An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting Presentation

Note: This presentation is the intellectual property of Islamic Networks Group (ING) and is available for non-commercial public use only. This presentation and its content cannot be displayed in exchange for payment in cash or in kind.

We are making ING’s presentation An Overview of Ramadan and Fasting available online for a limited time for those involved in interfaith work. Use of this resource to present about Islam and Muslims should be supplemented by ING’s answers to frequently asked questions, available here. We’ve also created a special online version of our core presentation Getting to Know American Muslims and Their Faith for public use.

If you are interested in becoming one of our volunteer certified speakers, join us here, or write to one of our affiliates if you live in their area here.

An Overview of Ramadan & Fasting

The following is an overview of Ramadan and fasting. This information is to be used in conjunction with the digital presentation above. Each slide is associated with the following descriptions and can serve as scripts for those using the digital overview to present about the topic, or as further explanation for those viewing the digital presentation.

What is Ramadan? (Slide 2)

  • Ramadan is the name of the 9th month in the Islamic calendar.
  • Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe the Qur’an was first revealed. For that reason, Muslims reconnect with the Qur’an in Ramadan and attempt to read it through at least once during the month.
  • It is also a month of fasting and extra worship, during which Muslims pay special attention to their daily prayers and perform special nightly prayers.
  • It is also a highly communal time of year, during which people invite friends and family to join in breaking the fast.

When is Ramadan? (Slide 3)

  • The Islamic (Hijri ) calendar is named after the migration or hijra by the early Muslims to Medina in 622.
  • The Islamic calendar is lunar, beginning and ending with the new moon. Because it is lunar, the entire calendar, including Ramadan, moves 11 days earlier each year.
  • This year Ramadan began on May 27th and will end on June 25th.

What are the goals of fasting? (Slide 4)
The goals of fasting are multiple.

  • Ramadan is a month of intense spiritual rejuvenation and self-reflection. Fasting helps Muslims draw closer to God through extra devotional activities such as reading the Qur’an and performing special prayers.
  • Fasting also helps Muslims build their will power and learn self-control, gratitude for what they have, and compassion for those less fortunate.
  • Ramadan is also a time for heightened self-awareness and introspection and for cultivating good character by avoiding any proscribed thoughts or actions.
  • Ramadan is also a highly communal time as Muslims share in breaking their fast and special prayers.

How long is the Ramadan fast? (Slide 5)

  • The Ramadan fast lasts from pre-dawn to sunset each day for 29 or 30 days.
  • Adults who are able to do so refrain from food, drink, and intimacy during sunlit hours.
  • Depending on time of year (longer days in the summer; shorter days in the winter), the fast lasts between 12 to 16 hours each day.

What is a typical day in Ramadan? (Slide 6)

  • During a typical day in Ramadan, observant Muslims rise before dawn to eat a small meal similar to breakfast before performing the early morning prayer.
  • They may go back to sleep or go to work or school, continuing their normal schedule or making adjustments in start and end times of work, depending on their work schedule and preferences.
  • They break their fast at sunset, either at home or in the mosque if it offers daily fast-breaking dinners.
  • It is customary to invite one’s family and friends to share in breaking the fast.
  • During Ramadan, those who are fasting make extra efforts to perform all five daily prayers. In addition, there are special Ramadan prayers called taraweeh that follow night prayers. People also perform extra prayers during the night.

What are special Ramadan foods? (Slide 7)

  • It is a prophetic tradition and custom to break the fast with dates and water or milk. Every ethnic group follows its own traditional ways for breaking the fast (known as iftar in Arabic), with some cultures serving fruit and appetizers such as samosas while others serve soup.
  • Dinner also feature special ethnic foods, especially when guests, extended family, and friends are invited.
  • It is highly encouraged to share in breaking the fast with others, and according to prophetic traditions the person who feeds a fasting person shares the reward for fasting.

Who is exempt from fasting? (Slide 8)

  • Those exempt from fasting include the elderly, sick, travelers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women.
  • People may make up a fast by making up days missed when able to fast at a later time or by feeding the poor if unable to fast indefinitely.
  • Children are not required to fast but often want to begin at age 9 or 10 to emulate their siblings or parents.

Accommodating fasting employees and students (Slide 9)

This section describes some best practices for accommodating fasting employees and students.

How does fasting impact employees? (Slide 10)

  • Some fasting employees may request an adjustment in their schedules during Ramadan because of the challenging schedule of waking up early and sleeping late and because of the timing of fast-breaking, depending on the time of year.
  • If a lunch meeting is scheduled in Ramadan, Muslim employees can attend but will not be able to eat.
  • Some companies encourage their Muslim employees to host iftar or breaking-fast dinners for their co-workers.
  • Employees may want to use vacation time during the last ten days of Ramadan, which is a time of increased devotion.

Humorous look at challenges of fasting in the workplace (Slide 11)

Watch this clip to get a humorous look at some of the challenges of fasting in the workplace!

What are some challenges for fasting students in school? (Slide 12)

  • While they not required to fast before puberty, young children may fast in emulation of their parents or older siblings.
  • Fasting students may also attend special night prayers. The combination of fasting and late nights may impact students’ energy level and make them less attentive in class.

How to best accommodate fasting students in school? (Slide 13)

  • One way to make fasting students feel included and promote awareness is to announce the start of Ramadan in the school newsletter or include it on the school calendar.
  • Fasting students should be allowed to spend their lunchtime in the library or computer lab, to be excused from strenuous activities in P.E., and, for younger students, to save treats from parties which take place during class time.
  • If students or their parents are interested in explaining Ramadan to the class, that is a nice way to make the fasting students feel included.

Thank you (Slide 14)

  • Thanks for your interest.

At ING we are committed to robust religious discourse in the public square — understanding each other is an important first step. We hope you will join us in this important work.