Hungry for Ramadan

Hungry for Ramadan

Ramadan and the Office: Working Through Your Fast

sleep_desk.jpgDespite the fact that I have been blogging and writing about the Muslim American experience for many years, I am quite private about my religious beliefs in the workplace. (That is, until my boss Googles my somewhat unique name and sees what I’ve been up to!) I suspect many Muslim Americans keep their faith close to their chest as well. While it is easy to downplay religion during most of the year, there is no way the fasting Muslim can hide it during Ramadan. So how do fasting and the office mix?
In my experience at least, they mix fairly well. Of course, it depends on what kind of job you have, but for the average white-collar employee, I’ve found that most people are understanding and accomodating. You might have to miss (or tolerate) a few company luncheons and birthday parties, and engage in water cooler talk without the water, but otherwise it’s not too bad. The biggest inconvenience has been rescheduling or cancelling corporate lunches. (Though in the case of a few Muslim clients, I’ve been able to change them to corporate iftar dinners instead.)


But if you’re not careful, fasting can make it difficult to maintain the quality of work, and you might find yourself running on fumes towards the end of the day–especially if you’re used to powering your day with a healthy dose of caffeine. Here are some tips I’ve used in the past to maintain my productivity:

  • Trade in your lunch hour. Since you’re not eating lunch, you can work straight through it–and take the hour off at the end of the day when your attention starts to fade a bit. Or take that lunch hour and use it to snooze (as long as it’s ok with your bosses). This will also help keep your energy up.
  • Keep as busy as possible. I’ve found that keeping as busy as possible is the best way to get through a day at the office while fasting. It especially helps if you can find ways to get out from behind your desk. Take on more work if you have to–you’ll impress your co-workers who thought you’d slack off during the month.
  • Load balance your workday. Reserve the morning hours for meetings, intellectually demanding work, or tasks that require concentration, and save the busywork and routine tasks for later in the day.
  • For those of you who work with fasting Muslim colleages: There’s no need to go out of your way to accomodate your fasting Muslim colleagues. Just do something nice, like treating them to lunch either before or after Ramadan. Or discreetly wake them up if you find them slumped over in their chair. (Because most of us have been up from 4:30 or 5 a.m. and have been going full-steam until 10 or 11 p.m. at night.)
    And don’t bother with that “Lunch is on me today!” line during Ramadan. Trust me–your Muslim colleagues have heard it many times before!

    Comments read comments(10)
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    posted September 18, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    As Salaamu Alaikum and Ramadan Mubarak,
    I’m computer challenged so bare with me.
    I loved all of the articles that I read here on Beliefnet. Where online can I read more of your articles?
    Ma Salaam,

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    N. Jaffer

    posted September 18, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks Shahed, for these timely tips! I could really use the help.
    I also found that if I have a breakfast with protein, for example, eggs, it really helps me through the day with my energy level.
    Thanks again,
    Salaams! Greetings of Peace!

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    Shahed Amanullah

    posted September 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Walaikum assalam (on you be peace),
    You can read more of my writings at
    Thanks for reminding me about the breakfast tip! I’ll add it to a future post on eating right during Ramadan!

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    Sethu Narayanan

    posted September 19, 2007 at 5:12 am

    I am not a muslim but try to respect the requirements during the Ramadan period ( last 2 years and this year too, I am in the Middle East Countries during Ramadan).
    The points indicated are very valid and useful for every one who intends to fast.
    Ramadan Kareem.
    Sethu Narayanan

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    posted September 19, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Am much pleased to be reading your beliefnet.
    thank you and may the good God SHAUWERS HIS BLESSING UPON YOU ALL.

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    posted September 19, 2007 at 10:06 am

    I am a masseuse. Taking care of women during their post natal confinement is really challenging during the Ramadhan. To keep me awake during the massage session, I would engage into a conversation with my client about the current local and global news for one and half hours! Cos if i don’t talk, I’m afraid I might fall asleep on her!
    Nevertheless thank you for the tips. Shukran, barakallahu fik.

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    posted September 19, 2007 at 3:49 pm


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    posted September 20, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    This article is a perfect example of how I make it through my day. Because Islam is not as widespread as other religions in America, it’s hard to let others know you’re fasting and why. Because if they are blind (by faith) then it’s wasted energy that I don’t have during Ramadan. The first 3 days were the most challenging. I read the Qu’ran during my lunch hour as well as get about 15 minutes of ZZZs. When I get home, I began preparing dinner for Iftar and then rest and pray before eating. This has been a great 1st time experience for me. I’ve learned and proved that boss and food are not the lord of my world; Allah is.

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    Ayesha Khan

    posted September 21, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Excellant article, it reflected a typical day of a Muslim fasting. Currently in Scotland fasting and working at the same time, it has been difficult as I am the only Mulsim fasting in the work place however I am so proud of my identity and hope my ALLAH will be happy. When my colleagues ask me questions and say hope you dont mind us asking my response is always please do ask as much as you want as this will increase your knowledge on a Muslims way of life.
    May ALLAH bless us all in this holy month – Ameen.

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    Anita F. Qureshi

    posted September 25, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Great job!
    You are right – constant motion is a good way to make the day go by. I often find myself procrastinating far less in Ramadan because of this.
    My biggest problem is not keeping the fast but opening it on time. I am a surgeon and many times the suhoor has occurred while I am in the middle of a case!
    You might find it interesting to poll different occupations and see how they alter their day or their work to accommodate Ramadan.
    Jazakullah khair

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