These are the guiding principles of Muslim life.
A simple and sincere declaration of faith is required of all those who choose to follow Islam.
The below words must be uttered freely and with conviction by all Muslims.
“Ash-hadu anla ilaha illal-Lahu Wahdahu la Sharika Lahu wa-ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu.”
Which translates to:
“I solemnly swear that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.”
Muslims believe that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God. According to Islam, throughout history God sent His chosen messengers, or prophets, to guide us.
The three prophets were Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
That there is just one God is central to Islam and can be found in all aspects of Muslim life.
Another aspect central to Muslim life is regular, obligatory, ritual prayer.
Prayers are performed five times a day: at dawn, midday, late afternoon, sunset and nightfall — reminding one of God throughout the day.
Regular prayer helps worshippers to form a very personal relationship with Allah and to fully depend on, trust and love Him.
Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) said:
“Indeed, when one of you prays, he speaks privately with his Lord.”
Regular prayer helps one to achieve inner peace and harmony, prevent destructive deeds and to seek God’s pardon for any misdeeds.
The Prophet once asked of his followers:
“Do you think if there was a river by the door and one of you bathed in it five times a day, would there remain any dirt on him?”
When the Prophet’s companions answered in the negative, he replied:
"That is how it is with the five daily prayers. Through them God washes away your sins."
Friday is an important day for Muslims to get together. The midday prayer, or Jumma, on Fridays is different from usual daily prayers in that it includes a sermon.
At other times prayers include verses from the Qur’an and take only a few minutes to complete.
Ramadan Guidance for Schools
This section is extracted from a comprehensive guidance document on ‘Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils’ originally launched by The Muslim Council of Britain in 2006. As we normally get many queries about Ramadan from schools just before or during Ramadan, we have made this section available for reference and hope that schools will find this helpful.
Ramadan – the Month of Fasting
Good Practice – Ramadan
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the fourth ‘Pillar’ of Islam, an act of worship of great spiritual, moral and social significance for Muslims. It is obligatory for all, male and females to fast once they attain the age of puberty (for some children this can be as young as age 9). The physical dimension of fasting involves completely abstaining from all forms of nourishment, food, liquids (including water), smoking and intimacy, from daybreak to sunset for the whole month. Younger children may fast for all or part of the month but this is entirely optional. The spiritual and moral dimension of fasting is considered to be of far greater importance than the physical one.
Muslims are encouraged not to use Ramadan as an opportunity to avoid aspects of normal life but rather to cope with normal life under a different set of guidelines. Schools need to be aware of important considerations in relation to pupils fasting. Children fasting will get up before dawn to have their earlier than normal breakfast. This interrupts their sleep pattern. By the same token when Ramadan falls during the summer months, they may need to stay up later than usual.
During Ramadan, Muslims focus on additional devotional activities and God- consciousness to improve themselves in all aspects of their lives and dealings with others. This includes a focus on their character, respect for others, kindness, forgiveness, mannerisms, avoidance of bad language and poor behavior. In addition to having empathy with the poor and donating generously for charitable causes, the sharing of food and inviting others to one’s home for opening the fast are other important features of Ramadan. Muslims also focus on reading and studying more the Holy Qur’an and performing additional nightly prayers in the mosque every evening.
Schools can develop the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects of their children and school life by recognising and building upon the essence and spirit of Ramadan. Whilst the discipline and the challenge of fasting is to continue with the tasks of everyday life, staff can be asked to exercise a degree of understanding e.g. encourage pupils to avoid excessive exertion in physical education to prevent dehydration. By the same token they may praise pupils who are clearly making a special effort regarding their attitudes and behavior. Some schools offer their staff awareness training about factors affecting their pupils during Ramadan.
Teachers can take this opportunity to be more inclusive and teach pupils about Ramadan in Religious Education and to invite guests from the Muslim community to take collective worship assemblies.
Islamic calendar is based on the lunar months and therefore the month of Ramadan begins 10 or 11 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar; hence the month of Ramadan moves through the seasons from January to December over a period of 30 years.
Primary School Pupils
Although fasting for the entire month becomes obligatory at the age of puberty, it is common practice for Muslim children to begin to fast before this age to become progressively accustomed to fasting by the age of puberty. Most children aged 10 and 11 (years 5 & 6) are expected to fast all 30 days. Children are enthusiastic and get a great sense of achievement in joining their families in taking part in the spirit of Ramadan and often begin at a younger age.
The younger the age, the more progressively difficult it becomes for children to fast without their physical stamina and concentration levels being effected. This can be problematic for very young children and we would advise that schools liaise with parents to encourage very young children to fast half days or to avoid fasting during school days as this can have a significant effect on their concentration levels and degree of alertness whilst at school. It is important to be aware that young children are more likely to fast when Ramadan falls in the winter months, when the days are shorter than the longer and warmer summer days.
Whether a pupil decides to fast or not is a matter to be decided between the parent and child. Schools need to be aware that breaking the fast before the correct time may be regarded as being worse than not fasting at all. Schools should not encourage children to break their fast early unless it is for serious health and safety reasons. The overriding consideration should be that the children do not feel disadvantaged in school activities because of their religious observances.
Muslims approach Ramadan with enthusiasm and it is customary for Muslims to congratulate one another on its arrival. The school can value and build on this spirit by having collective worship/assembly themes based on Ramadan, organising communal Iftar (breaking the fast) when pupils, parents, community members and teachers - Muslims and non-Muslim can all join in the opening of the fast and eat together. Some schools enter into the charitable spirit of Ramadan by raising funds for the poor and the needy in the world.
Majority of pupils who are fasting are able to take part in most physical activities during Ramadan without putting themselves at risk or danger. Fasting can make some children feel tired, drowsy or experience headaches due to dehydration. This may necessitate some Muslim pupils having to reduce their physical exercise. Schools may wish to plan alternative, less strenuous activities during Physical Education classes.
Examinations during Ramadan
It is possible that certain statutory and internal school examinations may fall during Ramadan. Schools should give appropriate consideration when scheduling internal examinations, since, the combination of preparing for exams and fasting may prove difficult for some children.
Parents Evening and School Functions
During Ramadan, the evenings can be a very busy period for Muslim families; particularly if the opening of the fast (Iftar) falls in the early evening. In addition some adults will spend their time observing additional religious activities, e.g. special evening prayers at the mosque. This may make it difficult for parents to attend meetings or other functions in the evening during the month of Ramadan. The scheduling of parent evenings before or after the month of Ramadan would be appreciated by parents and is likely to ensure better attendance.
Exemption From Fasting
There are certain circumstances and conditions in which Muslims are exempt from fasting. These include travelling long distances, pregnancy, menstruation, milk-feeding, those for whom fasting is likely to have a detrimental effect on health and physical wellbeing and those who cannot survive without taking medication or nourishment e.g., diabetics. Those travelling on long and difficult journeys may not fast if it is likely to cause undue hardship. If fasting days are not completed, then they would have to be made up at a later date or in some circumstances compensated for as prescribed by Islam e.g. feeding the poor.
No oral medication can be taken by a person who is fasting, but anyone needing regular medication during fasting hours is normally exempt from fasting in any case. Medication can be taken once the fast has been broken. Medical injections can be had by a person who is fasting, although not those injections that influence body nutrition
– guidance should be sought on specific issues if necessary. During emergencies, where a child’s life is at risk or severe illness is diagnosed, then medicine should be administered. Routine vaccinations should be scheduled for other times of the year.
When Ramadan falls during the winter months, after-school detention for a pupil who is fasting could mean that the pupil is not able to reach home in time to break the fast. In such cases, schools need to be aware that pupils must be able to carry out their religious duty, whilst accepting full responsibility for breaching school rules. To break the fast, a drink is sufficient, and many schools do make this provision available when required. In cases of uncertainty consultation with parents is advised.
Swimming during Ramadan
In general, participation in swimming is an acceptable activity whilst fasting. However, whilst fasting, for many pupils this activity may prove to be an issue, as the potential for swallowing water is very high. Some pupils may interpret that deliberately doing something that is prohibited includes putting themselves in a situation, where the prohibited act is very likely to occur. Hence they may wish to avoid swimming whilst fasting.
Schools with a significant number of Muslim pupils should try to avoid scheduling swimming lessons during Ramadan.
Whilst fasting Muslims are not permitted to engage in any sexual relations and are expected to avoid such discourse. Taking this into account schools should avoid scheduling the teaching of this subject during Ramadan.
Special Ramadan Evening Prayers (Taraweeh)
During Ramadan many pupils may observe special additional prayers called Taraweeh which take place at the mosque every evening and last approximately an hour. These are normally performed in congregation at the mosque but can also be observed individually or as a family at home.
All Muslims are obliged to give an annual payment of 2.5% of their assets to charity.
The concept that possessions are meaningless as everything belongs to God is central to Islam.
Wealth is seen as being held in trust by human beings and, as such, should be distributed fairly.
The word “Zakah” means purification and growth and the idea is that cutting back on what you own can also encourage good luck and the creation of future wealth.
Each Muslim calculates their own Zakah personally and a calculation of one’s assets excludes the value of your house, car and professional tools.
The principle of Zakah is to eliminate poverty and take care of the needy.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Those who spend their wealth (in charity) by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
Ramadan is a time when Muslims give abundantly to various charities.
On the morning of Eid charity is also given traditionally to ensure that even the poor have something to eat during the celebrations.
However, giving in Islam can go beyond material goods.
The Prophet Muhammad said: "Even meeting your brother with a smile is an act of charity."
Staying away from evil when one has nothing to give is also seen as charity.
Fasting for Muslims is about learning self-restraint and empathy with those in poverty.
It means to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse between dawn and sunset.
Followers of Islam fast for the whole of Ramadan, a very special, spiritual month.
During Ramadan Muslims must also refrain from impure thoughts and acts such as swearing, lying and violence — although ideally these should be avoided at all times.
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah 2 V 183)
Fasting is thought to help Muslims empathise with those people who are less fortunate.
All Muslims fast except:
Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the month after Ramadan.
Muslims celebrate the fact that they’ve fasted for a month with their family and friends by eating a large meal.
They go to the mosque, give charity, and celebrate together. What is eaten and how the festival is celebrated varies widely around the world.
Making the pilgrimage to the Hajj, or Mecca, is a religious obligation for all Muslims who are physically and financially able.
The Hajj takes place annually in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
Because the Islamic year is lunar the Hajj takes place during different seasons.
More than two million people from all corners of the world undertake the Hajj pilgrimage annually.
During the Hajj Pilgrims must eschew certain behaviours that might damage their state of sacredness.
This includes refraining from arguing or fighting, killing animals or cutting plants.
Pilgrims wear simple garments and leave all symbols of status, class and culture at home.
The Hajj provides the opportunity for Muslims from all nations to meet as equals before God.
They perform the rites of the Hajj, which include visiting the Ka’ba and standing together on the wide plains of Arafat.
Pilgrims have the opportunity to pray for forgiveness, reflect on their lives and find spiritual fulfilment which they can take with them back with them.
Eid Al Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, marks the close of the Hajj.
During this time the Pilgrims sacrifice a sheep or goat — an echo of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own son for Allah.
The meat from these sacrifices is distributed to the needy.
All around the world Muslims celebrate with prayers, ritual sacrifice and exchange gifts.