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AN EDUCATORS GUIDE TO ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS PRACTICES

Third Canadian Edition


“Read! For your Lord is most Generous. (It is God) who taught by means of the pen; taught man/woman that which he/ she knew not.” The Qur’an, Chapter 96, Verses 3-5


TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION

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01 CANADIAN LEGAL PROTECTIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 02 ACCOMMODATION ISSUES

7 Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Washing (Ablution) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Prayer Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Friday Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Fasting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Holidays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Dress Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Dietary Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Curriculum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 School Life. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 ..........................

03 USEFUL REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 04 GUIDING PRINCIPLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05 GLOSSARY OF TERMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONTACT INFORMATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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INTRODUCTION Islam is a growing religion in Canada. That means more and more students may self-identify as either culturally or religiously Muslim. School teachers and administrators are seeing this first-hand, as student populations are becoming increasingly diverse every day. There is growing awareness about the need to create inclusive and equitable learning environments so that students of all backgrounds are able to reach their fullest potential. This requires safe, welcoming and dynamic classrooms. Mutual understanding, trust, respect and acceptance are key. This Guide aims to promote these crucial factors in order to help strengthen relationships between teachers, administrators, parents, and students. It is important to remember that Muslim communities, families, and individuals are incredibly diverse. Although the majority of Muslims in Canada identify as adherents of the Sunni branch of Islam, there are substantial numbers of students whose families adhere to other branches such as the Shia and others. Canadian Muslims are also ethnically diverse. These differences can and do result in variations of belief and practice. In addition to offering the reader with general and pertinent information about Muslim students, this Guide also provides information and guidance to schools on a variety of issues that may arise with respect to Muslim students and parents.

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CANADIAN LEGAL PROTECTIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Worship, fasting, religious holidays, as well as dietary and clothing requirements form part of Islamic practice for many Muslims. Such religious practices are legally protected in Canada. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms constitutionally guarantees the freedom of religious practice, in addition to such fundamental rights as the freedom of peaceful assembly, association, thought, belief, opinion and expression. Canada also has provincial and federal human rights legislation that operate to prohibit discriminatory practices by private actors and individuals on the basis of religion.


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ACCOMMODATION ISSUES

One way that schools can assist in protecting the religious freedom of students is to work directly with students and parents or guardians in finding ways to accommodate certain religious practices. The purpose of accommodation is not to provide “special treatment� for some individuals or groups. Rather, the notion of accommodation is based on the recognition that rules and procedures that apply equally to everyone do not affect everyone in equal manner. One simple example is that public schools have a Monday to Friday class schedule. Students belonging to faith groups that meet for worship on a Saturday or Sunday are not impacted by a school week that runs from Monday to Friday in the same way that students belonging to faith groups that gather for worship on other days. The following pages provide some common areas where Muslim students and parents may make requests for religious accommodation at school.

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PRAYER Daily prayers are a central practice of the Islamic faith. To that end, Islam prescribes prayer five times daily. THE FIVE DAILY PRAYERS .................................................................. FAJR Between dawn and sunrise .................................................................. DHUHR Between noon and mid-afternoon .................................................................. ASR Between mid-afternoon and sunset .................................................................. MAGHRIB Just after sunset .................................................................. ISHA Late evening .................................................................. Because the prayer times follow the trajectory of the earth’s sun, the daily prayer times shift throughout the calendar year and are impacted by Daylight Savings Time. Typically, the Dhuhr and Asr prayers fall within regular school hours. ..................................................................

Washing/Ablution before prayer (wudu) Before prayer, Muslims are required to wash their face, hands, arms and feet with clean water. This washing can take place in any facility that has running water. It takes about five minutes.

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Prayer Space During the act of prayer, Muslims stand, bow and touch their forehead to the ground. Worship may be performed in any quiet, clean room. During prayers, the worshipper will face toward Mecca (generally northeast in North America). Some measure of privacy is preferred. However, should others be present, they should avoid walking in front of the worshipper. They should also avoid interrupting him or her. If there is a health and safety concern (ex. fire alarm) the students can and should respond by stopping the prayer immediately. It normally takes less than 10 minutes to complete a prayer. .................................................................. DID YOU KNOW? Many public and private schools across Canada designate an empty room, classroom or meeting room as a meditation / interfaith prayer area for use by students that need to pray during the day. ..................................................................

Friday Congregational Prayer (Jum’ah) Friday, similar to Saturdays for the Jewish community and Sundays for Christians, is the day for congregational worship in Islam, called Jum’ah. Jum’ah usually lasts about 45 minutes to one hour (but can be completed in a shorter amount of time if necessary) and takes the place of the daily Dhuhr prayer. The requirements of Jum’ah

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include a short sermon followed by a prayer performed in congregation (unison). Jum’ah is an obligatory act of worship for young boys who have reached puberty, though young girls and women are also welcome and encouraged to join the congregational prayers. Children often join in the prayers on public holidays as well. However, because Jum’ah falls on a regular school day, this presents a problem to those students who are conscientious about attending this prayer. Parents may request that students be temporarily released from school or granted an extended lunch period in order to attend Jum’ah at a local mosque. In schools and universities where the number of students wishing to perform the prayer is sufficient to form a congregation, Jum’ah can be conducted for students on the school premises. For student safety and logistical reasons, school administrators, teachers and parents may prefer this option. .................................................................. DID YOU KNOW? When conducted specifically for students in a school, Jum’ah prayer can be completed in less than 30 minutes and avoid hours of missed class time for students that no longer need to travel to a local congregation. ..................................................................

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FASTING Fasting during Ramadan is another one of the central tenets (or what are sometimes called the ‘five pillars’ of Islam. The month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the time when Muslims are required to fast from dawn until dusk. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the month of Ramadan begins 10 or 11 days earlier each year: in Canada this means that the hours of fasting vary from year to year. Fasting, like prayer, is prescribed when children reach the age of puberty. Still, many Muslim families allow their children to begin to accustom themselves to fasting from an early age. The Arabic word for fasting (sawm) literally means ‘to abstain,’ and during Ramadan most Muslims are expected to abstain completely from both food and liquid between dawn and sunset. Muslims are not meant to remove themselves from the aspects of everyday life during Ramadan. Since fasting students cannot drink water during the day, they should not be required to engage in overly strenuous physical activity to avoid dehydration. .................................................................. DID YOU KNOW? Muslim parents and other community members are usually amenable to coming in to the classroom to talk about Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr (the celebration that follows the completion of Ramadan). Children themselves can also be encouraged to share reflections about their experiences with their fellow classmates. .................................................................. 13


HOLIDAYS There are two major holidays in the Islamic calendar: Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Adha. ..................................................................

Eid-ul-Fitr Eid is the Arabic word meaning a recurring event, and in Islam it denotes the religious festivals. Fitr means “to break” and this particular festival signals the breaking of the fasting period of Ramadan. It is a day of thanksgiving and celebration. Special congregational prayers are offered and alms are distributed to the poor and needy. Gifts may also be given to children and exchanged between loved ones. It is also a time for visiting with friends and family members and Muslims are also encouraged to visit the sick and elderly who may not have family. “Eid Mubarak” (lit. Blessed Eid) is a common greeting exchanged on the day of Eid. ..................................................................

Eid-ul-Adha The festival of Eid-ul-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, is observed at the end of the hajj or yearly pilgrimage to Mecca approximately two months and ten days after the end of Ramadan. It is celebrated by all Muslims, not only those performing the ritual of the hajj.

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Special congregational prayers are offered on the day of Eid and it is a time for celebration and visiting with friends and family. As with the other Eid, it is also a time for visiting with friends and family members and Muslims are also encouraged to visit the sick and elderly who may not have family. “Eid Mubarak� (lit. Blessed Eid) is a common greeting exchanged on the day of Eid. Each of these holidays traditionally last for three days. Muslim students commonly request permission to be absent from school in part or entirely. Students should not be penalized for such absences. Teachers should make alternative arrangements for students requesting absences on exam days in order to observe these religious holidays and work with students and parents in advance to plan how to make up for any material covered during their absence. .................................................................. Note: Some Muslims from the different branches of Islam may also observe additional religious holidays. When in doubt, it is best to consult with the student and parents. .................................................................. DID YOU KNOW? It is also common that different Muslims in the same city celebrate these holidays on different days within the same 2 or 3 day period. This is due to different methods used to determine the beginning of the lunar months. ..................................................................

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DRESS REQUIREMENTS Islam prescribes that both men and women behave and dress modestly in public. There are a number of ways in which Muslim men and women interpret and express such teachings. From the age of puberty boys are expected to be covered from the navel to the knee in clothes that is neither tight-fitting nor transparent. When in public, many Muslim women wear long, loose-fitting and non-transparent clothing. This attire, which may vary in style according to any of a number of factors including culture, nationality and even the latest fashion trends, often includes a head covering or scarf, known as hijab. Some Muslim families believe that the hijab is obligatory however most families will not force a daughter to wear the scarf is she has not decided to do so from her own volition. More generally, girls can face conflicting pressure from both parents and peer groups to dress in a particular way. Teachers and administrators should be aware of these tensions and provide an inclusive school environment that accepts students as they are. Further details regarding clothing requirements should be discussed with Muslim parents and uniform accommodation should be discussed where applicable.

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DIETARY REQUIREMENTS The Qur’an (Islam’s Holy Scripture) prohibits the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants as well as pork and any pork byproducts or derivatives. Therefore, many Muslims are careful about the food they consume and how it is prepared. Some objectionable food items include: • Pepperoni, sausage and hot dogs containing pork. • Bacon - alone or as an ingredient in other items. • Lard - in any product. • Gelatin derived from pork. For example in desserts, yoghurt, marshmallows, etc. • Alcohol. • Food containing alcohol as an ingredient (even in small amounts). Food distributed at school containing prohibited items should be highlighted clearly, especially in elementary schools. For preschool and elementary food programs, labeling such foods with a prominent visual marker will assist students wishing to abstain from consuming these products. Some Muslims also refrain from eating animals and animal byproducts not derived from halal sources. Halal (lit. permissible) refers to meat slaughtered according to Islamic law (similar to Jewish kosher laws). Parents should inform schools of any dietary restrictions they would like their children to adhere to and schools should be sensitive to these requirements.

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CURRICULUM Sensitivities regarding the teaching of certain subjects will differ from family to family. However, the concerns of Muslim parents / students are most likely to arise in connection with music, dance, art, drama, physical education and sex education. It is good practice for schools to maintain an open dialogue with parents and students to address any concerns and make accommodations when necessary and applicable. The following are issues that some Muslim parents / students may have with respect to specific curriculum subjects: ..................................................................

Music Opinion regarding the place of music varies among different Muslim cultures. While some Muslims will not object to music instructions, others are very reserved in their attitude towards music and may not wish for their children to participate in any kind of music lesson. In such cases, it is important for the school discuss reasonable accommodations with the parents or guardians, and students themselves, to find alternative activities or assignments. ..................................................................

Dance There will usually be no problem when dancing is performed in a single-sex environment as a form of exercise. Some forms of dance might be considered unacceptable if performed in a mixed

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environment – particularly at the secondary school level. Some parents may prefer their children to participate in an alternate sporting activity. ..................................................................

Art Within Muslim communities, there is considerable difference of opinion regarding acceptable forms of art. Some Muslims object to physical representations of human and animals. The prohibition of such representations arises from the historical stance taken against any form of idolatry. For this reason, depictions of prophets, angels and God are largely considered unacceptable. Other forms of art such as textile art, wood work, landscape drawings and paintings, architectural representations, calligraphy, geometric figures, and mosaic art are good alternatives. ..................................................................

Drama Drama or role-playing as an education exercise is usually acceptable. Some Muslim parents may not want their children to take part in any drama that contradicts Islamic tenets, for example, performing in nativity plays or other dramatizations involving gods or figures from the Bible or Qur’an. Reservations might also arise with performances that involve physical contact between boys and girls, or cross-dressing (i.e.

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boys performing as girls and vice versa). When parents raise these concerns as arising from sincerely held religious beliefs, the school should accommodate them. ..................................................................

Physical Education Some Muslim parents may object to co-ed swimming classes due to the nature of the dress requirements. Schools that require swimming skills should consult with parents and students regarding possible alternatives, such as having the students fulfill the requirement through swimming certification outside school. Communal showers may also pose a problem for parents and students. Private showers should be made available when possible; otherwise students should be permitted to shower at home. School administrators may need to discuss alternative clothing options for Muslim students in physical education classes who also adhere to religious dress requirements. A good alternative for many is a tracksuit. Girls who wear the hijab should not be prevented from participating in sporting activities. There are many sports-friendly hijab options available if safety is a concern. ..................................................................

Sex Education In general, the concern of some Muslim parents is not whether sex education should be taught but rather how it is taught.

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Although public school teachers offer curriculum in a nonreligious context, it is useful for teachers to know that Islam prohibits pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex. There may also be sensitivities regarding discussions of samesex relationships. Maintaining an open dialogue with parents about the content and timing of the teaching of these topics will help provide families with an opportunity to discuss the topics with their child(ren) at home as well. ..................................................................

School Outings There are no religious reasons that would prevent Muslim students from attending school outings to the places of worship of other faiths including, but not limited to, churches, synagogues, temples or gurdwaras. Parents of pupils of any religion might object to such visits; however every effort should be made to reassure them by making them aware of the educational and developmental rewards of such exposure. ..................................................................

Social Events Muslim parents and students may be reluctant to take part in festivities and school activities connected to religious holidays of other faiths and some secular holidays (such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day). Students should have the option of being exempted without penalty from such activities. At the same time, care should be taken to inform students that, for example, Halloween costumes deemed in contravention of 22


school policies on diversity and respect will not be tolerated (e.g. students dressed in outfits meant to reinforce stereotypes about different religions, ‘blackface’, KKK garb, Hitler outfits etc). ..................................................................

Physical Contact Some Muslims refrain from all physical contact with unrelated persons of the opposite gender. This includes casual greetings such as kissing cheeks, hugging, and hand-shaking. This restraint is considered by some Muslims to be an expression of personal modesty as well as a sign of respect shown between males and females. If a Muslim parent or student excuses themselves from such forms of physical contact, it should not be regarded as a personal insult or affront, just a personal preference. ..................................................................

Bullying Since the events of September 11, 2001 depictions of Islam and Muslims in the mainstream media have been overwhelming negative. Children who are Muslim or are perceived to be Muslim have been the targets of teasing, “joking,” and harassment. Schools should make every effort to create a safe and harmonious learning environment for all students. This includes ensuring accurate and balanced portrayals of Islam and Muslims in curriculum and other instructional materials. The wearing of a hijab and other religious items may also lead to teasing by other students. Every effort should be made to create a safe and accepting learning environment.

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USEFUL REFERENCES

Kincheloe, Joe L., Shirley R. Steinberg, and Christopher Darius Stonebanks. Teaching against Islamophobia. New York: Peter Lang, 2010. Print. .................................................................. “Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.” Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education. OSCE; Council of Europe; UNESCO, 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.osce.org/odihr/84495>. .................................................................. Sweet, Lois. God in the Classroom: The Controversial Issue of Religion in Canada’s Schools. Toronto: M&S, 1997. Print. .................................................................. Sensoy, Ozlem, and Christopher Sandbanks, eds. Özlem Sensoy and Christopher Darius Stonebanks (Eds.) Muslim Voices in School: Narratives of Identity and Pluralism. Rotterdam: Sense, 2009. Print. .................................................................. “Toronto District School Board.” Guidelines and Procedures for Religious Accommodation http://tdsb.on.ca/Portals/0/ HighSchool/docs/Guidelines%20and%20Procedures%20for%20 Religious%20Accommodations.pdf

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GUIDING PRINCIPLES

DIVERSITY: The presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within a group, organization, or society. The dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. .................................................................. EQUITY: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences. .................................................................. INCLUSIVE EDUCATION: Education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion of all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honored and all individuals are respected. Source: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/equity.pdf

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GLOSSARY OF TERMS Asr mid-afternoon prayer .................................................................. Dhuhr noon prayer .................................................................. Eid Al-Adha

Festival marking the end of the yearly pilgrimage in Mecca. .................................................................. Eid Al-Fitr

Festival marking the end for the month of fasting (Ramadan). .................................................................. Fajr early morning prayer .................................................................. Hajj

The pilgrimage to the city of Mecca which every Muslim adult is required to make at least once in their lifetime. It occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. .................................................................. Halal Permissible by Islamic law. .................................................................. Hijab

Loose-fitting, non-transparent clothing worn by Muslim women. Usually includes a head covering. ..................................................................

Isha evening prayer ..................................................................

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Islam

Abrahamic faith with over 1 billion adherents worldwide. Muslims believe in the oneness of God and that Muhammed was one of God’s prophets. .................................................................. Jum’ah The Friday congregation prayer. .................................................................. Maghrib Sunset prayer. .................................................................. Mecca

The geographical place Muslims turn towards when offering prayers. Also the location of the hajj (pilgrimage) in Islam. .................................................................. Muslims Followers of Islam. .................................................................. Qur’an Islam’s holy book. .................................................................. Ramadan

The 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Also the month of fasting. .................................................................. Sawm Literally ‘to abstain.’ Is the Arabic word for fasting. .................................................................. Wudu

Refers to the ritual washing of the face, hands, and feet before prayer. ..................................................................

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CONTACT INFORMATION National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) P.O.Box 13219, Ottawa, ON Canada, K2K 1X4 Tel: 1.866.524.0004 Local: (613) 254.9704 Fax: (613) 254.9810 info@nccm.ca www.nccm.ca


The NCCM is an independent nonprofit, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.

WWW.NCCM.CA 1.866.524.0004 info@nccm.ca P.O. Box 13219 Ottawa ON K2K 1X4

NCCM's Educators Guide to Islamic Religious Practices  
NCCM's Educators Guide to Islamic Religious Practices  
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