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What Should Non-Muslim Employers know about Ramadan?  

Written by Hira Naeem

Hira is one of the members of the Intersol team celebrating Ramadan this month. In this post, she provides an overview of this holy month and sheds light on how colleagues and employers can support their Muslim clients, peers and employees.  

All About Ramadan 

In 2022, Ramadan began on the night of April 2nd. Those observing this holy month will be fasting from food and drink (including water) from sunrise to sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for every Muslim, barring health conditions. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is seen as an act of worship, to grow closer to Allah. It is also a way to grow in patience, compassion, and self-control. 

Ramadan is the 9th Lunar month in the Islamic Calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Allah giving the Quran to the prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in 610 AD. It is the holiest of all months, a time of spiritual focus and renewal. During Ramadan, Muslims fast, pray, and gather as a community.  

During Ramadan, Muslim families wake up together early, before the sun rises to have the pre-dawn meal called suhoor. Once the sun goes down, Muslims often gather with their families or at the local mosque to eat together. This meal is called iftar. Nightly prayers, called taraweeh, are also held at the mosque. These gatherings are meant to foster community, while also providing an opportunity for people to gather and pray. 

Ramadan itself consists of three parts. The first ten days focus on mercy. The second ten days are for forgiveness. The third set of ten days are devoted to seeking refuge in God. During the last ten days of Ramadan, there are extra celebrations and opportunities to worship, all leading up to theLaylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power.” This is the night Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is considered the holiest night of the year. 

Charity is another emphasis of Ramadan. Muslims are encouraged to be generous and to use their fasting as an opportunity to think about and pray for those in need. They believe Allah multiplies blessings during Ramadan, so they seek to give more. 

Ramadan ends after 29 or 30 days (depending on the moon) and concludes with Eid Al-Fitr, the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” It is a true thanksgiving to a believer after having the opportunity to obey God by completing the month of fasting. It is celebrated on the 1st day of 10th lunar month, Shawwal, when Muslims put on their best (preferably new) clothes and go to Eid congregations across the world. 

If you don’t practice Ramadan, there’s a good chance you work with someone who does.

Ramadan at Work 

In most Muslim countries, it is easier for people to fast. Employers usually cut back their hours to accommodate the fasters. Observing Ramadan as a minority in a non- Muslim country has its challenges, but it is not significant enough to make it impossible to fast because people from other faiths are generally respectful and supportive of their Muslim colleagues or neighbors. 

As a best practice, most employers could do the following: 

  • Raise awareness in the workplace and encourage internal education on Ramadan, when it is approaching and who this could affect at work. 
  • Help ensure all staff that may work with Muslim colleagues, partners and/or clients are aware of what fasting entails and how this could impact someone. 
  • Show flexibility in work hours. Given the current circumstances, with many employees working from home, it can be easier for employers to allow greater flexibility for Muslim employees who are fasting.  
  • Colleagues can show sensitivity by trying to schedule festivities or occasions that involve food outside of Ramadan, to help reduce food-based gatherings in front of fasting colleagues.  
  • Schedule meetings/events in mid-morning instead of the afternoons and evenings. 

Employers can be prepared for Muslim employees to take a few holidays at the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid. This has the emotional equivalent to Christmas and is the one time of the year whole families and neighborhoods usually get together to pray, share presents and enjoy food. 

Implementing practices to accommodate fasting staff members can only lead to nurturing mutual trust and ultimately lead to more effective teams. That’s how organizations across Canada can try and use Ramadan as a platform for greater understanding and improving team dynamics. 

Hira’s tip: To get the feel, this Ramadan, try to contact a local mosque to participate in a community iftar meal.