Right now, around 1.6 billion people around the globe are fasting from sunrise until sunset to celebrate the holiest month in the Muslim calendar - every day, for one whole month.

Beginning on 2 April 2022 and running through until the beginning of May, Ramadan is a celebration where Muslims fast during the hours of daylight - to remember the month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

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But what is Ramadan and how can I support my Muslim friends who are fasting?
To celebrate Ramadan at Utilita, we spoke to a few members of staff to learn more about the month-long celebration and if there are any etiquette tips that non-Muslims could follow during the month.

How do you celebrate Ramadan?
Salma Shalash (Associate Software Engineer): Ramadan is like our Christmas, so there’s a buzz at the beginning of the month with lots of group video calls with family and friends to wish each other a blessed Ramadan. Throughout the month, families tend to take turns hosting Iftar (the meal eaten after sunset) so it’s a nice social gathering. This support plays a massive difference, we normally moan about how difficult the first week is, but past day 5 we all feel like superheroes.

Najeeb Hussain (Blackburn Energy Hub Manager): During the day we’re encouraged to devote extra time and attention to spiritual activities, such as reading the Quran and prayers at the mosque.

Danial Agha (Apprentice Associate Software Engineer): For me it's about connecting with God and my local community. During the month of Ramadan, we are encouraged to swap out bad habits for good habits, like reconnecting with our faith and doing charitable deeds to help the less unfortunate.

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What can/can’t be done during Ramadan?
Najeeb: We can’t eat or drink anything for approximately 10 hours between sunrise and sunset, until the daily fast is broken with Iftar - an evening meal once the sun goes down. We also abstain from any wrongdoing such as shouting, swearing, fighting or anything that may cause hurt or upset to someone.

Salma: We need to focus more on our faith; spend more time praying, reading the Quran, and giving to charities is a big thing - this is mandatory for each household that can afford it.

Do you have any etiquette tips that non-Muslims could follow during the month?
Salma: I think just to be mindful and understanding. I was once told that it’s crazy we do dry fasting (including water), but it’s very doable, and I feel the healthiest during this month. Humans are strong, we just need to belieeeeeve!

Danial: It’s hard to say as I’m not really fazed by it. I’ve previously worked in fast food restaurants while fasting and had people eat in front of me, but generally hunger or thirst doesn’t affect me. One thing to mention would be team events or meals though, as I would generally have to decline these because I can’t eat until a certain time, and I know people are like "well you can break your fast here". But for me I prefer to break fast in my environment with friends or family. Don’t worry, I’m always up for some food or some fun team events as long as it doesn’t clash with Ramadan.

Najeeb: I’d say it’s more about being understanding that fasting can be draining, and this can sometimes show. Also, to try avoiding eating in front of someone who is fasting as it just makes it worst, lol.

What’s the hardest part about fasting?
Danial: My sleep can be affected as I wake up to eat and then go back to sleep, so I lose a lot of sleep during Ramadan. I’m lucky to have flexitime at Utilita though, as this gives me time to readjust myself after waking up as I neeeeeed tea but can’t have it.

How do you mark the end of Ramadan?
Najeeb: Eid Ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. We start off by going to the mosque for prayer, listen to the sermon and straight after we all get together for Eid Mubarak. We have a nice feast where everyone dresses up in their best clothes and kids get money from their parents.

Danial: Generally, there is the EID prayer in the morning and then families connect with one and other - eating a lot of food and giving presents. All the weight you lost during Ramadan, you put it all back on in that one day.

Salma: Eid Ul-Fitr lasts for 3 days. Local Muslims have an Eid prayer in the morning (which is such a beautiful prayer), we then gather and have breakfast and a long-awaited delicious morning coffee.

Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan)!