Ramadan 2023

Ramadan 2023
22 March 2023
IBMS EDI Lead Council Representative Tahmina Hussain and IBMS EDI Working group Member Muneebah Jassat talk to us about what Ramadan means to them and how it affects their working lives

Tahmina Hussain

IBMS EDI Lead Council Representative | Deputy Programme Lead: Biomedical Science Apprenticeship Degree, University of Salford

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it is the month when Muslims all around the world fast. Fasting involves waking up during the night to eat suhoor (breakfast) which takes place before sunrise and then not eating or drinking until Iftar time which takes place at sunset. There are certain conditions or situations where Muslims are exempt from fasting which may include sickness, pregnancy, menstruation and being an elderly. Instead, they are required to give charity to feed the neediest.

Despite feeling tired and having low energy, the month of Ramadan brings a peaceful atmosphere and I find that the month does pass by extremely fast which is a blessing in itself. For me and many others, the month of Ramadan gives us an opportunity to reflect and be grateful for what we have. It helps us to appreciate those who are less fortunate than us, increases our patience, and makes us humble and respectful of others.

While working in the labs, my colleagues were always supportive and I was very fortunate to have managers who allowed us to take shorter lunch breaks to leave work earlier. The most difficult shifts were working alone during the night shifts, which meant I’d have to break my fast at work while worrying that the phone may ring any minute with no one else around to take the call. I would then start the next fast during the same shift by which time I’d be extremely exhausted due to not only feeling hungry but sleep deprived!

Thankfully, in my current role I am no longer required to work shifts and the experience is completely different to what I’m used to after having worked in a lab for 12 years. I am now able to spend time during the evenings to pray before the time arrives to break the fast. This however has made me feel even more grateful and appreciative of my colleagues who are required to work shifts. My advice to colleagues would be to see if the shifts can be swapped during the month of Ramadan and if not, make sure there’s enough rest before the next working day/shift. Plan ahead by requesting flexible working times if needed and remember to book annual leave in advance for Eid celebrations.

For more information and guidance, I would recommend reading the Ramadan and Eid Guidance for NHS Muslim staff, managers and colleagues

Muneebah Jassat

Member of IBMS EDI Working group | Trainee Biomedical Scientist in Immunology

What does Ramadan mean to you?

Ramadan is my spiritual holiday where I temper myself, reflect on both the positives and negatives of my life by reconnecting with God, and renew my intentions. I revisit my purpose of existing in this world. I try to reconnect with good and healthy habits to fulfill my objectives in this world and the after-life. This month is also a month of self-discovery. I learn new things about God and my faith. As the saying goes, whoever discovers themselves has discovered the Lord. Ramadan is the month where I have an added emphasis on prayer. Fasting in Ramadan creates a mindfulness of God. It alerts me to the effect of my actions on those around me. It is a month filled with many blessings and brings about a unique spiritual excitement. It is a time to reconnect with my family as we open our fast together, where we can laugh and talk about what we got up to during the day. Ramadan is the month where I strive to be charitable and help everyone around me. I do this to earn God’s pleasure and gain His forgiveness and mercy. Ramadan is the month I look forward to every year.

How has working in the labs and observing Ramadan affected you?

For the past three years, I was commuting to work for an hour and half every day. Fasting made this difficult as I was tired at the end of the day. I used to spend my train journeys catching up on some rest, so I could read the Quran once I got home. However, there were some days where I was so tired I would fall asleep the moment I got home, which meant I could not pray as much. I would catch up on my reading and extra prayers once I opened my fast and the special night prayers of Ramadan, called Tarawih.

Despite my long commutes, there were some really positive aspects of fasting while working in labs. Once I have passed my initial “zombie phase” (morning), I am more productive and alert. I get tasks done really fast and in a highly orderly fashion, as I am in energy preservation mode. As such, I am disincentivised to digress to less productive tasks, allowing me to focus my energy on more important things. Towards the end of my shift, tiredness does catch up with me. When I start to feel like this, I take some time out to sit down and take a breather.

But luckily, for this Ramadan, I am working much closer to home. I am looking forward to getting home early and not falling asleep straightaway. I am going to utilise the extra time for additional prayers in the lead up to the break-fast.

How have you been supported in the workplace during the month of Ramadan?

My workplace has supported me by allowing me to shorten my lunch break by 30 minutes, so I can leave 30 minutes early at the end of the day. I have also been given the option to either start early so I can leave early or start a little later. Our laboratory building also has a little corner where we can go offer our prayers throughout the day. There is also a larger prayer room within the hospital itself. Senior members of staff have encouraged me to take extra time to pray if I would like to, and I really appreciate this.

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