Monday, May 14, 2018

What Do You Know about Islam and Ramadan?

I have lived in the Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia and Sierra Leone and visited and worked in other countries with significant Muslim populations as well: Turkey, India, China, and Mali.  In addition, Muslims comprise about 1% of the population of the United States, according to the 2020 Public Religion Research Institute.  Many of the ELLs I taught over the years in the U.S. were Muslim and came from Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and the Central Asian republics. 

(This post was updated March 20, 2023)

Did you know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world?  In 2023, there are about 1.8 billion people are Muslim.  Christianity has more adherents but because Muslim women have more children and the overall population of Muslims skews younger, Islam is growing faster than any other religion.

Clockwise from top left is a collage of 4 photos of mosques in Turkey, Sierra Leone, India, Indonesia, and India, with top text saying "Celebrating Ramadan" and bottom text saying "Mosques Around the World"
Mosques the author has visited; clockwise from top left: Turkey, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, India;
source: The ESL Nexus
Did you know that Indonesia has more Muslims than Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam?  Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world by population (after China, India, and the U.S.) with around 281 million people, and has the largest Muslim population in the world.  I traveled around Indonesia for several weeks in 1992 and then worked there the following year in the city of Banjarmasin on the island of Borneo.  Banjarmasin was very religiously conservative, with most women wearing a hijab and dressing modestly.  But when I went to Jakarta to visit my uncle, his Muslim wife and their 2 kids who lived in the capital, most women didn’t cover their hair and I saw plenty of women wearing mini-skirts.  In fact, nowhere in the Qu'ran does it explicitly say that Muslim women must cover their hair.

Did you know that Islam is split into 2 main branches, Sunni and Shia, and the primary reason was caused by a dispute over the rightful successor to Mohammad, the prophet who founded the religion?  There are far more Sunni Muslims than Shia Muslims around the world.  Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon have the largest Shia populations.  Within Islam, there are dimensions of practice, such as fundamentalist Wahabis and mystical Sufis, just as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism include different denominations.

Did you know that at one time, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, had the same number of minarets as the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia?  But another minaret was added to the mosque in Mecca because of its importance as the birthplace of Islam.  Only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca so I will never be able to visit the city.  But I feel fortunate that I have been able to see the wide range of architectural styles of mosques in Asia, Africa, and in the U.S.  There was even a mosque in the small Massachusetts city where I taught ESL for many years because many Turkish families lived there.

Photograph showing various foods used to break the Ramadan fast, with text at top saying "Food for Iftar" and text at bottom saying "Breaking the Daily Fast during Ramadan"
Special foods are eaten to break the fast; graphic created by The ESL Nexus from an in image on Wikipedia
Did you know that fasting during Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam; that is, one of the basic tenets of the faith?  It was near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, in 1975, where I saw a man butchering a sheep to provide food for the poor during Ramadan.  Giving charity, or zakat, is another Pillar of Islam.  Years later, when I was working in Banjarmasin, Indonesia, there were street stalls surrounding the Great Mosque selling sweets for iftar, to break the fast each day during Ramadan.  Even though I didn't fast, I often bought one because they were so delicious.

Ramadan in 2023 begins on March 22nd in the U.S.  If you would like to learn more about this important holiday or teach your students about it, check out my Ramadan Activities resource in my TpT store.  It includes reading, speaking, and writing resources plus posters you can use for a bulletin board display.

Image of cover of TPT resource about Ramadan, showing a Turkish tile and text explaining what the resource includes
For more info, click HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
If you work with Muslim students, you might also be interested in this blog post.  It discusses what you can do to help your students navigate the school cafeteria during Ramadan and the rest of the year.

Ramadan Mubarak!