Ramadan Kareem to everyone celebrating. Ramadan is the blessed month when Allah SWT revealed the first verses of the Qur’an to Muhammad. Billions of Muslims around the world celebrate this month by fasting from dawn to sunset, increasing charity, practicing self-discipline, and sincere supplication.
Fasting in Ramadan is the 4th pillar of Islam. There is a door in paradise called Ar-Rayyan, and only those who observe fasting in this world can enter paradise from that door. I am among the many professionals in the energy infrastructure industry who are fasting throughout Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
The naming of Ramadan originates from the Arabic root “Ar-Ramad,” which means scorching heat.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. The Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar that consists of 12 lunar months in a year of 354/355 days. In Hijri 1444 (Gregorian 2023), Ramadan starts on March 23 with the sighting of the new moon and ends on April 20. The start and end dates can vary based on the new moon sightings.
Throughout this month, Muslims all around the world fast from any form of food, drink (even water!) smoke, etc. from dawn to sunset. Dawn is the beginning of twilight before sunrise, typically 1 hour and 30 minutes before sunrise. These times vary every day as days become longer. By the end of Ramadan in Calgary, this means having Suhoor (meal before dawn) before 4:40 in the early morning and breaking fast at around 8:40 in the evening. That’s nearly 16 hours of fasting in a day!
There are three stages of the month.
1. Beginning: first 10 days – Mercy of Allah SWT (Rahmah)
2. Middle: second 10 days – Forgiveness of Allah SWT (Maghfirah)
3. End: last 10 days – Emancipation from the fire (Nijat)
Fasting all day?
Fasting all day is difficult. No question about that. But what it does to your body, mind, and soul is just remarkable! Along with the five mandatory prayers, additional sunnah prayers (Taraweeh) go late into the night after Isha (night prayer). Towards the end of Ramadan, the Taraweeh prayer is after 10:20 at night! Taraweeh prayers typically include reading long portions of the Qur’an.
This is a month marked by self-discipline, self-reflection, charity, community, reverence, and piety. These spiritual aspects aside, fasting also comes with a plethora of mental and physical health benefits. Fasting is known to improve cognitive performance, reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of metabolic diseases… the list goes on. I definitely feel as though I have heightened concentration, and overall, I am just more efficient. Also, the practice of following a time-restricted feeding cycle and an overall calorie restriction throughout Ramadan is known to improve appetite, eating patterns, immune systems, insulin sensitivity, and brain function. This is why despite the challenges of this month, Ramadan is dearly beloved to every Muslim.
Support your colleagues
What makes Ramadan significantly different from other holidays is how it affects the work that we do every day. Ramadan is observed for an entire month, and we work while fasting for 12-16 hours. A few helpful tips to support your Muslim colleagues during Ramadan:
1. Learn more about Ramadan and ask questions. Your Muslim colleagues will appreciate a meaningful conversation on Ramadan.
2. Facilitate open dialogues on what type of accommodations are needed for those who are observing. Fasting is different for everyone.
3. Be flexible with your Muslim colleagues’ time off. Energy levels may deplete as the day progresses. Allowing them to start early and end early can make sure they are working when their energy levels are at their highest. Also, support taking vacations to prepare for special days such as Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan.
4. Don’t apologize for eating and drinking in front of your colleagues. It’s awkward. Make Ramadan an easy and comfortable experience for your colleagues.
5. Ramadan is obligatory for most Muslims, but there are health-related exemptions. For women, those exemptions can be deeply personal. This is why don’t ask your Muslim colleagues why they aren’t fasting during Ramadan.
How is Ramadan as a young professional working in the industry?
I graduated from university last year. This year is my first year of observing Ramadan as a full-time professional. When it comes to working while fasting, I have requested flexible work time and am very happy to see that my request has been readily accepted. Having a supportive network of colleagues and a leader who understands the needs of a Muslim professional to perform to the best of her abilities in the month of Ramadan makes a world of a difference. For people like me, who typically mainline coffee to function properly, going through the motions of the day without any coffee is tough, to say the least. Especially as I walk through the Plus 15 to get to my office building in the early morning and see people walk by with a Pike Roast or 100% Colombian, somehow that rich aroma feels 10x richer. But I cannot deny that this whole exercise of restraint has made me more self-disciplined and opened my eyes to the simple blessings of life.
As expected, my energy is at its peak in the morning and slowly drops throughout the day. The closer I’m to break my fast, the more fatigued I feel. For that reason, I start work early so I can end work early.
Staying hydrated is a big challenge when the eating and drinking window is so small in this part of the world. Nonetheless, I make my best effort to stay hydrated.
My favorite part of the day is the time right before sunset. After I finish my work and chores for the day, sitting quietly and having a 1:1 with my Creator and pouring my heart out. And right when the sun goes down for the day, I take my first sip of water.
Every industry is different. For the most part, my Ramadan experience in the energy infrastructure industry is not extraordinary. I face similar challenges as my Muslim friends throughout the day: progressively lethargic, dehydrated, etc. Fortunately, I have a hybrid work model. Some days I work from home and some days I work in the office. On the days when I work in the office, I plan ahead. I eat and drink sufficiently at Suhoor to sustain the day’s fast. It’s very important to remember that over-eating at Suhoor does not help. It only leads to drowsiness. Eating nourishing foods in sensible portions is key. Another small change that has helped me is willing myself to come to work with motivation and the right attitude.
Although this industry has a long way to go, overall, as a young professional, I have found it to be an accepting place where people around me are respectfully curious about Ramadan. And I’m always happy to have a chat on Ramadan and its different facets. Knowing how divisive the world is, I feel fortunate to be part of this industry that not only supports but celebrates the diverse and unique human experiences that shape us into who we are.
Ishrat Oishee is the Chair of the Marketing & Communications Committee at Young Energy Infrastructure Professionals (YEIP).