October 2627: start of Ramadan
The Islamic month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims, begins with the first sighting of the new moon.
Outline script for assembly leader
Imagine you are hungry and have been told not to eat between meals. In front of you is an unopened packet of biscuits. You will be found out if you eat one, so you don't. Now suppose there is an opened, half-eaten packet in front of you. Who could resist eating one?
A much harder test is faced by Muslims during the month of Ramadan. During this ninth month of the Islamic year, they fast during the hours of daylight. This means not eating, drinking or smoking (nor even taking medical drugs unless you are very ill). Pregnant women and travellers are excused. So too are young children, but most try to fast once they reach the age of 12 and some younger ones will fast for part of the day or on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Before sunrise, Muslims eat filling suhoor foods such as bread with olive oil, rice or porridge, boiled eggs or dates and other fruit. Then, after sunset, they end that day's fast with iftar: a few dates or nuts, savoury pastries and fruit drinks. After evening prayers, they share in the main family meal of the day.
Ramadan is the month in which the prophet Muhammad is said to have received the Koran (the Muslim holy book) from Jibra'il (Gabriel) and Muslims fast at this holy time to teach themselves self-control. They believe it makes them stronger in their faith, closer to God and gives them a chance to understand how the hungry and needy in the world feel all the time. It is also a time for giving to charity.
Discuss how non-Muslims can help Muslims observe the fast. For example, some companies assign lighter tasks to those fasting while others alter shift patterns to allow Muslims to join in family evening meals. Some Muslim companies close earlier during the month.
How can schools help pupils who are fasting? (By not eating in front of them, allocating prayer rooms, and so on.) A useful paper, Guidance for Schools on Arrangements for Muslim Pupils during the Month of Ramadan, prepared by Hounslow local education authority and Hounslow Central Mosque can be found in pdf format at www.mcb.org.ukramadanRamadanGuidelines.pdf It also includes advice on such matters as parents' evenings during this period.