It's Ramadan! The holiest month of the Islamic calendar has arrived once more. This year it starts at the beginning of April 2022. Many Muslims throughout the world will fast during daylight hours during Ramadan for 30 days. Muslims demonstrate their fast by refraining from eating or drinking (even water) and sexual relations (yes sex - disappointing for some) amongst other things, from sunrise to sunset. The length of the fast will vary depending on where you are in the world. Muslims wake up before sunrise to have the morning meal – early I know!
Non-Muslims find Islam equally as fascinating and captivating as Muslims do, and one of the most commonly asked questions about Ramadan is, why Muslims fast during this blessed month?
Ramadan is a month of intense religious observance. Prayer is performed with increased intensity. This month was when the Quran (Muslims holy book) was revealed.
Muslims spend time in prayer, reciting the Quran, doing charitable acts, practicing self-discipline and self-control as well as spending time with family and friends and encouraging unity. The month of Ramadan is an opportunity to practice endurance and self-discipline, as well as anger management and the control of malicious speech. It's an opportunity to fine-tune the body and rid it of obesity and sloth, as well as to reap the therapeutic benefits of fasting.
Ramadan is a month dedicated to awakening compassion and connection with others, especially the poor. During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to be more generous in their donations. Although Ramadan appears to be a challenging and a difficult month, it is actually a pleasant experience. In houses, mosques, and Muslim communities as a whole, there is a distinct atmosphere. Muslims look forward to Ramadan with tremendous eagerness and anticipation, and many are disappointed when the month comes to an end.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, this Ramadan will be considerably different for many people compared to the previous two. People will be able to break their fasts with their families and friends, go to the mosque for congregational prayers, and celebrate Eid al-Fitr (the festival marking the end of Ramadhan) with their loved ones.
If you're not sure how to help your Muslim coworkers in this month, consider the following suggestions:
- Don't talk about how "crazy" fasting is in comparison to those who observe lent or Yom Kippur with your fasting pals. I know they are long days but if one billion people around the world can do it, they must not all be “crazy.”
- If you see someone eating, don't enquire if they're "cheating" because anyone with a medical condition is exempt. And there are a few other exemptions from fasting such as children, the elderly, and pregnant or menstruating women. So, try not to ask why your female coworker may not be fasting - as mother nature has allowed us a few days off!
- Don't make matters worse by apologising profusely and calling attention to people, while also embarrassing other individuals eating in front of them. You're not torturing us while you enjoy your food, if anything you might see me salivating while I enjoy the visual display.
- Don't be shy about asking if you can join us for dinner so you can see how Muslims break their fast.
- Enough of the don'ts – a little more of the do’s; You may support your colleagues in many different ways. Maybe you could try fasting yourself, it’s an unforgettable experience, trust me. Managers, team leaders and senior colleagues, try and support holiday requests from staff to take time off during Ramadan and/or Eid al Fitr. Allow meal breaks at different times, if possible - to coincide with the breaking of the fast.
- Do ask lots of questions; your Muslim colleagues will appreciate your interest in learning more about Islam. And just be open, I myself have tried to have open conversation with colleagues to ensure that they are aware of Ramadan and what it consists of. I've even offered to share my iftar meals with co-workers when I break my fast.
There are challenges with fasting and working long hours but they can be eased or even overcome. Talk to your friends, colleagues and managers for support. One of my obstacles in Ramadan is praying the five daily prayers on a shift however, managers allowing time off to pray, especially at sunset, is very considerate and helpful. I have also noticed changes being implemented for staff such as prayer rooms being set up which is really beneficial in Ramadan.
Fasting strives to bring the privileged and poor closer together, as the privileged experience hunger and learn to respect and appreciate those who are less fortunate. I hope you all have some time this month to contemplate, heal, and find peace. Remember those who have passed and keep them in your prayers while you appreciate moments with loved ones that are still with you. Ramadan Mubarak!
Some phrases you can say to your Muslim colleagues:
This means Blessed Ramadan, may Ramadan bring us blessings. It's the equivalent of saying Happy Ramadan.
This means Generous Ramadan, wishing people many good rewards during the month.
Article by Nagina Zaroof, MCPara