This FAQ was distributed by Samer Ali, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, but it is useful for any campus and any community with a Muslim minority.
RAMADAN 2021 AT U-M
This Winter Semester, around finals, many Muslims at U-M will abstain from food and drink for 16+ hours a day during the month of Ramadan. Here’s how you can support them as an ally and help promote a more inclusive campus community.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the month of fasting and worship observed by Muslims around the world. During Ramadan, many Muslims abstain from food and drink (including water) from dawn to sunset. Muslims consider fasting in Ramadan one of the pillars of their faith. Muslims typically eat a meal before dawn, and then break the fast immediately after sunset with a meal called iftar. A few hours after the meal, some Muslims also attend congregational prayers until midnight or 1 am.
When is it?
Ramadan begins and ends with the sighting of the new moon. In 2021, the month is projected to fall between April 13 and May 13, give or take a day. The longest days of fasting lasts from 4:30 am to 9 pm—or 16.5 hours.
How does this affect students?
The last DEI climate survey estimated Muslims comprise 2-3 percent of the U-M community. Thousands of Muslims will endeavor to balance their academic obligations with religious observances, like fasting and evening prayers. With long days, rigorous schedules, and limited time to rest at night, Ramadan is often an intense experience. By the time a 4 pm class rolls around, for example, a fasting student might not have eaten or drunk water for over 12 hours!
Common student concerns during Ramadan: conflicts with iftar time, taking exams while fasting during low-energy parts of the day, and instructors’ awareness of what the month entails.
What can faculty do?
Acclimate Let students know on your syllabus and at the beginning of the semester you are aware that some in the class may be fasting for Ramadan. Signaling awareness goes a long way to making students feel comfortable asking for accommodations in a national climate of Islamophobia.
Accommodate Students have different thresholds—some prefer to take exams earlier in the day while others are better prepared after breaking their fast. Faculty and students should first work together to find the best solution in each instance. If issues persist, the Student Ombuds can facilitate: https://ombuds.umich.edu/
Resources The University’s Muslim chaplaincy, the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), and Islamic Society of Ahl-ul-Bayt offer programming and community throughout Ramadan. Any questions? Email: <ramadanUM@umich.edu>.
Support Non-Muslim students are invited to learn and support inclusive community by attending one of the open community iftars organized by the Islamophobia Working Group (IWG) in partnership with Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and Islamic Society of Ahl-ul-Bayt. More information here: bit.ly/ramadan-umich