Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is observed by Muslims around the world. During this month — the month the Quran was first revealed —Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset.
How is Ramadan Celebrated?
On the first day of fasting, Muslims will wake up very early — with heavy eyelids and dragging footsteps — to eat breakfast consisting of a choice food, a date or two and water. This meal is called Suhoor and takes place before the first prayer of the day at dawn. In my personal experience, it’s the hardest part of fasting. Can you imagine that? Eating breakfast is the hard part. In the summer, when you must wake up at three in the morning to eat Suhoor, it’s hard to have an appetite by then, and sleep cycles getting disturbed doesn’t make it easier. But over the course of the month it becomes routine. Sometimes it can be exciting to wake up extra early, energized enough to make delicious fluffy pancakes for yourself and the rest of your family. After Suhoor, for the people who have early morning starts, it’s dawn prayer then off to bed. Some will stay awake until sunrise, as there are many blessings for worship at this time.
For the rest of the day until sunset there is no food or water. During our fast, the distractions of life need to be set aside to focus on prayers, supplication and recitation of the Quran. That doesn’t mean a fasting individual cannot go about their daily life. Muslims will go to work normally and attend work events and parties. Workplaces can offer flex times to make sure the fasting individual is well rested and able to conserve their energy. If food is served, it’s a good idea to offer the fasting Muslim some packaged food to take home for later.
Students will still engage in school, participate in extracurriculars and attend events. You can still be active, but must remember to take it easy as you’re running low on calories and hydration. Some even have the willpower to exercise! A lot of people will tackle their hobbies during Ramadan. There are a lot of hours in the day and staying busy is the easiest way to forget about the hunger and thirst.
Fasting from food and water during the day, especially during the long summer hours, is a humbling reminder of those who are less fortunate and must “fast” for prolonged periods of time out of necessity instead of choice. Therefore, charity and community service, including feeding those in need, is an essential aspect of Ramadan. Many people will donate to Islamic relief organizations, families they know are in need, food drives or to their local mosques.
At sunset Muslims break their fast with a date, water and an appetizer before the prayer. After the prayer the community will often gather at large events for Iftar — the time of day at sunset when they break the fast — and share meals. The best is the Iftar dinners at the mosque, where it’s open to anyone who wants a meal, and people will share their cultural Ramadan specials. The day ends with late night prayers, and some people will stay awake to continue worshipping.
Ramadan is characterized by the gatherings. You will see every Muslim family with a weekly schedule on who invited them for ‘Iftar dinners’ and when they are hosting. Many of those gatherings go late into the night as friends and family share deserts, tea and coffee. If you ever have the chance to visit a Muslim country during Ramadan, you will see that night is much livelier than day, with full streets and open shops.
Workplace Tips in Respect of Those Observing Ramadan
Here are some tips for respecting those who are observing Ramadan at your workplace or within your network:
- Be mindful and respectful of their religion and the fact that they are fasting.
- Allow some flexibility in schedule as needed to cope up with long fasting and disrupted sleep.
- If possible do not host big dinner events, lunch meetings or happy hours during this time if you are working with people who are observing the holiday.
- If you notice someone fasting and don’t know much about the holiday, feel free to ask and use it as a learning opportunity.
- Wish them ‘Ramadan Mubarak.’
Because of the pandemic, it felt like Ramadan lost a little bit of its magic without the gatherings in 2020. However, it didn’t stop the charity and giving of food, as members of the community worked together to prepare and give away meals. This year, we will do the same.
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