Supporting staff and students during Ramadan

As the UK approaches the start of Ramadan 2017, find out how our Muslim staff, students and the wider community will be observing the sacred month.   

When is Ramadan?

In the UK, Ramadan is expected to begin on Friday 26th May and end on Saturday 24th June. The dates may vary slightly depending on the sight of the new moon. Muslims follow a lunar calendar that is based on the phases of the moon and a full year equates to approximately 354 days, 11 days shorter than the 365 days in a year based on the Gregorian calendar. This is why the holy month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the lunar calendar) occurs 11 days earlier each year than the previous year.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the month when Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is a duty upon all adult and healthy Muslims. Some people like those that are ill, those that are travelling, pregnant and breast feeding women may be exempt.

One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased awareness of God. It is an opportunity for self-purification, charitable acts, reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality; and for compassion for those in need of the necessities of life. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self- restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim’s life such as work and education.

If you want to wish your Muslim colleagues/students a happy Ramadan, the standard greetings are “Ramadan mubarak” (which means “have a blessed Ramadan”) or “Ramadan kareem” (which means “have a generous Ramadan”).

I manage and/or work with staff/support students that are fasting, what do I need to know?

Fasting in the summer (for almost 18-19 hours) is combined with disturbances in normal sleep pattern that can leave individuals feeling more tired than normal particularly mid-afternoon and towards the end of the day. Also, towards the latter part of the day some individuals that are fasting might feel a little light headed.

An agreement to requests for slight adjustments to the working day/study during Ramadan will be appreciated by Muslim staff members and students. For example, many Muslims like to finish early so that they can get home in time to end the fast with their families. To be able to finish early they may prefer to start earlier and/or have a shorter lunch break.

It is very considerate to avoid holding events, such as staff meals, away days and get-togethers, during Ramadan. If it is unavoidable please do not be offended if Muslim staff members or students are unable to participate in such events. If an away day or staff conference is unavoidable, any special arrangements for Muslim staff/students that are fasting will always be greatly appreciated.

It is not necessary for individuals that are not fasting to abstain from eating or drinking in the presence of Muslims that are fasting. However, during the month of Ramadan it would not be appropriate to require a Muslim staff member who is fasting to join you in taking a business lunch for example.

To fast along with Muslim colleagues/students, even for part of the day, is a good way of enhancing understanding, and can be used as a wonderful way of fundraising for a charitable cause during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of generosity, giving charity and benevolence.

Many Muslims will endeavour to practice their faith more during Ramadan than they might for the remainder of the year. As a consequence of this more Muslim staff/students might wish to offer prayers during the day. This will normally be around 1:00 pm and 5:00pm in the summer months for a few minutes each for which the staff member/student(s) will require a small private area or visit the Prayer Room in the Cavendish building.

What happens when Ramadan ends?

The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid-al-Fitr for which some Muslim staff members will wish to take leave from work. The actual day that Eid falls on will depend on when the new moon is sighted. For this reason, it might not be possible for the staff member to be very specific about the day they would like to be away from work. This year Eid is anticipated to occur between 25th-28th June.

If you want to wish your Muslim colleagues/students a happy Eid, the standard greetings are “Eid mubarak” (which means “have a blessed Eid”).