Johannesburg – Working during Ramadan comes with its challenges. Sometimes a raging work schedule can cause one to lose out on the full benefits of the month. Despite the hours that we face, there are ways we can take full advantage of this month even while we work.
Ramadan pushes one to their spiritual and physical limits. We stay up until late and wake up early using every minute to gain closeness to Allah (SWT). This can put a strain on oneself and cause us to act out in a way we shouldn’t. Shahista Ebrahim, a transformation coach, said to avoid this we need to focus on what this month is truly about.
“I think it’s important right at the onset to understand why we have the month of Ramadaan because when we understand why we do the things we do, it makes it much easier to bear things, to manage it without too much complaint. When you understand the reason we must behave a certain way, why we go through things that we do, the understanding of it helps you to reason with yourself.”
What tends to happen is we keep reminding ourselves that we are hungry or tired or sleep deprived and this plays on our subconscious. The more we say something aloud, the more our brain believes it and it brings those thoughts to reality.
“Every time your brain hears something, from your mouth it believes that. It takes it into essence, it takes it into cognizance, and it makes it real for you. What comes out of our mouths is like rules for the brain … When we talk this language, and we say these things our brain says ‘ah so you’re missing sleep. I am sleep deprived’ and then it starts behaving like a sleep deprived person because the brain doesn’t know any better. It hears everything from us, from what comes out of our mouths, and it says ‘okay is that how I’m supposed to feel? Is that how I’m supposed to behave?’ and that’s what happens.”
We need to remind ourselves that everything we do in Ramadaan has some benefit to it and reward. Even waking up for sehri (pre fast meal) has a great reward attached to it. It is also a month that we must adjust ourselves and our routines. This can cause one to become overwhelmed and that in turn could make things difficult at work. Ebrahim feels that once you have a routine set, it can be easier to manage yourself.
Our professional lives at times demand a lot from us. From the endless phone calls, we may have to make to the endless stacks of paper to sort out, sometimes we can feel like we aren’t doing enough in this blessed month and that can cause us to act out. There are simple things we can incorporate into our lives that will be a huge benefit to us, explained Ebrahim.
“You can be driving to work, and you can listen to a nazam. You can listen to a proper Islamic radio station. You can listen to a bayaan (Islamic lecture). You can make dhikr. It’s the same trip but now you’ve changed it for you.”
It all comes down to how much we want it. How much we value this month and giving ourselves encouraging talks throughout the day. Even while one is in the middle of office work or housework, one can make dhikr. A little bit of effort goes a long way. Your intention and efforts matter.
For an employer it is important to understand what your employees are going through. It is not just abstaining from food and water but also early mornings, late nights, extra prayers and a heightened emphasis on patience and virtue are all part of Ramadaan. All of this can take a toll on your employees’ physical and mental state. It is important to understand their needs to still get the best from them.
Since your employees are up earlier, before sunrise, to have their first meal you should consider starting work earlier to accommodate them and letting them go home earlier, said Ebrahim.
What should also be considered is that your employees won’t need to have a long lunch break. Between 10 to 20 minutes will be enough time for them to pray their afternoon prayer. They can then work for those forty to fifty minutes while the rest of their co-workers are on break and allow them to leave earlier.
As expressed earlier, Ramdaan is a month in which Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. If you plan to have a food-sponsored event, then keep some for fasting employees to take home. It could also be better if you postpone the event until after Ramadaan. Speak to your employees and see how they feel about it first. Everyone feels differently about being around food during this blessed month.
It is best to educate yourself on Ramadaan before you have this talk as it will make it easier for your employees to discuss it with you and the terminology will be familiar to you. In the end, discussion between employees and their employers is important to find the best options to accommodate everyone during this time.
Maryam Mkwanda spoke with Shahista Ebrahim about working during Ramadan: