What is Ramadan? What does it mean?

Leena Sellam, one of our most recent CSR Eagles, currently on placement at RSA in the Comms team, has written this piece about the significance of Ramadan and how workplaces can accommodate those observing the month. Thanks to Leena for writing this article for us:


With Ramadan recently having come to an end, let’s explore what the past month has signified for those who celebrate Ramadan:
For many of us, religion and faith are central to our identities. With the end of Ramadan recently having been marked by the sighting of the new crescent moon on the horizon, it’s important to take the time to reflect on the month of Ramadan and understand why religious events are so important to some of us.

What is Ramadan?
Ramadan marks one of the widest celebrated religious observances in the world. It is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar and marks the revelation of the Islamic Holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Mohammed. During this month, Muslims are given the opportunity to exercise self-restraint by abstaining from eating and drinking every day from dawn to sunset.

Alongside this, Ramadan encourages Muslims to carry out additional prayers, be more charitable and devote time to building good habits that can be maintained throughout the year. It represents an invaluable time where we all aim to become the best versions of ourselves.

Why do Muslims fast?
Fasting is integral to the Islamic faith as it falls under the fourth Pillar of Islam. This means that fasting is an obligatory act of worship for all Muslims who are in good health and are able to do so. Fasting serves as an act of devotion to God and a reminder of the things that we must be grateful for.

Whilst the first initial days of fasting can prove to be challenging to our bodies, as we progress further into the month, we realise that rooting ourselves in this habitual act demonstrates how we are always in control of our physical desires.

Although food and water are essential human needs, abstaining from eating and drinking is an enactment of self-discipline and willpower – something that can be implemented across all strands of life. This reminder of the fleetingness of earthly desires, mirrors how fasting teaches Muslims to practice patience, develop our individual spiritual growth, and physically cleanse our bodies.

What does Ramadan mean to me?
As a Muslim myself, I view the act of fasting as one of the purest expressions of will, freedom and self-discipline. In a world filled with the abundance of choice and consumerism, this month acts as a reminder of how little we need to feel grounded and fulfilled. Whilst it takes a lot of physical and mental focus to fast, we are reminded that simplicity and happiness are inextricably linked.

For me, Ramadan is also a yearly opportunity to support and better my community. Whilst there is a heavy focus on self-development, Ramadan allows us to come together and practice empathy through being charitable, volunteering time and offering acts of service to support those in need.

How can we provide support to our colleagues who are fasting?
It is important to note that fasting can present its challenges at times. Within our working teams, it is helpful to emphasise that some individuals may need additional support. Here are some ways our workplaces can accommodate those who are fasting during Ramadan:

  • Continue to provide flexible ways of working to make sure work patterns are inclusive towards everyone
  • Provide prayer spaces
  • Encourage individuals who are fasting to take small rest breaks where needed
  • Avoid asking individuals to commit to evening functions or to travel away from home as this can interfere with fast-breaking times
  • If you notice someone not fasting for the day, don’t ask questions as it could be uncomfortable for people to provide reasoning
  • Colleagues who are fasting will not expect others who do not observe the month of Ramadan to do the same. Don’t feel awkward about drinking or eating around us!

When in doubt of someone’s needs or requirements, always ask!

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