Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims all over the world. It is a time of spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and charity. As a business, it is important to understand the significance of this month and how it may impact your customers and employees.
As a business, it is important to be aware of the impact of fasting on your customers and employees. Many Muslims may choose to avoid eating out during the day, and some may also choose to avoid certain types of food or drink during the month. You may want to consider adjusting your business hours or menu during this time to accommodate these needs.
About the History of Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection. The sighting of the new crescent moon signifies the official first day of Ramadan and it lasts roughly one month. The beginning and end of Ramadan fluctuate each year, following the phases of the moon.
Ramadan commemorates the time when the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 C.E. The Qur'an is the Islamic holy book and is taken to be the direct word of Allah (God) and includes accounts from the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Laylat Al Qadar, or, the Night of Power, was the first time that God revealed to Muhammad that he was a prophet and was responsible for carrying the message of God. Laylat Al Qadar takes place in the final 10 days of Ramadan and it is believed that special blessings are associated with this night, the most sacred of nights within Islam.
How Ramadan is Celebrated
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. This means they abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. The fast is intended to help Muslims develop self-discipline, cleanse the body and mind, and focus on spirituality. It is also a time for increased prayer and acts of charity.
Asma Sayeed, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at UCLA, explained that Ramadan is rooted in many practices, including to “invoke the remembrance of God for a continuous period" and “to celebrate and remember the revelation of the Qur'an as a gift to humanity” (USA Today).
During Ramadan Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset. Pre-dawn breakfast, or suhoor, usually occurs at 4:00 a.m. before sunrise and the first prayer of the day, fajr. The fast is broken each day with a meal called Iftar, which usually includes dates, water, and a variety of traditional foods such as stew, rice, and lentils.
By abstaining from food, drink, and other pleasurable consumption, Muslims are reminded of what it is to face bodily and material deprivation. “The idea is to sort of invite Muslims to be more charitable in that month and for the rest of the year because you’ve sort of experienced want yourself in very direct ways,” shares Asma Sayeed. Not all Muslims practice fasting during Ramadan, as there are exceptions for individuals who are pregnant, nursing, menstruating, ill, or elderly.
Muslims may also congregate at Mosques for nightly prayers or pray at home. In some instances, one-thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each night so that at the end of Ramadan, a person will have read / recited the entire Qur'an in prayer, which is viewed as a very high act of devotion.
Ramadan is also a time for increased giving and charity. Many Muslims choose to donate to charitable organizations or volunteer their time during the month. As a business, you can support these efforts by partnering with local charities or organizations and donating a portion of your profits to their cause.
Fasting during Ramadan, or Sawm, is one of the five pillars of Islam, guidelines that are fundamental to the Islamic faith. The other 4 pillars are Shahadah: believing that God is the only deity and that the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) is his messenger; Zakat: giving to charity; Salah: praying five times daily; and Hajj: making the pilgrimage to Mecca (the heart of Islam) at least once, if able.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate with a large festival called Eid al-Fitr, or the “festival of breaking the fast”. Eid al-Fitr lasts 3 days and consists of gathering with friends, family, and community to pray, eat, exchange gifts, and honor deceased relatives. The festival is also a continuation of self-reflection and piety for Muslims.
Honoring Ramadan in the Workplace
Customers, clients, employees, or coworkers who are celebrating Ramadan are dealing with increased fatigue, hunger, and thirst, so it is very important to be understanding and flexible during this time. Here are some ways to support your Muslim friends during Ramadan:
Offer a safe and private place for prayer
Offer flexible working schedules and paid time off
Avoid scheduling work events that conflict with Iftar
Offer education and awareness sessions about Ramadan and Muslim culture
You can follow this up with a fun trivia night; check out Aicha Mhamed’s Islam Trivia
Ensure that everyone in your organization is mindful and respectful of cultural and religious differences. During Ramadan this may include being respectful of modest dress and prayer times, and avoiding hosting events that may conflict with religious observances.
Suggested reading: Mary-Frances' We Can’t Talk About That At Work! How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics provides valuable insights into navigating difficult conversations while creating an inclusive and respectful workplace environment
Ask Muslim employees / coworkers how you can best support them during Ramadan
Host a virtual Iftar meal
Wish friends “Ramadan Mubark” (Happy Ramadan), “Ramadan Kareem” (have a generous Ramadan), or an “easy fast” to recognize this important time
Shop Muslim-owned businesses
Muslim-owned shops on Etsy
10 more Muslim-owned businesses from PopSugar
Organize a charity drive / donate to causes that support and uplift Muslim people
Watch a movie that involves the traditions of Ramadan.
Lion of the Desert (Libya, 1981) on the life of Omar Mukhtar
Malcolm X (1992), American film on the life, conversion and Hajj of Malcolm X
Free Man (Turkey, 2011) on the life of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi
Les Hommes libres (Free Men, 2011, France), on the life of Si Kaddour Benghabrit
Read books to learn more about Ramadan and Muslim Culture
Ramadan is an important month for Muslims and a time for increased spiritual reflection and acts of charity. As a business, it is important to be aware of the impact of fasting on your customers and employees, and to support charitable efforts during this time. By doing so, you can demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion, and build stronger relationships with your Muslim customers and employees.
There are many resources available online for learning more about Ramadan. Some great places to start include websites such as: IslamicFinder.org, Ramadan.com, and AboutIslam.net. You can also find helpful information on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter by searching for Ramadan-related hashtags. Additionally, your local mosque or Islamic center may offer educational resources and events during the month of Ramadan.
Additional resources and information:
USA Today: How Ramadan is Celebrated