We caught up with Suaad, a young person and EY Foundation ambassador who recently observed her first Ramadan in the workplace. She kindly answered some questions which we thought might be useful for other Muslims going through the same experience, as well as things non-Muslim colleagues can do to help make Ramadan in the workplace a better experience.
I think the most challenging thing about observing Ramadan in the workplace is not having a quiet place to pray. Prayer is the 2nd pillar of faith in the Islamic religion whereas Fasting is the fourth. Thus, it will be challenging for Muslims to complete the prayer on time, if they are having to wait till they get home to make 2/3 prayers at once. Allowing them 5 minutes of the day whether at break/ lunch or any other time which is convenient will go a long way.
I think non-Muslim Colleagues can help make Ramadan a better experience in the workplace by being understanding; maybe creating a 'Ramadan awareness day' in the office, so that everyone is on the same page and people who have questions about Ramadan can ask their questions, or Muslims can share their experiences of Ramadan.
I always say Ramadan is the best time to implement good habits that stick for life, the month has really taught me about self-discipline, how to be mindful of my anger and temperament towards others. Fasting goes beyond abstaining from food and drink alone. It allows us to be conscious of all that we do and say, it allows us to be conscious of how we treat others, and most importantly it is a time whereby we reconnect with God the Almighty.
Make sure you have your pre-dawn meal, and make sure it's a good one! (No doughnuts, or chocolates or sweets, otherwise you won't last an hour!) So really make sure you have a good meal before the dawn prayer. I try stick to a good porridge, some fruits and some syrup and water.
When breaking the fast make sure you also eat good food and drink lots of water, and have your vitamins and supplements (they really come in handy, especially if you're working long hours during the day).
With regards to being in the actual work place, I would say take it easy. Try to be as understanding and easy going with colleagues as possible. People are genuinely inquisitive about the month of Ramadan, so answer those questions in good spirits as it will help break down stereotypes and create a more cohesive working environment for all types of people.
More importantly make sure you really enjoy the month; it only comes once a year.
Thanks so much Suaad for sharing your experience!