Staff EDI & Wellbeing: Guide to Ramadan

Purpose and Scope 

This guide has been developed by Muslim colleagues to help improve understanding of Ramadan as part of our duty to promote an inclusive work environment.

For guidance on managing religion and belief in the workplace please refer to the Religion and Belief Guidelines.


What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It comprises one of the five pillars of Islam that practising Muslims observe: fasting. It is one of the most spiritual times of the year as it signifies the time during which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him). One of several ways in which participants commemorate the revelation is by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. The daily fast during Ramadan begins immediately after the pre-dawn meal known as Suhoor and continues during the daylight hours, ending with sunset with the evening meal known as Iftar.

Ramadan lasts between 29 - 30 days and it always ends with the arrival of Eid al-Fitr which translates to 'festival of breaking the fast'.

Why are my Muslim colleagues fasting during Ramadan?

Ramadan is not just about refraining from food and drink, it is a time of introspection, a focused exertion on patience and prayer, a stillness of the mind to reset the normal rhythm and slow things down so there is time to focus on the spiritual core. Muslims find Ramadan is a time where their usual spiritual practice increases, as it is a time to connect more with their faith than they do at other times of the year.

Will all my Muslim colleagues be fasting?

Each Muslim’s spiritual journey will be different and not all Muslims will fast. Those with physical or mental ill-health, those menstruating, or travelling, elderly or pregnant (such that it may cause harm), breastfeeding, or having post-natal bleeding are not expected to fast. However, these Muslim are still able to partake spiritually in observing Ramadan, through prayer, charity, and community connection.

Why does Ramadan fall at a different time each year?

Each year, you may notice that Ramadan starts and finishes at a different time to the previous year. This is because Ramadan is subject to change, depending on the lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon. The first crescent of a new moon marks the beginning of the month, and the new day begins after sunset. Because of this, the Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by 10 to 11 days, so Islamic months travel throughout the seasons.

Due to the lunar calendar, the exact date of Eid will also vary each year. Managers should consider this as it may mean that their Muslim colleagues will not know the exact dates when they will be celebrating Eid.

How to support my Muslim colleagues at work during Ramadan

Whilst not all Muslims will necessarily observe Ramadan in the same way, some things that could help support Muslims at work during this time are: 

(i)             Flexible working arrangements.

Each person’s experience of the impact of fasting will be different, but some staff may experience lethargy, headaches, and tiredness, particularly towards the end of the day. Managers should be aware that staff  want to discuss being able to have some temporary flexibility during Ramadan, such as: 

  • an earlier start and earlier finish and/or shorter lunch breaks for an earlier finish
  • having meetings during core working hours/avoiding booking meetings at the end of the day
  • being able to take a  rest break.   

Colleagues observing Ramadan may not be inclined to attend some social activities or events which are scheduled for the evening as this will conflict with the breaking of fasting.   

(ii)           Prayer time

There are also particular periods of the day when staff will need to pray. 

There are five daily prayers which Muslims perform, these are known as: Fajr (before dawn prayer), Dhuhr (afternoon prayer), Asr (late afternoon prayer), Maghrib (after sunset prayer), and Isha (nighttime prayer). The prayers that are likely to fall within workplace timings are Dhuhr and Asr, as well as Maghrib in winter months, when days are shorter.   

Each prayer will usually take approximately 10 minutes to perform after a Muslim has done Wudu (or Wudhu). This is a cleansing ritual or ablution that is an important part of purity and cleanliness in Islam before performing worship. It follows a process to wash and cleanse the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, face, ears, hair, and feet. If employees need to perform Wudu (and may need to access Wudu facilities) and then perform their prayers, this may take longer than 10 minutes.  

There is a list of Faith spaces and Wudu facilities on campus. 

(iii)         Annual leave requests for Eid celebrations.

Eid-ul-Fitr is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan. As the Islamic calendar is lunar (as noted above) colleagues may not always know the exact date upon which Eid will fall, as this depends on the sighting of the new moon.  This may mean colleagues request time off at short notice, or can only confirm the exact dates at short notice and/or that they request a range of 2-3 days off to make sure they will be off work at the right time.   

Managers can check the University Inclusion Calendar to see when Eid is likely to be so they can plan for potential staff absences.   

(iv)         Raise awareness and be open to discussions.

Each Muslim will have a different approach to their faith and engage in different practices and managers have a role to play in providing opportunities . where employees can openly and safely discuss their needs.  

Managers may also find it helpful to make other colleagues aware of the dates of Ramadan each year, noting that it will observed by many staff and students across the University.   

Non-Muslim colleagues may be wondering how to wish someone a happy Ramadan; A simple ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ or ‘Happy Ramadan’ at the beginning of Ramadan, will show Muslim colleagues that you're aware of this festival of importance to them.  

The University of Birmingham Multi-Faith Chaplaincy and the Islamic Society also organise an annual University Community Iftar at the Great Hall and Chancellor’s Court. Prior to the Iftar, there is usually an exhibition on Islam and its rich cultural and artistic history. All are welcome to attend.  

Further Support

If you have any further questions about Ramadan, you may wish to contact the Muslim Chaplains at the University of Birmingham’s Multi faith Chaplaincy via email

Alternatively, Birmingham central mosque offer an ‘Ask the Imam Service.’ Their Scholars / Imams can advise on a wide range of matters. You may call the Imam on 0121 440 5355 (Ext: 2) from Monday – Thursday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (Strictly) – Calls outside of this timing will not be answered.

Ramadan Myth Busters

Many of our Muslim colleagues have mentioned that they have come across some misconceptions regarding Ramadan. Here are some myth busters to offer some explanations: 

1.    ‘Ramadan is a time of suffering for Muslims because they must fast long hours.’ 

The majority of Muslims believe that Ramadan is a joyous and unifying experience as a time of spiritual renewal and growth. 

2.    ‘Muslims can drink water, they are just prohibited from eating food whilst fasting’ 

This is not true – they do not drink water either. 

3.    ‘Muslims fast so they can feel the same hunger the poor feel.’ 

Not true. Muslims fast as a way of worshipping God. 

The Qur’an says: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those (religions) before you, that you may develop God-consciousness.” (2:183). 

The aim of Ramadan is, through this worship of God, to become a better person, which is why charity, goodwill and sharing are also emphasised during Ramadan. 

4.    ‘It is okay for Muslim colleagues to eat as much as they want at Iftar, as they have fasted all day’ 

The ethos of Ramadan is a time of deep spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heighted devotion and worship and moderation in all things is expected. 

5.    ‘Only Muslims fast.’ 

Not true. Adherents of other faiths and ways of life such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Jainism, and Hinduism also fast. 

6.    ‘Non-Muslims cannot eat in front of their Muslim colleagues.’ 

There is no requirement to not eat in front of Muslim colleagues who are fasting but you may wish to be considerate where you can be. 

7.    ‘Fasting causes Muslim colleagues to have less energy and therefore, their work standards will face a drop’ 

Those fasting can work in the same way as when they are not fasting. However, some colleagues may feel more tired during the latter part of the day, and some may be able to adjust their work patterns to reflect that. However, this does not mean that they are unable to perform to the same work standards as before.

8. ‘Muslim colleagues are going to get special treatment and extra breaks.’ 

Not true. Muslims should continue with their daily tasks and work as normal and will not expect special treatment.



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