Ramadan (or Ramadhan) is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which Muslims have to fast from dawn till dusk. Muslims see Ramadan as the holiest month of the Islamic year and it is the period when the Quran (Muslim holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims wake up before dawn to have a meal before starting the fast then gather in the evening either in the Mosque or at home with family and friends to break the fast. Later on in the evening there are extra prayers that are carried out at the Mosque.
Fasting is a practice common to many faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Islam instructs Muslims to refrain from food, liquids, smoking and physical intimacy between dawn and dusk.
Fasting during Ramadan is to nurture a spirit of self sacrifice, self restraint and control, and creates an understanding of how poor people that are involuntary deprived of food and water feel. Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable and donate to worthy causes during this month.
As the Islamic calendar is based on the moon, exact dates vary but in 2012 the first fast is on Thursday 19 July 2012 or Friday 20 July 2012 dependent on the sighting of the new moon. The month ends around 18 or 19 August 2012 when Muslims have Eid to celebrate the end of fasting.
It is traditional to break the fast with water and a few dates. This is followed by after-dusk prayers then a shared main meal. Ramadan is a time for increased community bonds and most Muslims want to break their fast and perform evening prayers with others in the Mosque.
Non-Muslim staff can show their consideration for fasting colleagues in a number of ways:
Many Muslims will be more regular with their prayers during Ramadan. Prayer times are subject to daylight and differ greatly in the summer and winter. There are five obligatory prayers and during the current period the midday and afternoon prayers (Zuhr and Asr) are likely to fall within business hours. These take about 10 -15 minutes and employers can be requested to provide a room. For workers in the evening, the afternoon prayers will happen around 6.00pm – 7:00pm with the fast opening around 9.25pm then decreasing by 2 minutes each day.
PCS can request or negotiate for a prayer room for Muslim staff or a temporary room for use during Ramadan.
Some employers have good flexible working hours and Muslim staff may request daily different hours. The most likely need of Muslim staff may present to managers during Ramadan is for flexibility around working hours and break times. Of course this should be by prior arrangement with managers - and managers will balance requests with business needs.
All Muslims rise very early to eat and drink before the fast begins, which will be around 2.30am this year. Some staff may request the opportunity to come early and leave at an earlier time so they can return home. Fast will be broken around 9.25pm this year and will decrease by around two minutes throughout the month, which may affect the evening staff.
Muslims will also ask to be allowed to attend the local Mosque for Friday prayers, which have to be held in the Mosque. They are usually held from around 1.30 – 2.00 pm and there are Mosques in all major towns and cities in the UK. Attending Friday prayers is compulsory and managers should try to accommodate this.
Many Muslim staff will want to take Eid ul Fitr as annual leave. Edi ul Fitr is a three day festival, although most Muslims take just the first day as holiday. Until the new moon is sighted, the date can only be estimated and if it falls outside of the weekend of Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August Muslims will require time off. Some may wish to take additional days in the last week of Ramadan to spend time preparing for Eid.
Due to the peak time of summer leave it is important that Muslim staff give enough notice for time off. Once the dates for Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr are known, members should contact their line manager to discuss time off.
This guide has been developed by Mohammed Shafiq, North West regional rep on the PCS Black Members Committee. For any questions regarding this guidance please contact him on 0161 904 1213 or 07989 764624 or at email@example.com.