A pandemic-safe Eid and what employers can do to mark the occasion

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon. Salma Maqsood discusses the impact of the coronavirus on Ramadan and what employers can do to mark the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr.

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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle which means Ramadan starts around 10 days earlier each year.

Ramadan is a sacred month during which it is believed the Quran, the literal Word of God, was revealed to the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him).

This year Ramadan began on 13 April and will last for 29/30 days (depending on the moon sighting).

Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk, meaning they abstain from eating, drinking and any immoral behaviour for the duration of their fast.

The fast is broken at sunset and this is called iftar. Traditionally Muslims will break their fast with a date and some water. This is then usually followed by a small festive meal.

Not all Muslims are obliged to fast and of course there are many reasons why some Muslims may not be able to.

Examples of those exempt from fasting include young children, pregnant women, the old and those who are unwell.

Only fit and healthy Muslims of age are required to fast. Even if a Muslim is not fasting, they will most likely still be engaging in Ramadan through other activities.

Ramadan is so much more than just fasting. It is a time of self-reflection, re-connecting spiritually with Allah by increased prayer and recitation of the Quran, being more aware of those less fortunate and giving charity.

It is a time of connecting with family and the wider community. Sharing food and breaking the fast (iftar) at sunset together with others is encouraged.

Muslims will participate in a prayer in the evenings called taraweeh which is normally performed in congregation at a Mosque.

How COVID-19 has had an impact on Ramadan

During this month, Muslims will engage in extra worship and prayer at a mosque as well as engaging in many community activities, charitable work and breaking fast with family and friends.

COVID-19 restrictions have had a huge impact on Ramadan, and Muslims have adapted Ramadan activities to comply.

For example, arranging virtual iftars with family/community, streaming prayer or online sermons, organising prayer at home limited to family only thus allowing Muslims to continue to connect together emotionally whilst still staying apart to stay COVID-safe.

How Muslims can still celebrate Eid ul-Fitr

The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid ul-Fitr ('Eid') which lasts for three days.

Muslims will prepare for this by decorating their homes, buying new clothes to wear and planning in readiness for the feast in celebration of the end of Ramadan.

On the first day of Eid, Muslims attend the mosque for Eid prayer. During the course of the three day celebrations, Muslims will feast with family and friends, socialise, exchange gifts and celebrate.

This year, Eid will fall on either 13/14 May 2021 (depending on the sighting of the moon).

Whilst COVID-19 restrictions may change to allow the meeting of two households indoors, it will be a very different Eid to pre-COVID times.

Muslims can still celebrate Eid by sending gifts to each other, arranging virtual Eid meet ups and spending quality time with their family all whilst enjoying good food!

What employers can do to mark the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr

Even though Eid this year will be different to pre-COVID times, Muslims will still be celebrating.

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place it is important for employers to support their employees who have observed Ramadan and will be adapting to a different Eid celebration.

Employers should expect holiday requests around this time from Muslim employees. As Eid is dependent on the moon sighting, Muslims will not know the exact date and will not be able to give much notice for annual leave request.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a tool to help employers deal with requests for time off for religious reasons.

  • Employers should consider publishing and/or sharing information about Ramadan and Eid in a newsletter, social media and internal communications
  • Conversations with colleagues about what Eid and Ramadan mean to Muslims should be encouraged to improve understanding and awareness in the organisation
  • Employers may wish to consider marking the occasion with a virtual Eid lunch, treats or a virtual Eid greeting card

By promoting a culture of awareness, understanding and acceptance, we can achieve a truly inclusive profession representative of the community we serve.

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