Muslims observe Ramadan once a year, and each year Ramadan falls 11 days earlier on the Gregorian calendar. Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam where Muslims who are well and able, must fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting helps spiritually grounding an individual through reflection, retrospection, and prayer. It also helps Muslims develop patience and self-control from worldly things, as well as humbles them and makes them grateful for all that God has given them.
Ramadan in the work place can be difficult for Muslims in a work environment where their employer and colleagues know nothing about the observance of Ramadan. To help your Muslim co-worker during their long hours of fasting, there are some things you should be mindful about.
1. Be mindful about eating or drinking in front of them. Even if you ask them and they say they don’t mind you eating or drinking in front of them, it can be a distraction for them, leading them to think about food or drink.
2. Avoid hosting breakfast or lunch meetings with Muslim staff members during Ramadan. Your Muslim colleague will appreciate your sensitivity.
3. Avoid asking too many questions about fasting or act surprised to hear that Muslims refrain from water too, as if they will die from dehydration. Please avoid suggesting loopholes around fasting. We know your curious and trying to be helpful, but this could turn uncomfortable or awkward quickly. Your Muslim colleague knows what he/she should and should not do during Ramadan. This nifty visual sums it up for you.
4. If you see a Muslim eating during Ramadan, don’t be the Ramadan Police. It is best not to ask them too many questions about why they are not fasting. People who are ill, elderly, women menstruating, pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding are excused from fasting. So it may not be something they want to talk about and can be a bit invasive. Also please don’t make the assumption menstruating women are impure to fast. The reason women are excused at that time of the month is replenish their body with food and water. They can participate in Ramadan festivities with their families except fasting.
5. If you are one who typically has a sailor’s mouth in the work place; when around your Muslim colleagues during Ramadan, try your best to choose your words wisely out of respect for your Muslim colleagues.
6. If you are an employer, be considerate to your Muslim employees by allowing them to start an hour later or leave an hour earlier in lieu of their lunch break. The lunch hour can be the longest hour of the day if they don’t eat. Have mercy on your Muslim employee by offering this option. To learn about New York State religious accommodations, read NYS law “RELIGIOUS RIGHTS in the workplace.”
These are things to avoid doing and saying to a Muslim observing Ramadan. However, if you’d like to help and make your Muslim friend or colleague feel more comfortable, many people choose to fast in part, for curiosity and overall health. You can join in the fast and whenever you feel it’s become too challenging, you can throw in the towel and of course eat or drink. You could also invite you Muslim colleague an iftar (breaking of the fast) or join them for an iftar and share the moment with them. There are many iftars to choose from in New York City.
This is a month of generosity, forgiveness, worship, and patience. Therefore, Muslims all over the world aim to better themselves, increase their faith, and to seek forgiveness from God. It is where rewards are tripled and the opportunity for all individuals to be the best human they can be and also give back to the world and those who are in dire need of help. It is a beautiful month with endless blessings. So wish your Muslim colleagues Ramadan Mubarak, Happy Ramadan or Ramadan Kareem, Abundant Ramadan.