Ramadan - guidance for reps

  1. What is Ramadan?
  2. Fasting
  3. Breaking fast
  4. Being supportive
  5. Prayer and facilities
  6. Flexible working
  7. Annual Leave
  8. Prayer room
  9. Conclusion

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims have to fast from dawn till dusk. Muslims see Ramadan as the holiest month of the Islamic year and it is the period when the Quran (Muslim holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Muslims wake up before dawn and have a meal before starting the fast and then gather either in the mosque or at home with family and friends to break the fast at evening time. Later on in the evening there are extra prayers that are carried out at the mosque.

The wisdom behind fasting in Ramadan is to nurture a spirit of self sacrifice, self restraint, and control, Fasting develops a sense of discipline and creates an understanding of how the poor who involuntary deprived of food and water feel.

Through fasting and prophetic tradition, Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable. Feeling the pangs of hunger creates a greater sympathy for the needy and Muslims often become more charitable in their deeds and donate to many worth causes during this month.

Fasting

Fasting, in various forms is a practice common in many faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduisms, and Sikhism. Islam instructs Muslims to refrain from food, liquids, smoking and physical intimacy between dawn and dusk. In common with other faiths Muslims also refrain from idleness, gossip, and back-biting.

Breaking fast

It is traditional to break the fast with water and a few dates. This is followed by after dusk prayers and then a main meal is shared. Ramadan is a time for increased community bonds and most Muslims want to break their fast and perform evening prayers with others in the mosque.

Creating a supportive atmosphere

Non Muslim staff can show their consideration for fasting colleagues in a number of ways:

  • Being prepared for fasting colleagues to work slightly different hours
  • Remembering that fasting is not easy. It takes considerable discipline and commitment and may beginning to affect concentration, mood, and energy levels towards the end of the day.

Prayer

Many Muslims will be more regular with their prayers during Ramadan. Prayer times are subject to daylight and differ greatly in the summer and winter. In the current period from the 5 obligatory prayers the midday prayers (Zuhr) are likely to fall within business hours. These take about 10-15 minutes and you can request that management provides a room.

For evening staff the evening prayers (Asr) will happen around 6.45-6.50pm, with the first fast opening around 9.33pm and then decreasing by 2 minutes or so each day. The last fast will open around 9.39pm.

Flexible working hours

DWP and many public sector organisations have good flexible working hours and Muslim staff may request daily different hours. The most likely need of Muslim staff may present to Managers during Ramadan is for flexibility around working hours and break times. Of course this should be by prior arrangement with managers and their ability to accommodate these requests should be balanced against business needs.

All Muslims rise very early to eat and drink before the fast begins which will be around 2.55am. Some staff may request the opportunity to come early and leave at an earlier time so they can return home. Muslims will also ask to be allowed to attend the local mosque for Friday prayers which have to be held in the mosque, they are usually held from around 1.30-2pm and there are mosques in all major towns and cities in the UK. Attending Friday prayers is compulsory and managers should try to accommodate this bearing in mind business needs.

Annual leave

Many Muslim staff will want to take Eid ul Fitr as annual leave. Edi ul Fitr is a three-day festival, although most Muslims take just the first day as holiday. Until the new moon is sighted the date can only be estimated. Clearly Muslim staff will want either of these days off and some may wish to take additional days in the last week of Ramadan to spend time preparing for Eid.

Because of the peak time of summer leave it is important that Muslim staff give enough notice for time off, once you know Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr dates you should contact your line manager and discuss the time off. It is no good leaving only a few weeks notice and then expecting time off.

Prayer room

Muslims can request management to provide a temporary room for Muslim staff for use during Ramadan or they can negotiate a room if the need is there.

Conclusion

This guide has been developed to provide a snapshot of Ramadan and how we can all work together to create a supportive environment for Muslim staff.

Produced by Veena Mohindra, Gurmit Kang, Mohammed Shafiq - PCS DWP group members.

Veena Mohindra, veena.mohindra@dwp.gsi.gov.uk 
Gurmit Kang, gurmit.kang@dwp.gsi.gov.uk 
Mohammed Shafiq, mohammed.shafiq@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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