There are more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. Chances are, you have at least one Muslim colleague at work. Celebrating Ramadan in the workplace is common in Malaysia.
But, be careful with what you do and say to your Muslim colleagues during Ramadan as it’s one of the most important events for them.
Ramadan is when the Muslims fast from dawn to sunset for a month, introspect themselves with charity, night prayers and read the Quran.
According to tradition, God revealed the holy Quran to the Prophet Muhammad on one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.
So, yes, this event is very important to them. If you’re unsure how to behave around your Muslim colleagues during the holy month, here are 13 Ramadan etiquettes you can follow:
1. It's okay to eat and drink in front of them
Muslims may be fasting at work during daylight hours, but it doesn’t mean you should find a place to hide so you can eat and drink. Your Muslim colleagues are okay with it.
However, I suggest you refrain from eating lunch or snacking on your office desk. It’s best to have your tea time in the communal area or pantry.
Although it’s okay to eat and drink in front of them, you can help them minimise the temptation. The smell of the food and the close-up view of you eating can be appetizing.
2. Be mindful when arranging food-related events
One of the Ramadan etiquettes you should practice is to be mindful when arranging food-related events such as office potlucks, high-tea or lunch meetings.
It’s best to arrange such events after the sun goes down when they break the fast (iftar). Usually, in Malaysia, the restaurants will be packed during iftar. So, it’s best to call the restaurant and book the table early.
However, some Muslim colleagues may opt not to attend workplace iftar because they want to break their fast with their families.
3. Accept the iftar invitation
Accept the iftar invitation from your Muslim friends! It’s the most simple Ramadan etiquette you can practice. They’ll be more than happy if you join as iftar is a large communal meal. The more people attend, the better.
But, don’t come empty-handed. You can bring sweet drinks or desserts as sugar helps to replenish the energy after fasting for long hours.
4. Refrain from commenting on their weight
Some people lose weight during Ramadan, while others gain weight. It depends on each individual, their daily activity, and how much they eat during iftar.
While it’s common in Asia to discuss body weight, it’s better if you don’t comment about your Muslim colleagues’ weight during the holy month. Ramadan is about connecting with God, not a month to lose weight.
5. Show empathy
If you’re a manager, understand that your Muslim direct reports who are fasting at work might want to perform prayers on time, attend congregational prayers on Friday afternoons, or go to a mosque instead of utilising the office prayer room. Allow them to do so.
In addition, you can give them some short breaks and let them leave the office 1-2 hours earlier to have their iftar on time.
Even better, give them the flexibility to start working early to fulfil the eight working hours company policy.
6. It's okay not knowing when it starts
Unlike Christmas which is celebrated every December 25th, Muslims celebrate Ramadan on different dates every year because Islam uses the Lunar calendar.
Ramadan starts when the new moon is seen. Thus, there’s no precise date and it changes from year to year.
7. It's okay to invite them for brunch or drinks
Celebrating Ramadan in the workplace is all about togetherness. Don’t seclude your Muslim colleagues during Ramadan just because they abstain from eating and drinking during the day.
You can still invite them for brunch, coffee, or tea breaks. They will not eat or drink anything, but they can still join the conversation.
8. Help them to save their energy
One of the Ramadan etiquettes you can perform at work is to help your Muslim colleagues. They may not be as energetic or cheerful as usual during Ramadan because they’re fasting.
Therefore, lend them a hand when needed so they can save their energy. For example, help them carry the boxes and keep the meetings short.
9. Be considerate with their bad breath
Not eating and drinking for long hours causes halitosis, a condition when tongues trap bacteria that produce bad breath. Your Muslim colleagues are aware of it, so you don’t have to point it out.
Also, don’t get offended when they keep their distance from you when talking.
10. How to congratulate them
People love when their religious events are acknowledged. For Ramadan, here are some ways to congratulate your Muslim colleagues:
which means Happy Ramadan; or
which means Blessed Ramadan.
After 30 days, they will celebrate Eid al-Fitr. You can wish them “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid) during this time.
11. Organise charity events or community services
Celebrating Ramadan in the workplace doesn’t have to be in office areas only. If you’re an HR personnel, you may want to organise some charity events or community services during Ramadan as Muslims are dedicated to charitable giving.
Furthermore, organising charity events or community services related to the holy month can strengthen unity and inclusivity at work. For example, you can organise charity events for orphanages where non-Muslim colleagues can also participate.
12. Organise office iftar
Another recommendation for HR, why not organise an office iftar? If your company organises Chinese New Year celebrations and Christmas dinners, let’s do the same for Muslim employees.
Depending on your budget, you can use a catering service, rent a hall, or arrange for an iftar potluck. The most important thing is to create inclusivity and celebrate diversity at work.
13. Surprise them with kind gestures
You don’t have to wait for your Muslim colleagues to invite you for iftar to give them food or drinks. Giving them canned drinks or cupcakes are very much appreciated.
Most Muslims are allowed to leave the office early during Ramadan. But, they may get stuck in a traffic jam. So, it’s good to have something to drink or eat when they can’t have their iftar on time.
These are 13 Ramadan etiquettes that you can practice at work to build a good relationship with your Muslim colleagues. Hope this article helps!