Ramadan starts at sunset next Sunday, May 5th! Here’s my annual roundup of inclusive workplace practices to support your Muslim colleagues and clients:
As with any religious group, Muslims practice differently from generation to generation and culture to culture, and interpretations of the faith are numerous. Some are more devout than others and some individuals are cultural Muslim who choose not to practice. These are some very general guidelines about Ramadan:
- Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar, resulting in a different start and finish time from year to year. Visit www.when-is.com to find the dates each year.
- The month is considered to be the holiest of the twelve as it was in this month that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) initially received revelation.
- Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and during Ramadan most Muslims are called upon to perform it from sunrise to sunset. Fasting means that no food, water, smoke, gum or anything else can go past the lips.
- When Ramadan falls during the summer months, as it does this year, fasting is especially challenging due to the longer days – in Tulsa, it’s over 15 hours. The fast is broken at sunset with a meal called iftar; many Muslims break their fast with water and dates and follow it with prayer. After sunset they are then able to drink and eat without limitation.
- The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the Eid ul Fitr, Festival of Fast-breaking, which involves days of Mosque visits, gatherings with friends and family, and gifts and socializing.
This guide includes some suggestions and ideas for inclusive practices to create a welcoming and inclusive space for colleagues, staff members, and clients/members while they are fasting. Since each Muslim has different preferences, speak with those who may be fasting about their individual needs and how they would like to be accommodated.
Meetings & Activities
- Try to schedule client and team meetings during in the morning, rather than in the afternoon, when Muslims have been fasting for several hours.
- Keep high concentration level activities to the morning when people are still relatively fresh.
- Educate yourself and your team about what fasting entails and how this could impact someone. Fasting up to 15 hours a day is not easy and colleagues will appreciate knowing how this might translate into behavior and working practices.
- If you’re eating or drinking at work, be mindful of whether someone nearby is fasting and practice discretion. If available, consider using a different microwave if the one you normally use is near them to avoid creating the smell of food.
- Try to have meetings and staff social events during a time that doesn’t involve a meal – asking a person who is fasting to attend a lunch meeting demands a lot of them. Be understanding how it feels watch people eat and drink while fasting, and consider making these opportunities optional.
- If you bring food for a group, set some aside for those who are fasting to enjoy at the end of their day.
- Find a quiet space where people can pray and identify the direction of Mecca using the compass on an iPhone. Provide breaks to staff and members who need to pray. (This is a best practice year-round, as Muslims pray five times a day all year.)
- For hourly employees, offer those fasting the opportunity to swap shifts or change their working hours to accommodate their fasting schedule while still accomplishing their work.
- For those in 9-5 roles, consider flextime options for start and finish times, or offer the option of working through lunch hours and breaks to allow an earlier finish.
- Allow Muslims to take a break at sunset to break their fast if they happen to be on shift. This needs to include ample time to break their fast, pray and then eat properly.
- Do not expect people to commit to functions in the evening, which are dedicated to eating, prayers and gatherings with the family and wider community.
- Be prepared for people to take PTO/floating holidays or to be unavailable for meetings at the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid. This has the emotional equivalent of Christmas and is a time of the year when whole families and communities get together for celebration.
LOOK IN ON RAMADAN
In Tulsa, the Islamic Society of Tulsa offers an Annual Iftar Dinner for non-Muslims to learn more about Ramadan called Look-In on Ramadan. You’ll learn about Ramadan rituals and how the Islamic holy month is celebrated, tour the mosque, hear the call to sunset prayer, and watch the communal breaking of the fast. Everyone ages 12 and up is invited. Dress is casual and modest (in keeping with mosque etiquette). Register online here.
Mana Tahaie is an Iranian American living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She specializes in race, gender, immigration and LGBTQ+ issues, with a focus on the intersections. Mana convenes the Changing the Status Quo gender equity movement and supports progressive social impact organizations in advancing their missions through strategic planning, coaching, equity training, facilitation, event planning, and other services. Mana also organizes with the Demanding a JUSTulsa campaign for police accountability, serves on committees of Mental Health Association of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, and volunteers as a Tulsa City-County Library adult literacy tutor.