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To consider how denying ourselves something we crave teaches us self-control and makes us more grateful for those things we take for granted.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To consider how denying ourselves something we crave teaches us self-control and makes us more grateful for those things we take for granted.

Preparation and materials

  • The Muslim year is based on lunar months. Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the lunar calendar. It is a moveable feast, dependent on the moon, and moves forward by 10 or 11 days each year. The festival begins with the sighting of the new moon.

    The festival of Ramadan, a period of one month, is a time of self-examination and increasing religious devotion. During Ramadan people of the Muslim faith fast from sunup to sundown. The purpose of this is to bring their physical needs into submission to the spiritual, to stay away from worldly desires and to focus on God, Allah, and his blessings. Muslims believe that when they deny themselves food they are actually learning lessons in humility, self-control and empathy.
    There are many associated videos on YouTube, which may help children to get the feel of Ramadan. You will need to make your own selection should you want to use such a resource. Check your school’s copyright rules.
  • A plate of Mars Bar Cake (or some equally chocolaty, well-loved local cakes!) cut into pieces, some slightly smaller than others, some notably larger.
  • A teaching clock.


  1.  Invite some children from a variety of classes to come and share the chocolate cakes. Observe the tussle for the biggest bits.

    Ask the children if they had difficulty choosing which piece to have.

    Who went for the biggest?

    Who thought, just for a second, about not being greedy and taking a small piece? Not easy when it is Mars Bar Cake, is it?!
  2. Explain that none of us finds it easy to say ‘No!’ to the little voice inside us which suggests that we get the best, that we make sure we are served first. This is selfishness and is something that we are all prone to, something that is in the human character.
  3. Explain that if this assembly were taking place in the season that Muslims call ‘Ramadan’, Muslim children in our school would not even have come forward for the smallest piece of cake, even if they loved it. That is because they would be keeping the fast of Ramadan.

    During the season of Ramadan, which lasts for one month, no food is eaten during daylight hours. Hundreds of thousands of people of the Muslim faith all over the world take part in this fast. Muslims go to school and work as usual during Ramadan, but more time is spent praying, reading their holy book, the Qur’an, and being charitable to the poor.

    Before the sun comes up in the morning, when it is still dark, everyone is woken up and has a small breakfast, called suhoor. This has to do them right through the day until the sun goes down and it is dark again. Then once again they are allowed to eat some food, this time called iftar.
  4. Use the clock to show when day breaks at this time of year, and when darkness falls. How many hours of daylight do we have?

    Would this discipline of fasting be difficult for you? Would it be more difficult in a hot country or a cold country?

    Identify times in a day which might be particularly difficult – playtime, coffee break, lunchtime. Think about nice mouth-watering smells coming from the school kitchen.

    Some children could be asked to complete this sentence: ‘If I were to smell . . . my tummy would rumble!’
  5. Ask the children to suggest what might be learned by a month of denying ourselves food whenever we feel like eating.

    –  We learn to say ‘No’ to ourselves and to all the cravings of our bodies.
    –  We learn what it feels like to be weak and to need strength from a different source.
    –  We learn to identify with the many poor in the world who live like this most days.
    –  We learn to focus on God and his blessings.
    –  We learn that to wait for things is actually good for us.
  6. At the end of Ramadan comes Eid-ul Fitr, a huge festival. What do you think Muslims do during this festival?

    They go to prayers at the local mosque, and they have lots to eat!

Time for reflection

Saying ‘No’ to what we want is often difficult. None of us likes to deny our bodies food, TV, a long lie-in at the weekend.

When do you find it hard to say ‘No’?


Dear God,

we pray for those who even now are fasting during Ramadan.

Help them to deny all the needs of their bodies.

Help them to draw closer to Allah.
Help them to grow in compassion
for those who are hungry in the world.


‘God of the morning’ (Come and Praise, 105)

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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