Ramadan starts in the UK on 17 May. It is important that Muslims understand their rights at work and non-Muslims understand how they can support their Muslim colleagues.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims see Ramadan as the holiest month of the Islamic year. It commemorates when the Quran (Muslim holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims wake up before dawn, 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. 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.
As the Islamic calendar is based on the moon, dates and timings for Ramadan can vary depending on when the new moon is sighted – and so can be different across the world and even in different places across the UK.
In London, Ramadan will begin this year on the evening of Thursday, 17 May and will end on Sunday, 17 June.
The three-day festival of Eid al Fitr is celebrated at the end of Ramadan.
Fasting is common in many faiths. During Ramadan, Islam instructs Muslims to refrain from food, liquids, smoking and physical intimacy between dawn and dusk. Muslims often try to give up bad habits during this time and try to be better people.
Fasting during Ramadan is done to nurture a spirit of self-sacrifice, self-restraint, and control.
It is also means that those who never have to hunger or thirst can (to some extent) understand the problems of the underprivileged. Muslims often make more donations to charities and do more charity work during this month.
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 affect concentration, mood, and energy levels towards the end of the day.
Many Muslims will be more regular with their prayers during Ramadan. Out of the five obligatory prayer times, the midday prayers (Zuhr) are likely to fall within business hours. These take about 10 - 15 minutes and you can request management to provide a room.
Muslims can ask management to provide a temporary prayer room for use during Ramadan or they can negotiate a room on a permanent basis if the need is there. Speak to your workplace rep for help with this.
During Ramadan Muslim staff may need to work more flexibly, which usually can be accommodated by prior arrangement with management, through the department’s flexible working hours scheme.
Attending Friday prayers is compulsory and managers should try to accommodate this, bearing in mind business needs.
Many Muslim staff will want to take leave for at least one day of Eid ul Fitr at the end of Ramadan.
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 or other special arrangements that you need.
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