With Ramadan creeping rapidly closer, now is a good time – if you haven’t started already – to start excitedly planning ahead to make sure we’re prepared and ready to make the most of the beautiful month.
As the Islamic lunar calendar is several days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, you may already be aware that the months of the Islamic calendar move slightly each year. While Ramadan is slowly creeping back towards spring, it still falls upon the long days of May and June, when the weather may be hot, and, if you’re here in the UK at least, you will be fasting for up to around 17 hours a day.
While this sounds difficult, it is amazing how easily the body slips into a Ramadan routine. Plus, with the extra spiritual strength and community motivation you gain during this amazing time of year, the challenge is truly very rewarding and even enjoyable. However, if you are trying to balance these long days of fasting, plus extra efforts of ibaadah (worship), while also working full time, the juggle can be extremely tiring and unfulfilling.
For anyone who is able to, I would highly recommend looking into reducing your working hours during Ramadan. Perhaps you can work extra in the months or weeks before, buying yourself a little bit of time off when Ramadan arrives. Or, if your hours aren’t flexible like this, then maybe look into booking a bit of holiday, perhaps prioritising those last 10 days when the Ramadan focus really increases, along with the late nights as we hope to catch Laylat-ul-Qadr.
As Ramadan is a time of spiritual self-reflection and development, now is also a great time to start thinking about changes you wish to make in your life and your work, in order to bring yourself closer to Allah. Is your income halal? Is the charity you give going to be accepted by Allah, or is it tainted by the manner in which you earnt it?
I remember approaching my very first Ramadan with so much excitement and anticipation. As my boss and work colleagues were non-Muslim, however, they had very little awareness of the significance of this time of year for me, and as I was working for a small independent film company at the time, there were upcoming events and shows which my boss wanted me to be a part of, which included a premiere evening in which he wanted me serving drinks – including alcohol.
As a relatively new Muslim at the time, it wasn’t so long ago that I had been attending such events in connection to my work, and previously had happily consumed alcoholic drinks along with my colleagues and everyone else. Despite the fact that I had been quite open with my boss about my conversion to Islam, and the many lifestyle changes that came with this, I think it takes quite a long time for people to truly appreciate those changes, as well as what is sometimes a huge shift in your personal values and practices. I no longer drank alcohol, and definitely didn’t feel comfortable serving it, especially while fasting and observing Ramadan.
I am not the most naturally assertive person, and so the thought of telling my boss I was not willing to carry out the tasks he expected of me was quite an uncomfortable thought. I was conscious of making him think negatively of my religion, if he thought that it was making me difficult or non-compliant. I also felt shy to stand up and refuse to do something that my superior was expecting of me.
However, alhamdulillah, Allah created ease for me in this situation and increased me in the courage I needed. I had been gifted with a book called ‘Ameena’s Ramadan Diary’, which is so useful and informative for anyone approaching their first Ramadan. In it included a draft email which anyone could use or adapt to send to their own boss or colleagues to inform them about Ramadan and the effect this might have on their work. I took inspiration from this, and composed an email to my boss, which alhamdulillah, he received relatively well.
In my email, I provided a brief outline of what Islam is about, and what a typical day would look like in terms of waking up early for suhoor right through to attending late taraweeh prayers at the masjid. While he was disappointed at my unwillingness to take part in the premiere evening, he respectfully accepted and allowed me to miss the event so that I could be home to break my fast, while also avoiding the alcohol.
Since that first year, I have changed jobs and am currently in an entirely flexible role where I am able to choose my own hours. Alhamdulillah, this is very convenient for Ramadan, although one year I had to attend some quite physically exerting mandatory training right when we were fasting through some of the hottest days of the year. Again, I was worried about this and the effect it could have on my ability to perform. However, I found that my training group were extremely supportive and generally very intrigued to learn more about my religion and my reasons for fasting. The training was tiring, but the trainer was sympathetic towards the situation, and thankfully on this occasion I wasn’t the only Muslim there, so I did have some moral support too.
What I have learnt from my experiences, is that it really isn’t so difficult to stand up for my own principles and religious priorities. While you might come across the odd ignorant individual, most people are extremely respectful mashaa Allah.
I keep going back to the words spoken by the imam with whom I took my shahadah, where he said to me, “generally, people will respect you as much as you respect your own self”. It is nerve-wracking having to stand out and be ‘different’, to be awkward. But when we strive to do something for the sake of Allah, with honest intentions, He truly does make it easy for us.
So, if you are having similar trepidations, do not worry. Your job is a part of this temporary worldly life, whereas your religion, your deen, your relationship with Allah is what will carry on through into the eternal hereafter. Remind yourself what you are doing and why you are doing it, and make sure you prioritise effectively. You don’t want to reach the end of Ramadan and feel that you didn’t engage with the holy month.
If you would like to read some more tips on making the most of Ramadan, I have put together a small eBook which is available to download for free here.
May Allah allow us to reach Ramadan, and may He make it easy for us to benefit from its fruits, and to fully engage with the spiritual beauty of it, despite other commitments that might distract us. Ameen.