How to support colleagues observing Ramadan
- Posted on May 28, 2019
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Ramadan has always been a heartwarming month for me. It’s a time when being together with my family and loved ones is even more important. But for those who don’t know, what is Ramadan and what does it entail?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It’s the month when Muslims all over the world start their fasts. It starts with the appearance of the crescent moon in the night sky. Since it is based on lunar calendar, the date varies each year, and lasts for an entire month.
We wake up before sunset to have breakfast, which means that if Ramadan falls in the summer period, we have to wake up to have something to eat around 3 a.m.! In wintertime, this means that you are perfectly able to have breakfast before you go to work. I started fasting for the full month when I was around 11 years old. I remember that it was around December, and I was able to eat before leaving to school on my bike. And soon after I was back home, we would be having dinner already.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with praying five times a day, giving to the poor, declaring your faith and the pilgrimage to Mecca. During this month, we are not allowed to eat, drink or engage in sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. There are multiple reasons for fasting. Not eating and drinking all day makes us able to feel what it is like to have nothing to eat and to be hungry, which makes us more generous to give to the poor. It also brings us closer to God. We believe this month is a holy month where God is even more generous in his mercy and forgiveness. We experience this month as a cleanse of our soul and as obedience to God. The concept of fasting is very broad, and it encourages Muslims to refrain from all activity that hurt the body and the soul; including common human behaviors like smoking, lying, gossiping and anger.
Some may wonder how Ramadan affects Muslims in the workplace. At Avanade, we value a diverse and inclusive environment. At Avanade in the Netherlands, people are aware of our fasting. Of course, colleagues still ask me whether they could bring a cup of coffee for me as well, and after I respond, “No thank you, I am fasting,” they always say that they are sorry they asked. But I really don’t mind. It’s a mindset. When I switch on the “Ramadan” mindset, I don’t crave anything to eat or drink. Sometimes I do miss the quick coffee moments with my colleagues, but then I just join them for a chat. In the Netherlands we also have a room that can be used for prayer or meditation. This way, we can perform our prayers during the day as well. For me, it is these things that make the difference at Avanade. We truly foster an inclusive environment, and I am proud to be part of this company.
How can colleagues support Muslims during Ramadan?
Fasting does not prevent Muslims from performing their jobs with the needed efficiency. But, putting into consideration that some individuals within the community are fasting will be great. This can be done by:
- Congratulating when the month begins by saying, “Ramadan Kareem,” “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Blessed Ramadan.”
- Postponing team dinners to include your fasting colleagues.
- Schedule the team events after fasting hours or after Ramadan (e.g. grilling parties)
- Accommodating requests for flexibility when possible. Some colleagues may ask to change their working day or shift times, or to take a shorter lunch break. Or they may want to make sure they finish on time to be able to break their fast with their family or friends. Also the last ten days of Ramadan are considered especially holy. Some Muslim colleagues might decide to take time off, or ask to change their working patterns to attend all-night prayers. Being flexible may help people work when they are most productive.