How to Support Employees Observing Ramadan
Last night marked the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During this month, Muslims around the world will be fasting from sunup to sundown for 29-30 days (depending on when the new moon is sighted--hence the emphasis on lunar).
This is a very important month to us, as it marks the month in which the Holy Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
If you'd like to know more about the month and how you can be an ally to Muslim friends and coworkers, we’ve adapted this post from a brilliant resource by Fahmida Kamali and encourage you to check it out (and follow her)!
- It's pronounced Rum-ah-dhaan (not "Ram-a-dan").
- Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, so it is mandatory for Muslims who are able to fast. With 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, that's a lot of people fasting!
- In 2021, the first day of fasting will be Tuesday, April 13. Since Ramadan in based on the lunar calendar, it shifts back 10 days every year, which means that sometimes it occurs in the summer, when the days are long, and other times, it occurs in the winter, when fasts are <12 hours long and much easier.
- While it's not required, most Muslims wake up about an hour before sunrise to eat a full meal, called Suhoor. (In the Pacific time zone, this means that I will be up at 4 AM!)
- During fasting, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking (yes--even water), gossiping, arguing, swearing, and sex.
- At the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, our equivalent to Christmas--lots of parties, food, and gift exchanges!
- The bad breath is real. (Fortunately, not an issue on Zoom.)
- Fasting does not cause weight loss for most folks. People tend to overeat at night, especially fried food.
- If you accidentally break your fast, it's no biggie and is considered a blessing.
- Moon-wars are a real phenomenon. There are different moon-sighting methodologies around the world, so you may find some Muslims beginning and ending Ramadan on different days.
- Children are not required to fast, though some do in imitation of their parents.
1. Don't be weird about eating in front of us. 🍝
I promise, we don't mind, and you don't need to apologize! Team lunches might be awk, but with Zoom, less so...
2. Ask about the experience--don't make assumptions. 🙅
Yes, fasting is hard. It's meant to be. It's a time for Muslims to reflect--on our lives, the privileges we hold, and how we can make the world a better, more equitable place. If you know someone fasting, you can ask them about why they do it, but don't assume that it's as awful as it sounds to you.
Many Muslims actually love and look forward to Ramadan every year! In fact, fasting during Ramadan is the most- adhered-to religious ritual for Muslims across the globe. Even non-practicing Muslims participate in Ramadan because it's so culturally powerful.
3. Sometimes, Muslims don't fast–don't pry. 🤒
If you have a Muslim friend and you notice they're not fasting, don't inquire. There can be many reasons, including pregnancy, menstruation, illness, old age, etc.
4. Ask how you can be helpful. 🤝
Ask a friend or colleague if they need any accommodations due to fasting. Some Muslims will shift their work schedule to take calls/meetings earlier in the day (when they have more energy), while others will work late at night.
Some also take vacation during the last 10 days of Ramadan, when fasting tends to be harder. Try to make allowances as much as possible!
5. Demonstrate solidarity. ✊
COVID has impacted many of us in ways that may not be immediately visible (food insecurity, increase in intimate partner violence, declining mental or physical health). For Muslims, Ramadan is usually a time of gathering for night prayers at the mosque, socializing during Iftaar (the meal in which we break fast), and communal celebrations during Eid.
Little of that is going to happen this year (again), which is bringing up a lot of grief for your Muslim coworkers and friends. Show solidarity by acknowledging this added layer of impact.
Want to wish your Muslim friend or colleague a happy Ramadan?
The phrase we use is Ramadan Mubarak! (Blessed Ramadan!) It's the same for Eid, as well: Eid Mubarak!