20 April 2016
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has worked with Islamic scholars, imams, chaplains and leaders to produce an information paper for schools and colleges over the observance of Ramadan during this summer’s exams.
Ramadan falls within the examination season in 2016 and will do so for the next few years.
The information paper is aimed at giving school and college leaders information to initiate discussions with Muslim students and their families on how best they can balance their Islamic obligations and exam performance.
It does not recommend any particular interpretation of Islamic law or practice and is intended as a positive opportunity for engagement with students and families so that they can make decisions for themselves.
It explains that:
There is a wide and diverse range of possible interpretations of Islamic law. Scholars differ on what age Muslims become obliged to fast, how long they should fast for and the legitimate exemptions. Islam encourages critical reasoning and while individuals may seek advice from religious leaders they have the right to make their own decision. The paper presents various positions from which parents and young people can draw their practice.
Observing Ramadan may bring many benefits to individuals and communities. However, observing the fast and late-night prayers may also create less desirable consequences for some people, such as tiredness, low energy, dehydration, reduced focus, memory or concentration.
Young Muslims and families, particularly those sitting exams this summer, will need to balance their obligations as Muslims with their studies and the importance of examinations for their futures, noting that the pursuit of education is also a religious and moral duty for all Muslims.
Children and families should be informed of the flexibility Islamic law offers to delay or exempt themselves from fasting and late-night prayers if they believe their performance in exams could be affected.
The paper is endorsed by a wide spectrum of British Muslims who come from a range of different theological persuasions, including both Sunni and Shia.
ASCL Parliamentary Specialist Anna Cole said: “We are grateful for the help we have received from Islamic scholars, imams, chaplains and leaders in drawing together this information to help schools and colleges discuss these issues.
“Their guidance has provided an expert insight which schools and colleges can use to support students during Ramadan, particularly those taking important examinations this year. This positive partnership has enabled us to provide our members with information which is thorough, balanced and practical.
“We hope this information will provide a positive opportunity for schools and colleges to engage with and help Muslim students and families to make these important decisions for themselves.”
Khola Hasan, of the Islamic Sharia Council, who was one of the consultees, said: “The advisory paper offers options to parents and students who are fasting and sitting life-changing exams such as GCSEs and A levels.
“Many Muslim students are able to keep the long summer fasts as well as revise and sit exams. But for those who think their performance may be affected, the paper offers options that are in accordance with Islamic guidelines. The Islamic tradition has an established history of discussion, debate and reasoning. There are many concessions for hardship in observing religious commandments.”
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, who was also a consultee, said: “Contributors to this paper have offered sound and useful advice for schools and colleges in supporting their Muslim pupils during exams.”