A Guide to Celebrating Ramadan

What is Ramadan and why is it important to Muslims?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is the 4th pillar of Islam. Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims as it when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. It is a time marked by self-reflection where Muslims devote their time to focus on prayer, deepen their relationship with Allah and embody the principles of their faith. Those partaking in Ramadan abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. The act of fasting itself is an opportunity for individuals to understand and reflect the pain and suffering of millions around the globe who live in poverty and for the participant to feel grateful for all they have.  

Currently, Muslims all around the world are preparing for the holy month. They do this by offering voluntary fasts to get their body used to going without food for a period of time, read Qur’an, donate to charity etc. The Islamic Calendar is based around the lunar cycle and so Ramadan rotates by about 10 days each year. This year, the Holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on Monday 11th March 2024 but that is dependent on the sighting of the moon. 

During Ramadan, we have a meal called Suhoor which we eat before dawn to sustain us through the day. We then have our sunset meal called Iftar. 

Celebrating Ramadan as a Student

Fasting as a student and trying to keep up with exams and revision can be challenging so here a few tips on how to stay on top of things: 

  • One of the key things to be successful whilst juggling your studies and fasting is to create a realistic timetable and try your best to stick to it! For example, you might find that you study best after you’ve eaten suhoor so try to add in a couple of hours of studying after or you may find that you work better after you’ve eaten your Iftar meal and staying up and working until Suhoor. Personally, I prefer utilising the early morning hours; it is peaceful, quiet, and most importantly you are not hungry or thirsty, so it is easier for me to stay concentrated – but every person works slightly differently so it is all about what works best for you! 
  • Make sure your sleeping pattern is okay. You’re more likely to be staying up late or waking up in the middle of the night for Suhoor so make sure you are catching up on sleep to ensure you are well rested. If possible, try and allocate specific times for sleep, prayer and studying.  
  • Eat healthily! Your Suhoor and Iftar meals need to be nutritious and be able to sustain you throughout the day. Eating foods that slowly release energy such as oats, wholegrains (bread, pasta), berries, beans etc as well as drinking plenty of fluids is vital to your health and wellbeing. If you do not eat and drink well, you may find yourself exhausted and dehydrated making it difficult to carry out your daily activities and can affect your ability to concentrate. This can impact your productivity and overall well-being. 

Fostering support for Muslims during Ramadan

Even if you do not celebrate Ramadan, there are a lot of things you can do to create an inclusive and supportive environment for those who do celebrate. It is important to recognise that fasting as well as a mixed sleep schedule can leave students feeling more lethargic than usual and acknowledging this would be appreciated by all students who are fasting.  

It can be simple things such as try to be as flexible as possible with schedules. If you are aware a student is observing Ramadan, try and avoid scheduling meetings later in the evening when it could be nearing the time to open the fast or they could be feeling the effects of forgoing food the later on in the day it gets. Instead, opt for morning meetings where possible whilst they still have the energy from their Suhoor meal. 

Be curious but positively curious! Many people’s first assumption when it comes to hearing that a person is fasting is that they must forego food and water. But to Muslims Ramadan means so much more. Most Muslims will welcome any questions you have and try to educate you about Ramadan. 

Here are some common greetings you can use to share your well wishes: 

  • ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ – Blessed Ramadan 
  • ‘Ramadan Kareem’ – Noble Ramadan 

The Islamic Society here at Reading University also put on various events throughout Ramadan so if you are an international student celebrating Ramadan away from home or just looking to make some new friends then this would be perfect for you to engage with fellow Muslims also celebrating Ramadan! Currently, the ISOC will be hosting iftars throughout the month as well as evening prayers called Taraweeh.   

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone celebrating! 

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