Ramadan is a festive time for Muslims around the world. It is also a time for deep contemplation and worship, as it is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. Since the Islamic Calendar follows a lunar calendar, the time of year Muslims observe Ramadan changes a little bit each year. So if you feel like it has crept up on you more quickly this year around, you are right! The lunar calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, thus Ramadan begins roughly 10 days earlier each year. The last few years, Ramadan has fallen in the summer, meaning the longest days of fasting than any other time of year. In the Midwest, that usually means about 17-18 hours of fasting per day. Fasting for Muslims means no food or beverage for the entirety of the day, again, from dawn until dusk. And yes, even no water!
Of course, life does not slow down during this holy month; if anything things get significantly busier. So how can workspaces and organizations be more inclusive during Ramadan?
1. Flexibility in work schedule (come into work later/leave earlier) and space.
Flexibility in an inclusive work space is a given, and it is especially important during these key days for Muslim employees and colleagues. Besides the long days of fasting, Ramadan is also a time of deep reflection and worship. This means extra prayers are practiced, specifically during the night. These prayers often cut into Muslims ability to get enough sleep during this holy month. Along with prayers, fasting such a long day means waking up before sunrise to eat. Thus, allowing some flexibility in when someone starts and ends their work day is important. Some people prefer to start and end their work day earlier so they don’t go back to bed after sunrise. Others prefer to start and end their days later, thus allowing them some extra shut eye after sunrise. Furthermore, some might even ask to work during their lunch since they won’t be eating, and if they aren’t able to work, they may likely stay away from others eating and spend the time in prayer or reading. Either way, communicating the openness for this flexibility is key in helping Muslims make the most of this month.
2. Planning events around mealtimes
As Muslims we are used to watching non-Muslims eat around us while we are fasting, however an organization that is looking for ways to be more inclusive during this month should avoid planning events around mealtimes during Ramadan. It’s one thing to avoid joining everyone for lunch but it’s another when there’s an organizational celebration or fundraising dinner and one has to explain to a table full of people why they can’t even drink water.
3. Allowing breaks for time to break one’s fast and/or eat during evening shifts
For those working evening shifts, finding time to eat after fasting all day can be difficult, especially if they’re working with an organization that assumes they can just eat at any point. The first consideration discussed above around flexibility was aimed specifically toward a 9-5pm work day, but for those working different shifts, such evening, and graveyard, breaks for fasting Muslims need to be taken into consideration. These breaks need to come at specific times for Iftar (the time we break our fast) and Suhoor (time to eat before the sun rises).
4. Professional development sessions for non-Muslim coworkers
Although Islam is the second largest faith in the world, many non-Muslims know very little about Ramadan. Work spaces and organizations would benefit a great deal from hosting a professional development session and/or iftar of their own to educate non-Muslim colleagues on the practices of Muslims during this month.
5. Ending Ramadan
As important as the entire month of Ramadan is, the last 10 days are seen as the most holy of the entire year. These last 10 days may be a time when Muslims ask for extra flexibility and/or some time off. Once Ramadan ends, the first holiday of the Muslim calendar begins and lasts for 3 days. This holiday is called Eid Al-Fitr. Eid is an Arabic word that translates to holiday, and Al-fitr means “The Feast”. Once again when Ramadan ends depends on the sighting of the new moon, and thus can’t be pinpointed most of the time until the last day of Ramadan. The entire month lasts 29-30 days depending on the sighting of the new moon. Some Muslim communities will follow the scientific calculations of moon sightings and will have a predetermined date set for Ramadan’s start and end while other Muslim communities believe the sighting of the new moon needs to be done by the naked eye. Thus, two Muslims working in the same place may start and end Ramadan at different times if they are from different Muslims communities. Either way, when the holiday falls, the ability to take time off to celebrate with family and loved ones is significant. Furthermore, keeping in mind when these dates fall is significant as plans for the year happen, so as not to plan any events, meetings, retreats, etc., when Muslims will likely want to be away from work.
While all of these considerations can be helpful in creating a more inclusive environment for Muslims, it is important to also keep in mind that Muslims vary. Some Muslims, may not be fasting, either due to illness, travel, or simply because they are not practicing Muslims. Regardless, these considerations can help create a better space for all teams. Finally, if you work with Muslims, be sure to wish them a blessed Ramadan by saying “Ramadan Mubarak”!