Welcoming Ramadan and Promoting Inclusivity in the Workplace
By Arqum Rashid, Ph.D. Candidate
“Don’t eat yet; there are still two minutes until sunset.” Aside from being the month in which Muslims know the precise minute when the sun sets, Ramadan is the month of elevated consciousness of God. Muslims across the globe fast the entire month, every day from dawn to sunset. During fasting hours, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking (including water), and having sexual relations. In the evening, after opening their fasts, they engage in additional voluntary prayers.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the most sacred month for Muslims, and it is a time for reflection, sharing, solidarity, charity, and kindness. Ramadan might seem like a strenuous task to outsiders, but to many Muslims, this is their favorite time of the year. The elevated spirituality during the month leaves many with “Ramadan blues” once it has passed. Before dawn, Muslims wake up for an early meal or a light refreshment called suhur. The fast then begins alongside the first prayer of the day, Fajr.
During the fast, Muslims try to do more than abstain from food consumption. They avoid arguments, backbiting, gossip, and other vain discussions. To show the importance of heightened consciousness of one’s character during the fast, the Prophet Muhammed stated in a tradition that the one who does not leave false statements or evil actions, then God has no need of that person’s abstinence from food and drink!
The great Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali proposes three degrees of fasting, each including abstinence from the lower level. The lowest degree is abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual satisfaction. The following degree is to “fast” from bodily sins — to keep one’s eyes, ears, hands, tongue, and other organs from engaging in anything impermissible or disliked. Finally, the highest level is to “fast” from all thoughts and concerns of this world and focus one’s attention on God alone.
Throughout the month, families and communities come together for Iftar, the fast-opening meal. Later in the evening, many Muslims gather at the mosque for additional prayers called tarawih. These prayers go on for an hour or two, intending to complete the recitation of the entire Quran throughout the month. If you are interested in experiencing Iftar, contact your local mosque to find out if they host an interfaith or public Iftar.
When is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth of twelve months in the Islamic Calendar, also known as the Hijri calendar. The Hijri Calendar is lunar and has fewer days per year than the Gregorian calendar used in the United States. As such, the Islamic holidays are not observed on the same Gregorian date every year. This year Ramadan will likely begin on the evening of March 22nd and end on April 20th. The following day, April 21st, is Eid day, one of the two major Islamic holidays. This day starts with feeding the poor and a prayer service.
How can you facilitate a better Ramadan experience for your Muslim co-workers, colleagues, or employees?
Covid made many realize that the workplace can still function well with adjustments and non-traditional settings. Similarly, Ramadan can be a time when you can offer reasonable accommodations and minor adjustments. This will increase appreciation from your employees or colleagues, create stronger work bonds, and improve overall workplace productivity. Here are some ideas:
- Can you offer remote work on some days of the week? Or a few hours a day?
- Can you offer alternative work hours? Maybe an earlier or later start, depending on the fasting person’s preference.
- Can you switch tasks with your co-worker during Ramadan for something outside of Ramadan?
- Is it possible to avoid scheduling work presentations closer to when Muslims open their fast (sunset)?
- Can you allow them to adjust their break time, especially since they will not eat lunch?
These are just a few ideas to think about. You can better someone’s Ramadan experience at the workplace in many more ways. Don’t hesitate to speak to your Muslim employees and co-workers about how you can increase that experience — I guarantee you they will appreciate it!
At HIU, we’re always looking for ways to be more empathetic towards people with different faiths and traditions and learn from our differences. This is the basis for our MA in Interreligious Studies, where students of different faiths come together to explore the lived reality of religion in our interfaith world.