What is Ramadan?

In 2020, Ramadan will be from 23/24 April to 23/24 May 2020. It is the holiest month of the year for Muslims as it is when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours, meaning they abstain from eating, drinking or engaging in sexual relations for the duration of their fast. Young children, pregnant women, the old, the sick and travellers are examples of those who are exempt from fasting. Click here for Ramadan health factsheet (PDF).

Up until now patients, medics and scholars would try to work out where exactly the line was between health & fasting. The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) have created this peer reviewed document that brings together a range of literature reviews. Please note however clinicians must exercise discretion based on each individual patient.

Aside from fasting, Muslims observing Ramadan also increase in spiritual devotional acts such as prayer, giving charity and strengthening family ties. Muslims, are encouraged to share their food with friends, family and neighbours and to reach out to those who may be fasting alone, to share their Ramadan experiences.

In 2020 Ramadan will be a very different experience for Muslims all over the world due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Read on below for further COVID-19 guidance including #RamadanAtHome, or click here to read the full Ramadan 2020 guidance (PDF).

COVID19 – #RamadanAtHome

Ramadan 2020 will be a very different experience for Muslims all over the world during the COVID19 lockdown in accordance with public health advice

At present, it is unlikely that social distancing measures will be lifted and we will be able to return to our normal routines. As such, congregational acts of worship for Muslims outside of the home will still be suspended to stop the spread of the virus.

This includes taraweeh prayers at the mosque or anywhere outside our own homes, spiritual talks in the community or iftars (breaking of the fast) with friends and family to attend. We will all be seeking to adapt to these changes while still enjoying the spiritual lift and community spirit that Ramadan provides.

We have created guidance in a number of languages, which can be found here in: English, Arabic, Basaha, Bangla, French, Hausa, Hindi, Turkish, Yoruba, Somali and Urdu.

To help you with your #RamadanAtHome, the MCB is hosting a number of social and spiritual events on our social media channels, from daily Qur’an recitations at fajr time to virtual eco-iftars. Check out schedule below!

#RamadanAtHome Top Tips

It is important to plan our Ramadan activities given these restrictions. Consider:

  • Online – Stream Islamic lectures or taraweeh to your home, either pre-recorded or live.
  • Prayers – Organise prayers including taraweeh at home as a family and pray as a congregation in the home. Since it is no longer possible to do I’tikaf in the mosque, consider doing this at home.
  • Virtual Iftars – Try to organise virtual iftars with extended family and the community through the many online video calling facilities available. 
  • Plan food – Plan your iftar menus in advance so that you can limit multiple shopping trips and limit exposure given social distancing measures.  
  • Drink well – Hydrate well for the long work days. Dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches, lack of focus/concentration. 
  • Energy foods – Eat high energy, slow burn foods for suhoor (starting your fast) – It is important that you remain energised throughout the workday, especially as we can experience heightened levels of anxiety during these times. 
  • Breaks – Take regular breaks to reflect and take time for yourself. 
  • Mental Health – Life can be full, and we try to fill it with more worship during Ramadan. We all want to pray more and this can help with anxiety but it is important to be good to yourself – sometimes it is quality over quantity 

Working from Home During Ramadan

Many Muslims are likely to be working from home during this time. While this may have benefits and provide ease in some ways to those fasting, it can also provide some new challenges.  Consider:
  • Breaks – Ensure you are taking regular breaks from work, for rest and reflection – perhaps around salaah (prayer) times. 
  • Timings – If you are able, start your day earlier so that you can finish earlier and have some down time prior to iftar. 
  • Let others know – Give your employer and colleagues advance notice that you will be fasting. 
  • Share – Share Ramadan with colleagues by having a conversation or sharing what you’re doing for it/cooking/etc. 
  • Duties – Honour your workplace duties with patience and good grace to those around you. 
  • Break – Should you find yourself frustrated or tired, take a break. 

Employees who are fasting may ask to take their lunch break at a later time to break their fast depending on their work timings, or to enable them to finish work earlier. Employers may be justified in refusing such a request if this conflicts with legitimate business needs which they are unable to meet in any other ways. However, if they are unable to objectively justify such a refusal, this could amount to unlawful indirect discrimination. 

COVID19 – Studying from Home

Much like working from home, studying from home without the benefit of your classmates, and direct face to face time with your lecturers can have its own challenges. Fasting may tire you out further, and dehydration is often a factor is reducing focus and/or concentration. Much like with working from home, we advise the following: 

  • Let others know – Give your university, student advisor or professors advance notice that you will be fasting. 
  • Breaks – Ensure you are taking regular breaks from studying, for rest and reflection – perhaps around salaah times. 
  • Timetable – Set yourself a study timetable. Lectures always help structure your day even when scheduled online, but make sure you take into account prayer times and iftar when planning your day. 
  • Timings – If you are able, start your day earlier so that you can finish earlier and have some down time prior to iftar. 
  • Share – Share Ramadan with classmates and friends by having a conversation about Ramadan, your struggles or sharing what special activities you’re doing or foods you may be cooking/etc. 
  • Duties – Honour your studies and commitments with patience and good grace to those around you. 
  • Breaks – Should you find yourself frustrated or tired, take a break. 

Home Iftars & Virtual Iftars

While we are all longing for the opportunity to get together as families for iftar and share in the blessings together, it is vital that we follow UK Government guidance and only remain with those that we live with until otherwise stated. While this will mean that we are not able to physically get together as a community for the entirety of Ramadan, it is for the safety of our communities that we must heed these warnings. We must remember that as Muslims everything is a test from Allah, and it is up to us how we choose to respond to such tests.

Due to the likely inability to host in-person iftars this Ramadan, one way to still connect with friends and loved ones is to host a ‘virtual iftars, in which individuals or families can join via video conferencing facilities like Zoom or FaceTime. This could be a vital way for individuals to stay connected during these times, especially those who are living alone or away from family. 

Taraweeh at Home

National Huffadh Association UK, an MCB member, has produced an online toolkit for praying Taraweeh prayers at Home. View online or download at:

www.taraweehathome.com

The toolkit includes;

  • Guidance on Taraweeh prayers at home from scholars and medical professionals
  • Qur’an memorisation tips, fun and interactive Quran games
  • Character building and superhero competitions for kids
  • Kids’ colouring and fun books on Salah/Qur’an

Sharing Ramadan in Society 

Use this opportunity to share your faith and your fast with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While this Ramadan it is unlikely we will be able to open our mosques, centres and homes to the community, we can find other creative ways to share our traditions and practices with the wider community and local residents. Here are some suggestions:  

  • Let people know about Ramadan by sharing this document. 
  • Put a Ramadan banner on your front door to let neighbours know you’re observing Ramadan. 
  • Offer to help your neighbours with any shopping they need, especially those who are elderly and at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 
  • Publish Ramadan information in your neighbourhood newsletter/local paper. 
  • Encourage your children to inform their friends what Ramadan is all about via group chats or social media. 
  • Talk about what Ramadan means to you with colleagues and classmates while working/studying from home. 

Caution when shopping/frequency

While it is typical for families to bulk buy products for Ramadan cooking, we advise caution in mass shopping trips so that we are not creating crowded spaces during this pandemic. Additionally, as stocks are still levelling out within supermarkets, we want to be conscious to not hoard supplies so that all are able to access food and goods during this time.  

The Prophet (pbuh) said in plain terms, “He who hoards is a sinner” (Muslim)

Advice for Mosques & Prayer Facilities

  • We encourage mosques to remind their congregations prior to Ramadan the importance of social distancing measures, and following the government policy around the prevention of spreading Coronavirus, as well as some guidance that we have included in this document and on our website. Click here to use our template letter to inform your communities.
  • While it is not possible for mosques to serve iftar on their premises or as a group, the opportunity of using the capacity to provide boxed food for those who struggle to make ends meet within the community and in the wider society, as well as helping the NHS staff, is very possible. Please find a list of ongoing initiatives at the end of this document.
  • Lectures, Qur’an recitations and supplications cannot be done in person, even though these often attract large crowds. However, these can still continue by pre-recording and/or live-streaming using Skype, Zoom and/or YouTube. The infrastructure to make this possible, is not difficult to put in place – with many mosques ahead of the curve. Whilst you cannot be a physical hub for community gathering, you can find ways to be a virtual hub of community activism.

Advice for Line Managers

  • Be aware and open to discussing Ramadan and what support or adjustments your employee would like. Managers may experience requests for annual leave for those observing – be prepared for people to request to take holiday towards the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid.
  • Be accommodating over annual leave requests particularly as the majority of Christian holidays are national holidays. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a useful decision-making tool to help employers deal with requests for time off for religious reasons.
  • Allow for flexible working and adjusting working hours (i.e. an early start, working through lunch and an early finish) during this period if requested.
  • Bear in mind that staff will be required to work from home during some or all of Ramadan as the COVID-19 situation develops, so try and apply
    flexibility to current working from home practices.
  • Allow workers to have regular breaks for afternoon prayers as needed (Zuhr and Asr) if requested – this is especially important for Muslims
    observing Ramadan to be able to pray their daily prayers on time.

Advice for Employees

  • Some employees will be abstaining from food, liquids or smoking from dawn to sunset which can be for up to 17 hours this year.
  • Many Muslims will be fasting during daylight hours, eating one meal just before dawn (suhoor) and one meal at sunset (iftar). Muslims can eat or
    drink as they please through the night as needed.
  • Depending on the weather and the length of the fast, some people who fast during Ramadan will experience mild dehydration, which can cause
    headaches, tiredness and lack of concentration.
  • For those who usually drink caffeine through tea or coffee, the lack of caffeine can bring on headaches and tiredness however, this will reduce as
    the body adapts to going without caffeine during the day.
  • Due to the timings of meals before dawn and after sunset, adjustment to new sleeping and eating patterns may also lead to some people feeling
    more tired than normal.
  • Don’t assume that all employees want to be treated differently because they are fasting, but we open to having a discussion with your employees.

Further Resources

See below for links to further external guidance.

Disclaimer: The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is not responsible for the content hosted on external websites.

To support the Muslim Council of Britain expand it’s work, you can become a Friend of MCB online today at www.mcb.org.uk/friends. Thank you for your support.

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