Reflections on Ramadhan

Zain Dahya, a quantity surveyor on Skanska UK’s M42 Junction 6 scheme, offers a personal perspective on what Ramadhan means to him.

Zain Dahya reflects on the Islamic month of Ramadhan

What is Ramadhan and what does it mean to me?

As you may be aware, we are now in the Islamic month of Ramadhan. This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset for a period of 29 or 30 days. This month is one of the holiest of the twelve, as it was during Ramadhan that the Prophet Muhammad received divine revelation (of the Quran).

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and should be carried out for those who are physically and mentally able to do so at no harm to themselves. Children, pregnant women, and those who are ill are exempted.

I feel that Ramadhan is a time for self-reflection, a time to increase my patience and generosity to others. Working as a quantity surveyor on the M42 J6 project, my job involves working in a fast-paced environment. This means I occasionally struggle to find time for self-reflection, but I am lucky to be surrounded by a very understanding team on the project.

A quiet room has been made available for use by the site team, which I use regularly, especially throughout Ramadhan. This allows me time to ensure I have completed my prayers and taken five minutes to reflect on what I am grateful for, on both a personal and professional level.

To me, Ramadhan is also a time to strengthen relationships with other people. I feel that working in construction I have the perfect opportunity to do this due to its collaborative nature.”

How do I make my team aware of Ramadhan, and what can management do to aid those who are fasting?
I work as part of a diverse and understanding team on the M42 project. The management team has always been supportive during my time at Skanska and is already aware that Ramadhan is upcoming. I inform them in advance that I will be fasting for the month, and although I’m more than happy to accompany my colleagues to lunch, I won’t be consuming any food or drink during the day.

To me, the fasting aspect of Ramadhan isn’t about starving oneself. It’s much more to do with self-control, abstinence, patience, being more compassionate to those in need, self-reflection and breaking bad habits.

I’m fortunate that Skanska UK allows flexible working where possible. This is helpful during Ramadhan as I will often have a meal before starting my fast which can sometimes entail waking up during the early hours.

What challenges have I faced whilst fasting during my time with Skanska?
This year in the UK, the fasting day is long. The morning meal will be before dawn, around 04:30-05:00, and people won’t break their fast until about 07:30-08:30. During Ramadhan, fasting co-workers may be tired or lacking energy during the day. If you have colleagues who will be fasting, ask them about changing some aspects of work that may make it easier for them, if this reasonable and possible.

Ramadhan isn’t only about not eating or drinking during daylight. It usually means rising early and eating late with family and friends and may mean taking part in charitable activities or late-night prayers. Some workers may ask to change their working day or shift times, particularly those who are site based, or to take a shorter lunch break.

They may also need to finish on time to break their fast with their family or friends. Being flexible allows people to work when they are most productive. And non-Muslims, please don’t feel bad for eating and drinking in front of your Muslim colleagues, fasting is a choice made by the individual.

What benefits do I notice when fasting, and how does it aid me with my job?
The biggest benefit for me when I fast is that I take more time to reflect on what I am grateful for. These range from the lovely working environment that I am a part of, to the food that I am going to eat at night.

How do Muslims mark the end of Ramadhan?
After Ramadhan ends, I, along with millions of other Muslims globally partake in a celebration known as Eid ul Fitr, that sometimes lasts for three days. I am able to take leave to celebrate this.

This marks the end of the fasting period. It’s like Christmas for Muslims – the biggest celebration of the year. There is often some uncertainty about which day Eid will fall, because it depends on moon sightings. Be prepared for your Muslim colleagues not always to know the exact date, which may have an impact on when they can work and how much notice they can give you.

Traditions vary from culture to culture. For example, in the South Asian community, sweets such as jalebi and barfi are shared alongside eating main meals such as biryani. The holiday typically begins with prayer and a special breakfast. We then get dressed into new and colourful clothes to prepare for a day with friends and extended family. We spend it eating delicious food, exchanging gifts, and praying at the mosque.

Muslims should take this as a moment of reflection and be aware of what they are grateful for and not forget what they learnt in Ramadhan. I usually take something in to work to celebrate, this can be anything from chocolates to cake or even cultural food.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you have found it interesting and informative.

Last updated: 08/04/2022