Those observing Ramadan generally wake up before dawn to eat before the sun comes up and will not eat again until after sundown. When scheduling important events, consider giving preference to early morning rather than late afternoon, and try to avoid scheduling evening events that will happen around sunset (i.e., around 8:00-8:30 pm at this time of year), as this is an important time for gathering with family and friends to break the fast.
If you are an instructor, consider offering to reschedule exams scheduled for late afternoon so that a student who is fasting can complete the exam when they are best able to concentrate. If you are a supervisor, consider offering your direct reports the opportunity to adjust their work hours during Ramadan, if feasible. For example, they may prefer to shift their work hours to start and end work earlier in the day.
The day after the official end of Ramadan is a major holiday, Eid al-Fitr. This festival is customarily celebrated in the company of family and friends. Wherever possible, students and employees should be granted leave from work and class obligations on Eid al-Fitr. Religious observance of this holiday would constitute an appropriate and expected reason for an excused absence from class.
If students need assistance with rescheduling exams or receiving other religious accommodations for any academic or co-curricular university programs, they should reach out to the DEI Division Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During Ramadan, most adults will fast from all food and water from sunrise to sunset. This year Ramadan will fall near the end of the spring semester, which is customarily a time for many campus gatherings and celebrations that focus on sharing food and drink. While food can still be an element of these celebrations, consider ways of making it less of the “main event” in order to make it more welcoming to Muslim participants who will be fasting. Alternately, consider holding food-centered gatherings after sundown (such as late suppers or late-night ice cream socials).
Finally, if you are holding an event with food during the day, consider providing plenty of takeout containers for those who might want to take something home to eat later after breaking their fast.
There is no need to apologize for going about your normal schedule or eating your lunch as usual if you are not fasting. The point of the fast is to exercise self-control as a spiritual practice, which is supposed to be challenging. There’s no need to get awkward or feel guilty if fasting isn’t your particular practice.
In virtually every religious tradition that practices fasting, the primary purpose of a fast is to draw a person closer to God and to grow spiritually through the exercise of self-control. Expressing sympathy for a person’s experience of fasting or treating it as though it were primarily about self-deprivation rather than religious observance diminishes the important spiritual nature of the fast. Many Muslims look forward to Ramadan; it is a sacred and deeply personal practice, not a religious punishment.
In addition, be careful about drawing negative comparisons between the Ramadan fast and other less-rigorous religious fasts; most of us would not want to give offense by inadvertently suggesting that being a Muslim is worse or harder than being a member of a different faith.
Though many might think of fasting as a difficult or painful activity, Ramadan is ultimately a time for celebration. It is perfectly acceptable, therefore, to wish someone a “Happy Ramadan” (or to use the Arabic greeting, Ramadan Mubarak, “Blessed Ramadan”).
If you are in the role of educator or group leader, Ramadan can provide a good opportunity for a classroom lesson or group activity that helps others to learn more about the beliefs and practices of the second-largest religion in the world. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either; knowledge and dialogue are valuable ways of being a supportive and inclusive friend, colleague, supervisor, or teacher.
During the Ramadan fast, many people will experience some degree of low blood sugar, dehydration, tiredness, and/or weakness that can make physical activity more challenging. While many Muslims do participate in rigorous physical activity, including elite athletics competitions, during the Ramadan fast, be alert to the need for some people -- particularly student-athletes -- to be gentler with their bodies at this time, especially in the late afternoon and evening near the end of the day’s fast.
While some people are very public about their religious practice, others prefer to keep their faith commitments private, especially if they have concerns about receiving unwanted attention or discrimination because of their religious identity. Whenever possible, assume that you have Muslim coworkers and/or students, and take that into account when planning exams, trips, gatherings, etc., during Ramadan. Where possible, establish policies and practices that do not require that people disclose their faith commitments to take advantage of the policies.
An important part of Ramadan is breaking the fast each day with friends and family. A person who has recently lost a loved one or the missing family who is far away may be experiencing particular sadness and strain during this time. Given that Ramadan also falls during a particularly stressful point in the semester, be alert to those who seem to be struggling emotionally and be as supportive as you can.
There are many reasons why an observant Muslim might not fast during Ramadan or might break their fast during the day: for example, a person is not supposed to fast when they are traveling, while they are ill, while pregnant or breastfeeding, or while menstruating. Asking about a person’s reasons for not fasting can, therefore, get invasive rather quickly, so best to leave this one alone. Each person’s fast is their own spiritual practice, not an opportunity for a conversation starter.
Ramadan is an ancient, serious, and sacred religious practice; we live up to our mission and our values when we treat this practice -- and our community members observing it -- with the respect and dignity they deserve.
We wish all the members of our Muslim community many blessings in this holy month. Ramadan Mubarak!
*adapted from Kirstin Kelley, “9 Ways to Support Students During Ramadan,” and Allana Akhtar and Marguerite Ward, “How to support your Muslim coworkers who are fasting during Ramadan.”
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