Arial photo of an iftar table full of food.

A Perspective Piece: Ramadan 

Growing up as a first generation Canadian, there are many people in my family that have shaped me into the person I am today. One that has significantly impacted my life was my grandfather. As an immigrant from India, he was a devout Muslim for his entire life. He prayed five times a day, read the Qur’an over 100 times, and was a contributing member to his mosque. Ramadan was always a major holiday for my family and was always guided and led by my grandfather. The holiday of Ramadan brings many memories of samosas that my grandmother would make from scratch, big dinners of biryani rice late at night that we would eat all together, and having lots of gatherings with friends and family. 

This year on March 23rd, fasting for Ramadan begins for millions of Muslims around the world. Ramadan is a month-long religious observance for Muslims, which involves fasting from dawn to sunset. In Canada, Ramadan is observed by Muslims across the country, who make up about 3.2% of the population. 

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during daylight hours, with the aim of gaining self-discipline, spiritual reflection, and closeness to God. The fast is broken each evening with a meal called iftar, which traditionally includes dates and water, followed by a larger meal. 

As a child, I would come home from school to my grandparents’ house and my grandma would feed us a larger snack after school because dinner would always be later in the day. When I would ask my grandpa how he could wait so long to eat or drink, he would always tell me, “My dedication to God is stronger than my need for sweets.” My grandpa always had a sweet tooth, and so his biggest hurdle during Ramadan was avoiding having a piece of chocolate throughout the day. He would tell me that every time he felt a bit of hunger, he would replace those feelings of hunger with thoughts of gratefulness for his life and for his family that were blessed to him. 

In Canada, Ramadan is marked by a variety of cultural and religious events, such as communal prayers, charity work, and social gatherings. Muslim communities in Canada often come together for iftar dinners, where they break their fast and share food with others. In larger cities, such as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, there are also Ramadan bazaars and street festivals. 

With so many people in Canada who observe Ramadan, many organizations may start to wonder how they can support their Muslim employees.  

Flexible Scheduling:

Employers can offer flexible working hours to employees during Ramadan, such as allowing them to come in earlier or leave later to accommodate their fasting schedule. This flexibility can help employees balance their work and religious commitments, without feeling overwhelmed or stressed. 

Accommodate Time Off:

Employers can also offer time off by personal days or, at the very least, allow employees to use their vacation time during Ramadan, especially during the last 10 days, which are considered the holiest period of the month. This can give employees the opportunity to spend time with their families, attend religious events, or perform additional prayers. 

Provide Prayer Spaces:

Employers can offer a dedicated prayer space or room for their Muslim employees to use during Ramadan (and throughout the rest of the year). This can help them observe their daily prayers, without having to leave the workplace, and can help create a more inclusive workplace environment. 

Offer Iftar Meals:

Iftar meals are the meals that Muslims eat to break their fast during the month of Ramadan. Employers can organize or sponsor iftar meals for their Muslim employees, either on-site or off-site, to break their fast together. This can promote social cohesion, teamwork, and mutual respect among colleagues of different backgrounds. 

Raise Awareness:

Employers can educate their employees about the significance of Ramadan and its practices, such as fasting, charity, and prayer. This can help create a more inclusive and respectful workplace, where employees can understand and appreciate each other’s beliefs and traditions. 

This Ramadan, millions of Muslims will gather to celebrate through prayer, fasting, gift giving, and large iftar meals. I know that this year, I can look forward to my grandmother’s samosas. She likes to wrap them in spring roll wrappers instead of the traditional dough, and it has easily become my favorite thing to eat. Every year, she uses the daylight hours to prepare meals that can be eaten by many during the iftar meals. As a woman born in Trinidad, married to a man who grew up in India, she likes to put a West-Indian twist on all the meals that she prepares. In my family, on Ramadan you can expect phoularie, dates, and lots of roti! 

Ramadan Mubarak! 

Nadia Jahoor, Inclusive Kind