Ramadan reflections – Navigating religious holidays as a young legal professional

As Ramadan draws to a close, Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr to commemorate the end of the holy month.

As I approach my two-year anniversary at Moore Barlow and celebrate completing my second Ramadan whilst working full-time, I look back at my journey of juggling faith and professionalism in the legal field and things that I am grateful for.

But first…. what is Eid and Ramadan and how are these holidays celebrated?

Eid is a major religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide and it occurs twice a year.

The first, Eid ul-Fitr, lasts for one day and marks the end of Ramadan – a holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn until sunset and engage in acts of charity, reflection and community. In 2024, Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated on or around Wednesday 10th April.

The second, Eid al-Adha, lasts for three days and honours the Prophet Abraham’s devotion to God, as well as marking the end of Hajj, in which many Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca. In 2024, Eid al-Adha is expected to be celebrated from Sunday 16th June.

On Eid, Muslims are encouraged to wear their best clothes and come together to pray, share meals and delicious food, exchange gifts and engage in acts of charity, including distributing food to those less fortunate.

Both Eid and Ramadan are times of joy, gratitude, and community gatherings. It’s a time for spiritual reflection, forgiveness, and strengthening bonds with family and friends.

How these holidays can impact Muslim colleagues and my tokens of appreciation

Eid and Ramadan can impact Muslim colleagues in several different ways:

Energy levels

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking (including water) from dawn until sunset, which can affect their energy levels and productivity during the day. Having a team that was receptive to how I was feeling and just generally checked in with me was a small action, but a big way to boost my morale and help me feel supported with my work.

Prayer timetable

Muslims are required to pray five times a day within set periods of time. I used to feel uncomfortable declining lunch with my colleagues so that I could book a meeting room and pray on my lunch break, however, I have found a balance in socialising with my team whilst also taking time for myself to unwind and pray. Coincidentally, my team generally work from home on Fridays, which is a holy day for Muslims. Being able to observe my Friday prayer is a blessing that I don’t take for granted!

During Ramadan, the schedule of prayers may be difficult to navigate, particularly when prayers don’t fall within lunchtime. However, I am grateful to have a manager who allowed me flexibility in break times so that I could work through lunch and go home a little bit earlier to earlier to observe my religious practices – after all, it’s not like I could eat lunch anyway!

Understanding dietary restrictions

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, which may impact workplace events, meetings, or shared meals. I remember once in the past, my team kindly rescheduled our team lunch so that I could attend, as it fell during Ramadan. Whilst I do not expect plans to change for me at all, I still remember and appreciate this simple accommodation and it makes me feel better knowing that my colleagues understand my reasonings for foregoing events and socials during Ramadan.

Muslims also refrain from consuming alcohol. Whilst I used to be reluctant attending networking events due to the frequent ‘drinking culture’ of professional socials, these events have become much more accommodating over the years, partly due to more recognition over diversity and inclusion. I’m sure my Muslim colleagues who eat halal can attest to the joy of seeing vegetarian & vegan food available! Offering alternative food and drink options for colleagues (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) is a simple way to create an environment of inclusion.

Annual leave

The dates for Eid and Ramadan are reflective of the Islamic Calendar, which is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian Calendar. In the Islamic calendar, the next month is determined by whether the crescent moon has been sighted, which can only be observed the night before Eid is expected to be. As a result, it is difficult knowing which day to book off for annual leave for arguably one of the most important dates of the year for a Muslim.

In the past, I have booked off both days just to be safe as I was worried that I would not be able to spend traditions Eid with my family. However, I am appreciative of the fact that my manager understands the significance of this holiday and allowed me the option to be flexible with my leave around this holiday in accordance with when Eid was expected to fall.

Communication is key

Through it all, my biggest piece of advice to all colleagues is respectful communication. As a young legal professional, I know the importance of doing research but asking questions when I don’t know the answer to something – the same applies here! I am more than happy to answer queries and I appreciate that my team take an interest in my faith, which is a big part of me. I don’t expect anyone to inherently know what Ramadan or Eid is and you’re not ignorant for asking – quite the opposite! I have a very respectful team, for which I am grateful. It still makes me smile to be invited down to lunch, even if they know my answer.

My journey so far and insight for the future

Being a young legal professional stemming from a minority background, finding balance between my faith and work was daunting to initially navigate and has been tough at times. In a field where time is crucial and diversity is lacking, it is easy to battle how to keep true to yourself whilst trying to propel your career.

Entering the legal field, I did not see many visibly Muslim representatives which made me slightly apprehensive to openly practice my faith (e.g. praying at work, observing modest office styles etc.). However, over time, I began to recognise the value in holding a different perspective.

Being open and creating a culture of inclusivity; tapping into both my professional and authentic self – these things ultimately improve my mental health, which in turn positively impacts my mood, my work and my professional relationships. With support and growth, I aim to be the visibly Muslim representation that I always sought to see.