This month, millions of Muslims around the globe are observing Ramadan, a period of prayer, fasting, charity-giving and self-reflection.
At The Migration Agency, our commitment to diversity in culture is strengthened by our talented people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
In this blog, our Immigration Business Partner, Tamanna Hashemee, shares what Ramadan means to her and how important it is for employers to be supportive of Muslims who observe the holy month.
What is Ramadan and how is it observed?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Also known as Ramadhan or Ramzan, it is a holy month for Muslims and begins and ends with the appearance of the crescent moon. This year, it began on April 2 and finishes on May 1.
While adult Muslims fast each day from dawn until dusk, fasting is only one component of Ramadan. It is also heavily focused on spiritual and character development, kindness and gratitude. During Ramadan, Muslims also partake in extra worship and prayer, reading the Quran and engaging in charity work.
It’s a time to gather with family, friends and members of the community to eat (the meal to break their fast is called iftar) and pray together (taraweeh).
The celebration culminates with Eid-Al-Fitr, a joyous festival with food, gifts, family and friends.
Ramadan is a time of self-reflection
For Tamanna, Ramadan is a time of reflection and self-improvement, a way to better herself.
“Ramadan for me is a chance to reflect on the previous year, and recognise my year-on-year goals and improve spiritual understanding. It’s about the ongoing practice of improving ‘sabr’ – patience and perseverance, and is also a time to increase donations to charitable causes,” she says.
“My favourite thing about Ramadan is praying taraweeh in the mosque and having iftar surrounded by friends and family, but the last couple of years have been difficult due to COVID. I’m hopeful it will be different this year.”
Ramadan falls at different times each year due to the Lunar calendar.
“That means that no matter where you are in the world, you have the opportunity to observe Ramadan in different seasons,” Tamanna says. “In the summertime, it can be a long day of fasting. At the moment in Australia, it is during autumn, which is about 12.5 hours a day.”
“Fasting provides you with a reality check and helps to remind you to be grateful and empathise with people around the world who don’t have essentials such as food and water. The first couple of days are always difficult, but my best tip is to ensure you get up and have Suhoor (the meal before sunrise), currently at around 4am in Australia.”
Culture, diversity and inclusion in the spotlight
Born in Australia, both of Tamanna’s parents (who are Australian citizens) migrated from Afghanistan to Australia in the late 1980s.
Her parents’ key motivation was to set up a new life in a safe country for their children, while also making sure she was brought up knowing her cultural heritage.
At home, Tamanna and her family speak Dari, which her parents insisted on as she was growing up, an effort she appreciates in more depth as an adult and fluent speaker of the language.
Tamanna wanted a career in immigration law to give back to the country she grew up in, and she loves seeing the results of her work: A visa granted is a life changed.
Ramadan in the workplace in Australia
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are currently more than 600,000 Muslims in Australia.
Working during Ramadan in Australia can be challenging because of a duty to fast, earlier waking hours and employers’ understanding of the traditions. However, Tamanna says The Migration Agency has been very supportive.
“It’s very important to me that my employer recognises and supports my religion, including Ramadan, and I have had good experiences in my workplaces across the industry,” she says.
As a show of support for diversity within the workplace, The Migration Agency recently announced that staff could swap any Australian public holiday to better suit their cultural calendar.
“Any public holiday is welcomed as it means we can spend time together with family and friends. The Migration Agency’s announcement means I can swap one or two public holidays to align with my religion more, and I truly appreciate that,” she says.
How employees and employers can foster diversity in Australia
As a truly multicultural society, Australian employers can support diversity within the workplace to include their Muslim employees observing Ramadan.
At The Migration Agency we believe respect, inclusion and understanding of cultural and religious practices is key to creating a harmonious workplace and encourage all team members to harness these values.
During religious events, such as Ramadan, employers can show flexibility and understanding by supporting their Muslim staff, for example, allowing them switch or change the time of their working hours for that period.
Whether you’re observing Ramadan this year or not, this can be a time for all of us to focus on spiritual and character development, kindness and gratitude and gather with family, friends and members of the community.