As we approach the end of Ramadan begins many of our members move into a very meaningful period. We wanted to learn more about how Ramadan is observed from a Scouting perspective and so we spoke to Shaheen Ally, Cub Scout Leader at AHF Scout Group in Blackburn. In this interview she kindly shares her experience and knowledge of Ramadan and Eid.
1. Shaheen, hello. Thank you for chatting to us. Can you tell us a bit about Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Throughout this month, Muslims all over the world will abstain from eating and drinking each day between dawn and sunset. This practice is commonly known as fasting.
2. Aside from fasting, how else is Ramadan observed?
The observance of Ramadan is extremely rich in meaning. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an, the Muslim sacred scripture, was revealed. Aside from fasting, Muslims dedicate more time to prayer and good deeds. Ramadan is a month to reflect and improve one’s life habits by refraining not only from food and drink but anything blameworthy or disapproved both in speech and action . Those who fast also become more sensitive to the needs of those who habitually go hungry around the world due to poverty.
3. When will it take place this year and how long do you fast for?
The Islamic year comprises of 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days. The beginning of the month of Ramadan is dependent on the sighting of the new moon. For this year, it is predicted the month will start on Saturday 27 May and will continue for 29 or 30 days.
4. Does everyone fast?
Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for all able adult Muslims; those who are unwell, elderly, pregnant or suffering from health related illnesses are exempt from fasting.
5. How do young people observe Ramadan?
Children do not need to fast during Ramadan until they reach the age of maturity. However, many young people enjoy taking part in the fast and may practice their fasting in a way that is appropriate for their age. Children may choose to fast for a few hours, half a day or one full day on the weekend, allowing them, in their own way, to be part of this special time for families and communities.
6. What are some of the ways that individuals taking part are affected during this time? Perhaps physically or spiritually?
Fasting isn’t unique to Islam. Christians, Hindus and Jews also practice fasting and prayer. As well as giving people a spiritual boost, fasting develops self-discipline through sacrifice.
In 2017, Ramadan in the UK will take place in one of the hottest and longest summer months. An average fast will be 19 to 20 hours each day. Many Muslims will also spend their nights in communal prayer. During Ramadan, Muslims also have a light meal before daybreak. Therefore, it’s common for people to be deprived of sleep resulting in feeling tired and lethargic during the day. The first few days of fasting are always hard and may cause headaches and dizziness, but very soon the body becomes accustomed to the new regime.
7. How does your programme at Scouts adapt during Ramadan?
Many Scout Groups across the UK will adapt their sessions for their members and volunteers. This might mean changing the times they meet, not doing outdoor strenuous activities or just adapting their programme to include Ramadan themed activities.
8. How do you manage as a leader who is fasting?
Leaders who are fasting may feel tired and not have the same energy levels as normal. Rotating leaders and making use of occasional helpers is vital to ensure volunteers are not left feeling burnt out. Prayer times when running sessions or just allowing volunteers and children time to pray, could also be a good idea.
9. Can you tell us a bit about Zakat – the element of charity – honoured during Ramadan?
Zakat is about giving a portion of money to the poor and needy every year. It is an act of worship and self-purification. The act of Zakat is often practiced during Ramadan however it can be done at any time during the year. The giving of Zakat allows Muslims to purify themselves from greed and selfishness, appreciate the blessings of God, and fulfil one’s obligation towards one’s community and society.
10. Do you have any tips for activities to support young people to explore Ramadan and celebrate in the Group?
Muslim children love Ramadan. It’s a time of unity and happiness. Often whole communities will come together every day to break fast and pray. All leaders in Scouting should try to celebrate Ramadan with their young people. Simple activities like making cards, advent calendars or even breaking fast together will create amazing memories for them.
Groups can organise a fundraiser for a charity of their choice or even organise an ‘Eid’ party at the end of the month of fasting. Ramadan really can be celebrated by everyone and not just Muslims. It’s a time for, happiness, giving and charity.
11. Between periods of fasting, are there any traditional foods that are eaten?
During Ramadan, Muslims often break their fast with water and dates. Many will drink Zamzam water, which is sourced from the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Dates are readily available from many local shops and supermarkets.
12. Can you tell us a bit about Eid and how it is celebrated?
‘Eid al-Fitr’ also known as just ‘Eid’ is celebrated worldwide by Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan. There is a special prayer that is performed in congregation on the day of Eid followed by family and social gatherings where traditional and special sweets and food dishes are shared. Muslims will often wear nice clothes and exchange gifts on Eid.
13. For leaders conducting programmes during Ramadan, how can the Muslim Scout fellowship assist with support and ideas?
Any Group wanting to get involved in Ramadan or Eid should contact the Muslim Scout Fellowship. There are so many things Groups can do to join in the celebrations. You can even contact Muslim Scout Groups in your County or District who may be running special sessions throughout the month.
This article has been modified and first appeared on the Scouts.org.uk website: http://scouts.org.uk/news/2017/05/observing-ramadan-and-celebrating-eid-in-scouting/