It is nearly the start of Ramadan, a sacred month for Muslims worldwide, during which they will observe a month-long fast from dawn until sunset. This holy month is important not only for its spiritual and religious significance but also for its impact on the daily lives of Muslim individuals, especially those who are working during this time.
Our Inclusivity Plus team, a working group at AdviserPlus who meet monthly and discuss opportunities to champion inclusion and ensure it’s always on the agenda throughout the business, asked our colleague Reem Al Kalbani, to share an overview of Ramadan, answer some common questions and share some tips for how organisations can support their Muslim colleagues during this time.
Reem’s overview of Ramadan
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the belief and practise of Islam faith. We are encouraged to reflect on the actions we have taken in the previous year, to repent and fully focus our energies on spiritual development during this month.
Spiritual development can be expressed in many different ways, it is a personal journey for each individual and there is no right or wrong way of doing it. For example, someone’s goal could be to memorise a few chapters of the Quran, some may focus their energy on charity, some may focus on educating others, like teaching children how to recite the Quran.
Reflection is key during this time as it serves as a reminder to take a step back from the stress of the real world and to focus on improving yourself spiritually, mentally (metal health is extremely important in Islam and during this month scholars highly encourage people to focus on it and for it to act as a reminder to seek help if needed from family, friends or professionals) and some take physical improvement into consideration, like changing their eating habits and exercising more.
Ramadan is a time to practise kindness, which means refraining from using bad language, displaying rudeness or unkindness towards others, respecting and serving the elder, and cultivating overall good behaviour. Another significant aspect of this month is giving back to the community. Charity can be expressed in different ways including giving away clothes, furniture, or other useful items, offering time to cook for the underprivileged and delivering the food to mosques or community centres, volunteering at mosques or community centres for cleaning and maintenance tasks, devoting time to educate others by teaching them to read and recite the Quran or provide religious instruction, and the most common act of donating money to a charity.
Do we all have to fast?
No, only those who have reached puberty are required to observe the fast, but in certain cultures, it is customary to initiate a “trial” Ramadan for those aged approximately 9 or 10, whereby they have their last meal around noon and commence their fast. Those who are ill or may experience health complications from fasting, such as individuals with diabetes, may be excused from fasting if it could negatively impact their well-being.
How long do you fast?
Muslims are required to fast during the entire month of Ramadan, which is based on the Islamic lunar calendar. The fast starts at dawn and ends at sunset each day. This year that will be from approximately 4:45am to 6:20pm.
Can you drink?
No! Not even water. We are at full fast which means no consumption of any liquids or solids during the fasting hours.
Is it hard?
The first three days are known as being the hardest, some find the first week hard. It is very different for different people, but it does get easier, and once it’s over, we miss it!
How can organisations help support colleagues who are observing and celebrating Ramadan?
- Be informed about Ramadan. The first step in supporting employee’s during Ramadan is to learn about it. Make an effort to understand the significance of the month, the reasons for the fast, and the impact it may have on your employees. This knowledge will help to better accommodate their needs during this time.
- Offer flexible working hours. Muslim employees who are observing Ramadan may need to adjust their working hours to accommodate their fasting. Consider offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home during this time to help them manage their work commitments and religious observances.
- Accommodate time for prayer. Muslim employees need to pray five times a day, and it is important to provide them with a quiet and clean space to do so. If your organisation does not have a prayer room, consider creating one or designating a quiet area where employees can pray. As part of our progressive policy bundles, we have a religious observance policy that can be quickly and easily implemented into your policy set.
- Be mindful of mealtimes. If your organisation provides lunch or snacks during the day, be mindful of this and consider adjusting lunch breaks or providing alternative arrangements to accommodate those who are fasting.
- Show understanding and support. It is important to show your employees that you understand and support their religious observances during Ramadan. Organisations should have Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) high on their agenda. When it comes to EDI strategies, they aren’t just nice-to-haves; they are essential to organisational health and success, driving bottom-line growth and improving talent recruitment and retention.
Is your organisation truly inclusive?
Creating a truly inclusive workplace involves every aspect of your organisation, from your policies to your employee training, fostering a culture that values diversity and promotes inclusivity.