What is Ramadan and how to be an ally

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Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month of fasting and abstaining from things considered to be impure for the mind and body. This year it starts in the evening of Saturday 2 April and ends in the evening of Sunday 1 May depending on the moon sighting. Shazia Nizam, Support & Advice Worker for YMCA YAC in Crawley, shares why Ramadan is important to her. Shazia has also included helpful information on how to be an ally and consider your colleagues or clients you work with who might be partaking in Ramadan. 

For Muslims, Ramadan is the most precious time of year. It is the month when God revealed the Holy Qur’an to the prophet Mohammed (SAW) and is a time of deep contemplation and inner reflections. To find peace we lose ourselves in the Divine by moving away from Ego to God Consciousness.

Fasting is seen as an enormous blessing, it is a great way of improving one’s self discipline and physical health, yet at the same time conveys immense spiritual benefits.

In essence Ramadan is about fasting of the mind, the body and the soul.

The body

We fast with our bodies by not eating or drinking and abstaining from bodily pleasures between dusk and dawn. We give charity, feed others and understand our bodily self. Servant leadership and solidarity is incredibly important in Islam during this month of Ramadan and it’s a time when we come together to combat hunger to combat poverty to combat inequities and so catering for the needs of those under privileged is a duty and an obligation.

The mind

Then we have the next layer that gets slightly deeper so fasting of our tongues, of our emotions. We increase our compassion and understanding and tolerance. “Increase your silence and your thoughts will flourish, your heart will enlighten and people will be safe from your hands.” Imam Ali (AS).

Ramadan is a time of infinite possibilities and opportunities to grow and thrive.

It is said that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him once spoke “when the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.”

The soul

To allow one’s soul to grow and ascend, one needs to strive against the bad characteristics of one’s ego. Ramadan is a time to purify one’s heart from the things that harm us like anger, envy, greed, hatred, capitalism, individuality, vanity, negative thoughts, arrogance and inequity. Ramadan the rose is symbolic of our soul. As like the development of our own souls in this world, the rose blooms amid thorns.

Ramadan is also a time of increased community. It’s a time where we pray together, learn together to give to each other, raise awareness, feed each other, and give of our time and give of our purse.

In Ramadan every act we do is mindful. I will walk humbly, talk politely, dress neatly, treat kindly, pray attentively, and donate generously.

Ramadan – be an ally

Acknowledging and understanding Ramadan could mean that your Muslim colleagues or young people you work with have a sense of belonging by feeling seen, heard and represented in the workplace, especially in light of overt and covert islamphboia which leads to Muslims feeling they have to keep their faith at arms length.

It feels great when someone says ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ or ‘Ramadan Kareem’ to us (generous Ramadan and blessed Ramadan).

We don’t mind being around those eating . It’s not offensive.

Ask us anything about Ramadan, we love talking about it.

Don’t assume every Muslim is fasting. We all observe our faith in different ways. Ask us.

We like to open our fasts with dates and water and opening our fasts together is really rewarding and invite anyone to join us.

Don’t expect your fasting colleagues to commit to lunchtime events.

Some staff may request time off on Fridays like I have, or towards the end of the fasting month when prayers and meditations increase.

With shortened sleep times and lack of caffeine it’s likely we may seem tired. The body detoxes with fasting and it can take a minute for the brain to catch up.

Be aware that the fasting day – along with daylight – gets longer by a couple of minutes every day.

Accommodate us with spaces and the time to pray along.

Allow us mindful moments to open our fasts. This time is called Iftar and is at Sunset. It’s really important to open our fasts at the correct time and yes it’s to the minute.

If possible allow for flexible working hours, perhaps to allow for the extended daily evening prayers, or to allow an early or late start.

Lastly Ramadan can be difficult for those with and eating disorder so like with all things Ramadan, please be mindful.

Ramadan Mubarak. I wish you all abundance.

 

By Shazia Nizam, Support & Advice Worker, YMCA YAC Crawley

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YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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