Embracing Ramadan Together

Understanding, supporting, and celebrating with our Muslim colleagues and community

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan draws to a close on the evening of 9th April, we asked Shiekh Eshfaq Akbar, from Darul Tarbiyah Cultural Community Centre in Lakemba, what it’s about and how we can support Muslims in our professional community mark the end of their fast this year. 
Q. Can you please explain the significance of Ramadan in Islam?IMG-20240401-WA0011
A: Ramadan is a month in which Allah has commanded Muslims to fast throughout the day, and stand in prayer for some portion of the night. For Muslims, to heed the command of Allah is considered to be the highest honour. Also, fasting was a mode of worship ordained to the nations of previous prophets too, so it is a link between us and the other Abrahamic faiths.
The objective of fasting is to attain righteousness or to be God fearing by encompassing the qualities of empathy, sympathy, generosity, mercy, forgiveness, patience, forbearance and self-control, among many others. Fasting is not merely from food and drink, but also from lying, falsehood and vain talk.
Q. Could you please walk us through a typical day of Ramadan fasting?
A: There are two main aspects of Ramadan. Fasting in the daylight hours, and the night prayer, known as Taraweeh. Fasting means that one cannot eat or drink anything or have marital relations from pre-dawn to sunset. My mother used to use an easy term for us to explain to our schoolmates, 'Ramadan fasting means nil-by-mouth during the daylight hours’. 
The pre-dawn meal is called Suhoor, and the sunset break-fast meal is called Iftaar. 
Taraweeh, the night prayer, is a special physical worship performed only in Ramadan and most of the time in congregation. In these prayers the Imam who conducts the prayers recites the entire Quran from memory over the course of the month. 
So, the typical day of a Muslim revolves around Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), Iftar (break-fast meal) and Taraweeh (night prayer). Muslims wake up before twilight and have a meal then go for the morning prayers (Fajr). Those who can, try and get some more sleep before heading off to work, school or weekend activities, some have a nap in the afternoon. 
At the end of the day before sunset it gets very busy as everyone tries to head back home and prepare for the Iftar. After Iftar and the Maghrib Prayer, some may have dinner and take a rest. Then people head out to the Mosque again for the Taraweeh prayer and come back around 11pm.
Q. How do Muslims balance Ramadan with daily life like work or school?
A: Muslims should manage their time effectively, prioritizing tasks, and maintaining a disciplined schedule. They may adjust their work hours, take breaks for prayers and rest or naps, and they plan meals carefully to accommodate fasting during daylight hours.
Q. What can professional communities do to support Muslims at Ramadan?
A:  Although Muslims do not expect any special treatment from their employers, co-workers or colleagues, if those around them are happy to give special consideration then it is most welcome and appreciated. 
Around Ramadan, Muslims would appreciate flexible work hours allowing for prayer breaks, and designated prayer areas within the workplace. Options for halal food in cafeterias or nearby restaurants, and a culture of supportive and inclusive environments where employees feel comfortable discussing their religious practices is ideal.
Q. How do you celebrate the end of Ramadan?
A: This is my favourite question that people ask because it allows me to clear a common misconception. Ramadan is the month of special mercy, forgiveness, and rewards from Allah, so Muslims do not celebrate the end of it, as Ramadan is not something to celebrate. Rather, we celebrate the accomplishments we achieve during Ramadan and the promises of reward from Allah. 
Q. How can non-Muslims be involved in Ramadan or be of support?
A: Non-Muslims can be involved and show support during Ramadan by learning about the significance of the month, respecting fasting hours and dietary restrictions when scheduling meetings or events, expressing understanding and empathy towards Muslim colleagues, and offering gestures of kindness such as sending well wishes or sharing meals during Iftar (the breaking of the fast). 
Q. How could International Towers mark the end of Ramadan?
 A: The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid-Ul-Fitr, which is a day most Muslims would prefer to spend with family and friends. After Eid I’m sure your Muslim tenants would appreciate a get together to share a halal meal.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our tenant community?
A: If any non-Muslim would like to try fasting along with their Muslim friends to experience Ramadan, please bear in mind two things.
First, Islamic fasting is much more than just the physical aspect of it. In fact, it is more about spirituality than the body. Muslims incorporate so many spiritual things in fasting like faith, religious hymns and prayers.
And remember that in order to feel the physical benefits of fasting, you have to do it for at least one or two weeks. Some internet influencers do it for one day which does not represent Islamic fasting correctly, since it takes the body a few days to adjust. Often the first day is the hardest and uncomfortable. After keeping fast for at least a week you start to feel lighter and reap the physical benefits.
Are you a member of the Muslim community at International Towers who is observing Ramadan? Let us know what you’d like to see around the precinct to support you and mark the end of your fast, and tell us what we could do better next year to ensure you enjoy a fulfilling experience at your workplace.
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