My students’ first day of school — August 11 — is the first day of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and the occasion for Muslims around the world to fast from dawn to sunset for the entire month. The holiday begins when the moon is first sighted, indicating the start of the lunar month of Ramadan (the Muslim calendar is lunar with about 355 days, so each year Ramadan shifts back 10 days on the Gregorian Calendar. Next year it will begin around August 1).
The big deal about this month is that it’s the time when the Koran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I knew that the Koran was revealed over 22 years, from 610 to 632 (when the prophet died — without a male heir — causing quite a controversy about who would succeed him as leader).
I just learned that there is a specific day when the revelation began (however, Muslims do not seem to agree which day it is — it’s likely an odd-numbered date in the last third of the month — the 21st, 23rd, 25th, etc.) that is the holiest day in the Muslim calendar. It’s called Laylat al-Qadr, and thus far I only have consulted Wikipedia (that’s where that link goes). I want to learn more. I had some vague notion that the Koran was revealed starting on the first of the month, but as with learning that Dr. King was arrested on Good Friday, it’s useful to be able to think about a specific day in history in the Arabian desert when Muhammad (pbuh) first heard from God, according to about 1.8 billion people (more than 25% of the world).
While estimates of the number of Muslims in the world today may vary, depending on the source, there’s no denying that it was a very big deal back in 610 CE, when Muhammad (pbuh) first received the revelation that would become the holy Koran.
I thought (and I still think this, but keep reading) it would be cool to have some students interview Muslims who fast during the month of Ramadan and put together a short piece that explains what the experience of Ramadan is all about. When I poked around on YouTube, I learned that PBS made just that sort of video in 2009 — at least that looks at the experience of Ramadan in America. It’s called (surprise!) American Ramadan. Follow the link to an extended 5-minute trailer of the film.