This past month, we celebrated the end of Ramadan by hosting an Eid al-Fitr potluck at each of our offices in Burnaby, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton. This event provided an opportunity for employees to come together and support the Muslim community and learn more about Ramadan’s significance. With that in mind, we invited three Encepta employees who observed Ramadan to share their unique insights and personal experiences to educate those that want to learn more.
At Encepta, we value diversity, inclusion and strive to understand and celebrate our employees. Special thank you to Faruque Al Mahmud, Operations Manager; Hassan Malik, Project Lead I; and Mohammad Amin, Project Designer II that answered some questions to help us dive deeper into the following cultural insights.
Could you explain what Ramadan is and its significance?
Faruque: Ramadan is the holiest month for a Muslim and in the Islamic Calendar. It is one of the Five Fundamental Pillars of Islam. This was the month that the Holy Book ‘Qur’an’ was revealed for the first time to the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is a very blessed month where believers observe fasts, act selflessly, feed and provide for the poor and their neighbours, become better people and repent for their mistakes and sins through prayers.
Hassan: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims around the world fast from dawn until sunset. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and it is a way for Muslims to practice self-discipline, reflect on their faith, and show solidarity with those who are less fortunate. Ramadan is also a time for increased worship, charity, and community gatherings.
Mohammad: The word ‘Ramadan’ is derived from the Arabic word Ramdh (رمض), which means ‘intensely hot’ or ‘burning’. The month of Ramadan is named as such for three reasons: one who fasts becomes hot due to thirst, worship and devotion in this month burn away the traces of sin, and devotion in this month produces the necessary warmth of love in a person for his Creator and fellow beings. Ramadan was chosen as the month of fasting and spiritual advancement due to its association and close affinity with the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an states,
“Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ‘to distinguish between right and wrong’...” (Al-Baqarah - 2:185)
The blessings of the month itself can be understood by this saying of the Holy Prophet (PHUB):
“When the month of Ramadan enters, the gates of Heaven are flung open and the gates of Hell are shut, and Satans are chained.”
Amongst many blessings, this month also holds a significant night which is an odd night the last ten nights of Ramadan. This night is known as the night of power/glory.
The Holy Qur’an states in chapter 97 - The Power
“Indeed, ‘it is’ We ‘Who’ sent this ‘Quran’ down on the Night of Glory. (97:1)
And what will make you realize what the night of Glory is? (97:2)
The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months. (97:3)
That night the angels and the ‘holy’ spirit descend, by the permission of their Lord, for every ‘decreed’ matter. (97:4)
It is all peace until the break of dawn.” (97:5)
Are there any specific traditions or practices associated with Ramadan that you observe?
Faruque: Ramadan is a month of fasting. Which means people would abstain from food, drinks, sinful acts and any profanity whatsoever from the first light of dawn till the sunset. Also after breaking the fast, there are prayers called Tarawih prayers that happen as communal prayers in the Mosque.
Hassan: In addition to fasting, there are many other practices associated with Ramadan that I observe, including: waking up early to eat a pre-dawn meal (Suhoor), breaking the fast at sunset with dates and water, offering additional prayers throughout the day and night (Taraweeh prayer), reading the Qur’an (Holy Book of Islam) and completing it during the duration of Ramadan, and giving charity (Zakat, Fidyah, and Sadaka) to those in need.
Mohammad: Islamic tradition states that it was during Ramadan, on the “Night of Power” (Laylat al-Qadr)—commemorated on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, “as a guidance for the people”. For Muslims, Ramadan is a period of introspection, communal prayer in the mosque, and reading of the Qur’an. God forgives their past sins of those who observe the holy month with fasting, prayer, and faithful intention.
After the sunset prayer, Muslims gather in their homes or mosques to break their fast with a meal called iftar that is often shared with friends and extended family. The iftar usually begins with dates, as was the customer of Muhamamd (PBUH), or apricots and water or sweetened milk. There are additional prayers offered at night called the Tarawih prayers, preferably performed in congregation at the mosque. During these prayers, the entire Qur’an may be recited over the course of the month of Ramadan. To accommodate such acts of worship in the evening, work hours are adjusted during the day and sometimes reduced in some Muslim-majority countries.
The end of Ramadan fast is celebrated as Eid al-Fitr, the “Feast of Fast-Breaking”, which is one of the two major religious holidays of the Muslim calendar (the other, Eid al-Adha, marks the end of the hajj). In some communities Eid al-Fitr is quite elaborate: children wear new clothes, women dress in white, special pastries are baked, gifts are exchanged, the graves of relatives are visited, and people gather for family meals and to pray in mosques.
How can individuals that do not observe Ramadan show their support?
Faruque: Individuals, friends or colleagues who are around people who are fasting need to be a little patient with the person observing Ramadan. It is not easy to abstain from water and food for 16-18 hours for almost 30 days consistently. Abstaining from eating or drinking in front of them could also help them morally to keep them going. Also trying not to engage them into lengthy conversations or gossip can help strengthen the resolution and stay focused on completing the fast without feeling dehydrated.
Hassan: There are several ways that individuals who do not observe Ramadan can show their support for their Muslim friends and colleagues during this time, including:
Mohammad: Be aware of people who are fasting and show support by not eating or drinking in front of them. Give them time to eat and drink before they start their fast and when it’s time to break their fast. Checking in on your Muslim friends is always a great idea! Feel free to ask them how they are doing. Doing so will help your Muslim friends feel loved, supported, and seen.
Do you have any advice for businesses looking to support Ramadan and the Muslim community during this time?
Faruque: Businesses can be a little more tolerant to their Muslim employees. Allowing them to work from home when needed or even providing a later start time or an early end time could help them a little bit more to prepare food for them and their families (who are also fasting) after already being so fatigued throughout the day. Also not scheduling meetings towards the end of the day because those are the hardest hours riddled with hunger and dehydration and the person is genuinely not at their 100%. So meetings earlier in the morning or noon could really help your Muslim peers.
Hassan: If your business has Muslim employees or customers, there are many ways to support them during Ramadan, including:
Overall, Ramadan is a time for increased spirituality, reflection, and community building for Muslims around the world. By learning more about this important month and showing support for the Muslim community, we can all work together to promote understanding and inclusivity.
Mohammad: The best advice would be to show support by donating nonperishable food items to the local mosques for the needy families or donating funds to the ‘zakat-ul-fitr’ campaign. This is a standard campaign across the world in every mosque which collects funds from local community members to support local less fortunate Muslim families in the area with Eid preparations during the month of Ramadan.
Additional support may be shown by sponsoring for the Iftar (post fast meal) or Sahoor (pre fast meal) programs at the local mosques for the people who will start or break their fast at the mosque.
Stay tuned for more Encepta cultural insights in future blog posts!
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