The holy month of Ramadan starts at the end of this week. Depending on where you are in the world (because the start date depends on the sighting of the moon) the first day could be on the 20th or the 21st (North America). But observance begins the night before at sunset.
Ramadan is a month of contemplation and re-focusing on God (among other things). It falls in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar (which is lunar, hence the date changes every year in our Gregorian calendar). It continues for 30 days.
Why should you pay attention?
Observant Muslims fast during Ramadan from sunrise to sunset, so think about how this may affect productivity, mood, creativity, energy levels, and the desire to socialize later in the day – and plan accordingly if you have colleagues on your team or in your department who are fasting.
I often hear things like “Don’t worry about me at the office party. Go ahead, I just won’t eat.” And often people are too ready to go ahead. But think about it. In an inclusive workplace, how inclusive it is to have a work function or potluck luncheon during a time when some of your colleagues are fasting? And beyond those planned events, what about eating at your desk when your cubicle-neighbour can’t eat for more than 12 hours?
Remember, days are longest in the summer! Sunrise in Toronto, for example, is currently just before 6am, and sunset just before 9pm. That means a fasting day of 15 hours! And it’s hot!
I know what you’re thinking. Why should the rest of us change what we are doing? It’s not our holy month! Well…in a workplace that practices inclusion, the underlying theme is respect and acknowledgment of differences. Being mindful of your colleagues who are fasting, and extending them the courtesy of things like not eating in front of them, planning social events you’d like them to be a part of for after Ramadan is over, or scheduling meetings in the morning when they are likely to have the most energy, (just 3 examples) I think, is fair.
If we put ourselves in another’s shoes for a moment, these courtesies don’t seem so inconvenient or unreasonable. They do show acknowledgment and send a message of belonging and inclusion.
copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion.