5 ways to be inclusive during Ramadan
By: Shazma Ahmed, Shape Talent Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant
Ramadan. My favourite time of year! In life, there are few, truly immersive experiences which nourish the mind, body and soul and leave me feeling invigorated, resilient, humbled, and peaceful. For me, Ramadan is that experience. In this article, I hope to share my personal perspective of the benefits and wisdom of one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar, how Ramadan facilitates personal development and what organisations can do to be more inclusive and support their fasting colleagues during this month.
So, what is Ramadan?
It is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and signifies the month the Quran was revealed. Muslims practice fasting from sunrise to sunset each day for 30 days as a core pillar of their faith.
The meaning and lessons of Ramadan
The emphasised virtues in Islam are patience, perseverance, discipline, humility, sacrifice, gratitude and reflection. Through the practice of fasting and other forms of Islamic worship, Ramadan offers an opportunity to become aware, develop and instil these virtues which benefit Muslims not just in Ramadan but throughout life and the challenges it brings. By the end of the month, I feel a special confidence and self-belief that I can overcome any challenge and trial that may come my way.
Ramadan asks us to sacrifice our natural desires and in doing so develops our capability of self-discipline and restraint, the feeling of hunger and thirst reminds us to reflect and spare a thought of those that are much less fortunate. This serves as a prompt to be grateful for all that we already have in a world that encourages us to focus on our ‘have-nots’ and in turn gets us thinking about how we can use the gifts of our own blessings to benefit others.
There is no doubt that fasting is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding exercise. So how can we help our Muslim colleagues?
- Accommodate time and space for obligatory prayers and reflection
Another core pillar of faith in Islam is five daily obligatory prayers, some of which will take place during the workday. Having a dedicated quiet space for reflection and prayer, not just in Ramadan but throughout the year is something all organisations serious about inclusivity ought to be accommodating.
- Be considerate when scheduling meetings
Genuine flexibility will be greatly appreciated by your Muslim colleagues. During Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset and devote hours of worship throughout the night. Their sleep pattern is likely to be irregular during this time and it can feel like a fasting of sleep as well as food and drink. With this in mind, be considerate of the times meetings are scheduled and what is expected from your Muslim colleagues. Everybody will have different times at which their energy is at its best during this month, so it is best to ask what best fits their needs.
- Facilitate a feeling of community
Whilst Ramadan is naturally a time for introspection and individual reflection, the sense and feeling of community is heightened during this time. One of the ways this manifests in the Muslim community is through charity, another core pillar of Islam; a Muslim is required to be socially responsible and sacrifice a portion of their wealth to give to those less fortunate. Creating a community feeling at work will help contribute to their efforts and support a feeling of belonging.
- Take an interest (but please do your own research)
‘Not even water?’ is a common question I have often been asked at work whilst fasting. It is always wonderful to see so many non-Muslim colleagues taking an interest in Islam and the teachings of Ramadan and engaging in a conversation with their Muslim colleagues about it, however it is likely that your Muslim colleagues will have already been asked questions like these several times over. Whilst the fasting Muslim is likely to appreciate the interest being taken and politely answer, it will be an additional expenditure of energy and we can all inform and educate ourselves without burdening our fasting colleagues.
- Be mindful and accommodating of the diversity of practicing Ramadan
Whilst practicing Muslims are likely to be fasting, there are many reasons why they may not be, for example for health or other personal reasons. The practice of faith is a journey, and everyone is at their own pace. Even if a Muslim colleague is not fasting, they may be observing Ramadan in their own way. Different people may have varying personal styles and traditions. Islam is faith to c.1.6 billion people across the world encompassing diverse traditions, cultures and personal styles and so a ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t appropriate. Ask your Muslim colleagues how to best support and show up for them.
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