Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar, which aligns with the lunar calendar. The dates of Ramadan change every year and begin with the sighting of the crescent moon, ending when the next sighting occurs.
It is a month when practicing Muslims fast every day from dawn to dusk, pray, reflect, and gather to commemorate the revelation of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. It is believed that, in this month, the angel Gabriel revealed the book of revelations from God to Prophet Muhammad. Observance is considered obligatory for adult Muslims who are well and not traveling, breastfeeding, or pregnant, and includes abstaining from food, drink, tobacco, and intimacy. Children and the elderly are exempt from fasting.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is regarded as a way to practice self-control, cleanse the soul, and empathize with those living in poverty and suffering from starvation. Many people also use this time to help those in need and participate in charitable acts.
The holiest night of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr, also known as the Night of Power. It is considered the night when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It is celebrated as a festival within the last ten days of Ramadan, as the exact night of Laylat al-Qadr is unknown. Many Muslims observe all ten nights with extra prayers and recitations of the Quran.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a festival called Eid al-Fitr, when Muslims celebrate the end of fasting with morning prayers, exchanging gifts with family and friends, donating to charity, and attending gatherings. As it is considered a religious holiday, you should offer the day off to Muslim employees who celebrate.
It’s important to also be considerate of Muslim employees who are fasting and are likely to have lower energy near the end of the day. As the month of Ramadan varies each year, the fasting hours also vary. For example, Muslims who fast during summer fast for longer hours as dusk occurs late in the evening, as opposed to winter where dusk happens in the early evening.
Most Muslim people still go to work while fasting, but they may need accommodations to cope with possible lower levels of energy and increased hunger. Muslim employees who are fasting during Ramadan may fare better with meetings scheduled earlier in the day to avoid the afternoon slump that’s exacerbated by fasting. They may also need breaks to pray, so it’s a good idea to provide 10-minute buffers between meetings and a private space for prayer within your office. Lunch-provided meetings should also be avoided during Ramadan when possible.
Practicing Muslims may have different approaches to fasting. Educate other employees so they know to avoid offering their Muslim coworkers food and drinks. Avoid making assumptions, but do be prepared for possible changes in Muslim employees’ energy levels and needs during this time. Make sure to offer scheduling flexibility as needed to respect the sanctity of Ramadan.