The month of Ramadan starts a week from now, and serves as a time for Muslim people in our communities and around the world to fast, pray, perform charity, and celebrate together. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and most famous for the fasting that Muslims do each day of the month from sunrise to sunset. This fasting means abstaining from all food and drink, including water, and generally involves very early morning and late evening meals, usually shared with family and friends each day of the month. Most Muslims in the United States and around the world participate, with exceptions for those that are sick, pregnant, menstruating, traveling, too young, or otherwise might not be able to go long hours without food or drink. But this month is not only for fasting; it is also for reflection, prayer, reading the Qur’an, and performing charity, often in the form of giving food to those in need. And the month of Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, which literally translates to the Festival of Breaking the Fast, where communities come together for a feast, gift giving, and celebration.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and about 1.8 billion people (almost 25% of the world population) are Muslim, including an estimated 1.1% of the people in the United States and 1% of Jackson County. That means starting next week, those of the 2,000 or so Muslims that observe Ramadan in Jackson County will fast during the day, perform additional prayers, and gather with friends and family (either in person or virtually) in the evenings and at the end of the month to share meals. This was especially difficult in 2020 and will no doubt be similarly challenging in 2021 due to the pandemic, but there are ways we as a community and at the library can support our Muslim community members throughout the month and beyond.
Because Muslims often get up early and stay up late to eat and pray during non-daylight hours, many are more tired than usual throughout the month, and are more likely to take naps throughout the day or struggle with physical tasks that require exercise or a large amount of energy. Being aware of this and doing our best to be accommodating, whether by allowing employees to alter their schedule, avoiding scheduling meetings that involve food, letting college students skip an evening class and make up the work, or supporting your friends if they take a few weeks away from your sports league can go a long way to ease the constraints many Muslims face throughout the month.
In the same way that any individual can be accommodating in their workplace and with their friends during the month of Ramadan, the library can also be flexible and support the needs of Muslim staff and patrons. Allowing breaks and places suitable for prayer, altered schedules, and scheduling meetings in the morning are all simple ways, but the library can also provide displays and programming as a way to provide representation for Muslim staff and patrons and education for non-Muslim staff and patrons. For programs that involve food, the library can host the program after sunset or provide a Take & Make option so patrons can choose what time of day works best for them. And during Ramadan and always, libraries can collect books, movies, and more by Muslim authors, actors, and artists that portray Islam in respectful and accurate ways.
If you’d like to learn more about Ramadan and Islam, or you’d like a great story that provides a window into Islamic traditions, check out this list of fiction, nonfiction, and more for Ramadan.