Dates for assembly

8th October 2004 at 01:00
October 15 First day of Ramadan

This month celebrates the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad and is a time of daily fasting.

Outline script for assembly leaders

Suppose you are in a city street in an Arabic country. It is mid-afternoon. Just by looking around, you can tell it is Ramadan. Offices have closed early. Shops are shut. A few taxis drive around, looking for customers but the city is emptier than usual.

As afternoon turns to evening, the city comes back to life. Shops re-open and people come out of their homes to buy spicy foods or fresh lettuce for the evening meal.

Children play on the streets again, but keep an ear open for the adhan, the call from the mosque that announces day has turned to night and the day's fast is over. They then rush indoors to drink cold milk or sherbet.

Street vendors appear with their little carts. Many sell dates, the fruit that is traditionally eaten for iftar, the light meal taken to break each day's fast. On other stalls, oil is poured into frying pans and, as soon as it simmers, the salesmen begin to cook samosas.

Muslims fast each day during the month of Ramadan from the time in the morning when there is enough light "to tell a black thread from a white one". That is, they don't eat, drink or smoke from dawn until dark.

They are also meant to say extra prayers and to try to read the whole of the Qur'an. All adult Muslims are expected to fast but the very old, the sick, travellers and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding are excused.

Most children fast once they reach the age of 12.

As one young Muslim put it: "I fast to remind myself that many people are too poor to eat whenever they want. We reach for something to nibble the moment we feel just a bit hungry.

"Fasting makes me not give in. It helps make my mind stronger than my body."

Follow-up

Discuss: is it easier to fast in the Middle East or in Britain? During a short winter day or a long summer one?

Design and decorate a calendar for the 29 days of Ramadan that also shows western dates.

Further information (and useful links) can be found at: www.ramadan.co.uk

and at: www.bbc.co.ukreligionreligionsislamfeaturesramadan

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