This month you may come into work to possibly find your Muslim colleague taking a power nap at 11am. You will be shocked at break time when he/she is offered coffee and cake and refuses.
Then you remember what they had mentioned last week- it’s their ‘Ramadham thing’.
The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, where Muslims around the world unite in fasting to complete the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. Those physically unwell are excused from such fasts, as with those who are elderly, underage or travelling. Muslims will abstain from food and drink from dawn till dusk, and pray in abundance for the next 29/30 days.
Though functioning 19 hours without food may seem like the greatest achievement, fasting whilst working is an even greater venture. So make it a little easier for your Muslim colleagues this Ramadhan, by following a few simple tips:
You can eat
No, really, you can. You are allowed to eat, trust me we don’t mind.
You don’t need to apologise or hide or turn around. IT’S OKAY!
We’re fasting voluntarily and pretty happily (despite the sad and somber look on our face). You really don’t need to feel sorry for us because we wait and prepare for this month the entire year. We’re not trying to be rescued (okay we are, but only by the ticking clock of the clock so it can take us closer to sunset.)
The Lunch Meeting
Most of us understand that life goes on, as do lunch meetings. So you don’t need to worry about eating in front of us if we’re in meetings with you. We appreciate that you’re acknowledging our fast, but don’t feel the need to discuss it every time you show up in front of us with food.
Just please ignore our stomach when it growls at your packet of cheese and onion crisps and don’t make a fuss.
The oh-so famous non-Muslim proverb. It’s true —not even water.
This is all part of the Ramadhan challenge to exercise our self-discipline. It’s really not that hard if you don’t look at the water cooler every five minutes.
God tells Muslims, that to him, the breath of the fasting one is like “fragrant musk”. But we know that you may not feel the same way, so understand and accept that we’re not ignoring you. We might choose to stand a good foot away from you whilst in conversation or just use sign language to communicate. It’s for your own good.
30-days of nocturnal-ness
The hardest part for most is the lack of sleep. The fasting hours start so early and end so late, which means there are very few hours to get some decent rest.
The night prayers of Ramadan, known as Taraweeh, don’t begin until 11pm and finish a while after midnight, which means we’re going to sleep late everyday. Then we get up at 3am to eat for Suhoor (consider it a super early breakfast), and try to go back to bed for a few hours before waking up again for work. Consider doing that for 30 days, and subtract consistent meal times: that’s where the real patience part comes in.
So don’t remind us that we ‘look really tired’, because we really have been up all night!
You can do it too!
What we hear the most from people is that they could “never fast”.
“I get really cranky when I’m hungry.” -Yes so do we, we are human. Yet in Ramadhan, be it a blessing or plain sympathy, we become immune to each other’s hangry (hungry and angry) attitude because we’re all on the same ride, fast(ing) and furious.
“I could never do that. I would die.” -Fasting tests your resolve. And yes, the first few days can be challenging, but you’re stronger than you think. And it’s scientifically proven that it takes 30 days for a habit to evolve, so even if it’s not the physical fast you’re going to do, starve your soul of the tosh you make it endure and try to give up some bad habits.
Ramadan is the perfect month for charity and community. There are Iftar dinners (the meal to break the fast) held at Mosques every night and you are welcome to join the fun and feasts even if you’re not fasting! Throughout the month we try to reflect on those with much less, and aim to maintain an atmosphere of joy and gratitude for all that God has blessed us with. We are all guilty of showing little appreciation for the constant abundance of food that we are blessed with. Too often we waste and carelessly spend without any sense of guilt, despite being aware that there millions of people living in the same world, who suffer from unimaginable poverty and hunger.
Essentially, the true definition and practice of fasting extends beyond refraining from food and drinks. Fasting also includes a great amount of self-restraint, from anything that may displease God or go against the principles of decency. When fasting, we don’t consume anything except at the appropriate time, we don’t speak except for good words, we don’t act except for valuable deeds and we do not allow our hearts to be engaged by anything except for God. Fasting makes us hungry and vulnerable, and it is in this condition that we are reminded of our lack of self-suffice: we are forever reliant on the constancy of a greater power.
And of course once it’s Rama-done, comes the arrival of everybody’s favourite day, EID!! Commonly considered as the Muslim version of Christmas, Easter and New Years Eve, bundled into an entire day of celebration, merriment and plentiful feasting!
Ramadhan 2016 is approximated to fall on the 7th of June. “Let the Hunger Games begin!”