It’s Ramadan later this month, one of the most spiritual times of the year for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. Together with UK Muslim Film, we have put together this handy guide, so you can know how to support your colleagues and friends during the month.
Depending upon the sighting of the moon, this year Ramadan may start on the evening of Wednesday 22nd March until the evening of Friday 21st April. It is a time of fasting, prayers, and reflection, with Muslims worldwide observing 29 to 30 days of fasting from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, water, and intimate relationships: keeping away from sinful acts, dedicating themselves to prayers and helping the needy. At sunset, the breaking of the fast happens with a meal called ‘Iftar’ providing much-needed nourishment. It can also be an emotional occasion, celebrating spiritual reflection that helps Muslims connect deeper with their Creator.
Ramadan is about more than just restrictions or physical exhaustion; spiritually, it’s an uplifting period within Islam and a way to build good habits. The purpose of Ramadan isn’t about starving yourself and feeling depleted; it’s a way to practise discipline, self-control, generosity, and attain nearness to God – a period of spiritual healing and growth
The daily fasting period in the UK will roughly be 14 hours long, which can be a little challenging alongside a busy work life. Here’s how you can support your Muslim employees or co-workers observing Ramadan within the workplace.
Acknowledge and Discuss
Be open and approachable – let your Muslim team members know that you are open to discussing their Ramadan experience, what it means to them and how you can make the workplace more accommodating. Ensure that you do not make assumptions about all Muslim employees, some will be exempt from fasting* and others may want to practise without bringing too much attention to themselves. Understand that many Muslims may have found it difficult to express their faith on set and in the workplace, so give them space to do so on their own terms.
*Those with physical or mental ill-health challenges, pregnant women, those menstruating or travelling are not obligated to fast, but they are just as valid in their expression of faith. They are still able to take part in other aspects of Ramadan, through prayers, charity, and community connection.
Be attentive to any workplace adjustments and issues that may arise for those observing Ramadan. For example, allowing Muslim team members to start earlier or work through lunch to finish earlier, may help employees be more productive and avoid energy dips during their working hours. Alternatively, as some Muslims adjust their sleep schedules during Ramadan, sleeping later to wake at dawn before falling back to sleep again, they may benefit from starting later in the day.
Prayer and Prayer Space
Muslims pray five times a day, and two or three of those prayers may fall within working hours. Prayers do not usually take up too much time and will not cause a disruption in the workday. Usually a short 5-10-minute break will allow Muslim team members to simultaneously observe Ramadan fully and attend to their commitments.
During Ramadan, Muslims are more careful to ensure they are praying on time, so offering a quiet prayer space will go a long way to accommodating your team members. If a dedicated prayer space is not available, consider booking a room to allow Muslims to feel comfortable whilst praying. The room should ideally not have paintings, pictures or statues that depict people, as Muslim prayer should be completed in spaces where there are no forms of human reverence.
Breaking of the fast will occur at sunset, so you should be aware of roughly what time that will be during the workday. Your team members will need a break to eat and complete the sunset prayer, after which they can rejoin the team. If you are on set, ensure there is some food and water available at the time of Iftar, and discuss with your Muslim team members what they will require to break their fast. Try to ensure that you do not set meetings during this timeframe or allow your Muslim team members to join a little later if rescheduling is not possible.
Fasting can affect people in different ways. Some may be quieter or others more tired, but that should not be taken to assume that Ramadan has a detrimental effect. Some often feel more energised during this period. You also don’t need to hide your food or be secretive about eating; colleagues who are fasting will absolutely be fine with you eating normally around them.
Eid ul-Fitr is the celebration that comes after the completion of the month of Ramadan. It’s a day of feasting, attending prayers and celebrating with your loved ones. Be mindful that Muslims will need to take a day off for this celebration. It is based on the lunar calendar, so the exact date of Eid will be dependent on the sighting of the moon.
Finally, celebrate this month alongside your Muslim team members and wish them a happy and generous Ramadan this year! ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ means ‘Happy Ramadan’ and ‘Ramadan Kareem’ means ‘have a generous Ramadan’. You may even want to share an iftar meal with your Muslim colleagues, bringing everyone together over food and the shared values of gratitude and generosity!
While most people are enriched by experiencing and understanding other cultures, we know that some Muslim colleagues are unfortunately made to feel ‘different’ during moments like Ramadan. If that is the case, or if you or a colleague needs support, or just a listening ear, the Film and TV Charity’s free and confidential Film and TV Support Line is open 24/7 on 0800 054 0000.
Ramadan Kareem to all our Muslim friends!
Here are some frequently asked questions:
- Is water allowed when fasting? Not even water!
- What else isn’t allowed? Smoking or chewing gum during fasting hours isn’t allowed, nor are intimate acts.
- What if someone observing Ramadan forgets and eats during fasting? They should continue their fast as normal until sunset.
- What happens if someone misses their meal before they start fasting? They will still have to fast as normal.
- Can you swear? Someone observing Ramadan should avoid swearing and arguments, though it does not invalidate their fast.
- Is it okay to eat in front of someone who is fasting? Of course, they won’t hold that against you!
- What if someone starts feeling unwell whilst fasting? Fasting is meant for those who are able. There is no obligation on those that have genuine health issues or require regular medication.