying to correct misinformation. I hope that you will continue in this endeavor and encourage students to use authentic sources for study. Both the tone and the facts are still off in this lesson. It is not a requirement for men and women to cover all but their eyes, although some (not the majority of ) Muslim scholars interpret Quran that way for women. It is not required to complete the Quran 4 times during Ramadan, only once. It is not a requirement to feed a hungry person for the month unless you are unable to fast yourself; however it is a highly recommended practice. Thanks, sincerely! Peace, Sheryl
On November 11, 2003, I received the following...
There is a spelling mistake in the five pillars of Islam listed in the text: Sawm for fasting is the correct word not sawn.
One other thing is the statement that Muslims during their fast abstain from food" and sometimes water" is a misstatement, because Muslims neither eat or drink during their fast, i.e., if they drink their fast will not be accepted. Also the fasting is not only from food and drink, but from saying anything that is not appropriate, pleasant, or bad. Watching anything that is not also appropriate. To be short, fasting from everything that could jeopardize the acceptance of God to your deeds. All the senses should be fasting, and directed only towards the good and purity that God asks from us.
In one of the discussions you were discussing if drinking alcohol is permissible in Ramadan or not, Actually this question is out of context because Islam totally forbids drinking, carrying, selling, or even sitting in a place where alcohol is served.
Because Islam forbids anything the harms or degrades a human being or people around him. Because God made him in best form and put him in highest standing, and would not want him to degrade himself by drinking or smoking or other things that would harm the person and society around him.
Thank you very much for your efforts to inform about Islam.
November 10, 2003