April 15, 2022

Why Understanding Ramadan Will Mean the World to Your Muslim Coworkers

A plate holding pastries and a tea cup

It’s officially Ramadan, the Islamic month where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. During this month, Muslims around the world will be taking time to reflect on their blessings, express gratitude, and give charity. With that said, Ramadan also poses some challenges for Muslims in the workplace. Here are some FYIs and tips on how to foster an inclusive environment for your Muslim employees or coworkers.

But first, what is Ramadan?

For about 30 days, Muslims are restricted from consuming food and drinks (yes, water, too) during the daylight hours (sunrise to sunset). In North America, this can mean 15 to 18 hour fasts depending on the location. In 2021, the longest duration of a fast around the world was 21 hours.

You’re probably wondering, “Does EVERYONE have to fast?” People with certain health conditions can opt out of fasting, but it is considered mandatory for everyone else. There is also an exception for children under 7. After age 7, most children are slowly taught how to handle fasting.

When does it start?

When the month starts is debatable, as is its end. Welcome to lunar calendering! Typically, there is a moon sighting involved. If a new moon is spotted, then Ramadan has arrived. Flexibility with work schedules is much appreciated during this time.

Wondering how to greet a coworker who is observing Ramadan? A simple “Happy Ramadan” or “Ramadan Mubarak” will suffice. Feel free to ask us questions about Ramadan, the foods we eat to break fast, etc. Some of us go all out and decorate our homes for the occasion. In general, we like sharing our experiences with our friends and coworkers. Just try to refrain from making commentary like “I wish I fasted, I’d lose a lot of weight!” or “You must be starving, it sucks that you have to do this.”

It’s still business as usual.

By now, most of us have become pros at doing this. I mean, we did start fasting around age 7. With that said, we probably won’t be joining you for lunch or happy hour during this month, so try to be considerate when planning one. If you do need to plan one, please understand if we tell you that we’ll pass.

You CAN eat around us.

I promise we won’t mind. Please don’t feel like you have to walk around on eggshells if you happen to be eating or drinking and we enter the room. Don’t make it awkward, though. Just because we are fasting doesn’t mean you have to, so carry on.

Come break fast with us.

We would love to have you join us for iftar, in other words, when we break fast. Just let us know!

The end of Ramadan is a cause for celebration.

Eid Al Fitr is a holiday that immediately follows Ramadan. This may require some time off from work. Accommodations with time off are always appreciated. Eid is also based on the lunar calendar, so give us some time to figure out exactly when we need time off.

Hope this helps give you a better understanding of Ramadan. Happy Ramadan to those observing! #inclusivity #ramadan2022

Author information: Maliha Khan is a senior project manager at Intouch Proto.