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What Ramadan Means to These 4 Hartford HealthCare Professionals

March 30, 2022

Skipping lunch and gathering around food at sunset might be signs a colleague is celebrating the Muslim holiday Ramadan, a month-long observance marked by daily fasting from sunrise to sunset.

The holy month starts the evening of April 1 and ends the evening of May 1, the month Prophet Muhammad received initial revelations of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Most healthy adult Muslims practice abstinence from food and liquids from dusk to dawn. Fasting, according to Dr. Amer Abdullah, a Hartford HealthCare clinical research associate, is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam.

“It is a month of devotion, self-discipline, giving and forgiving. Abstinence is an act of worship, an act of mind over matter and an act of caring and sharing with those in need,” said Dr. Mohamad Khaled, a Ayer Neuroscience Institute neurosurgeon. “It is a month of spiritual and personal growth, unity, humility, generosity and charity.”

Dr. Faiqa Cheema, medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Hartford Hospital, said Ramadan allows her to “declutter my heart and reconnect to God.”

“It is a time I use to get clear and grounded on my mission and purpose so I can continue to strive more consciously to being the best version of myself and of service to others,” she said.

At home, Dr. Cheema sets aside time to pray with her children. Dr. Abdullah breaks the fast with family and friends.

“Family will gather especially the first day as tradition since both of my parents are the head of both families,” Dr. Abdullah said. “There will be a lot of people with a lot of food and sweets. The most beautiful thing is seeing the kids learning and counting the minutes and seconds until breaking their fasting, and how excited and innocent they are when they pray and ask Allah (God) for what they want.”

“It definitely can be challenging as you have to be very disciplined. One gets used to fasting pretty quickly, but Muslims will often stay up until midnight to offer prayers during the month and then get up around 3 or 4 am to prepare a meal before dawn. Sleep deprivation can catch up with you during this month if you do not plan accordingly,” noted Dr. Fakhar Khan, a Hartford Hospital hospitalist.

Many Muslims, Dr. Khaled said, start training as children for the fast, an act of deprivation he feels leaves him “more at peace and more forgiving.”

“The main goal of fasting is being more mindful of God and all the positive attitudes that come with that, including selflessness, giving and forgiving,” he said.

The challenge can be going to school and work while observing the holy month, although Drs. Khaled and Khan agreed colleagues needn’t feel they cannot eat near a Muslim colleague. Dr. Abdullah urged people to ask questions about his practice.

“People eating around us usually has no impact, although it would be courteous to avoid overdoing it!” Dr. Khaled added.

Muslims working the night shift might take a few extra minutes around sunset to break the fast and pray.

“Managers and supervisors should be aware that colleagues may have to break away during sunset to open their fast and pray. Similarly, if colleagues are here at dawn, understand they may need to break away for a pre-dawn meal to begin their fast and pray,” Dr. Khan said.

Optional breaks may also be requested by individuals for added devotional prayers, said Dr. Abdullah, suggesting that recognition of Ramadan could be given at team huddles as support for Muslim colleagues.

“It would be nice to inform the rest of the team about the special breaks for eating and prayers as those happen at certain times. Other colleagues can be flexible to accommodate these times/breaks,” he said.

One way to show support is with a simple greeting. “In Arabic, you can say “Ramadan Mubarak (wishing you a blessed Ramadan)” or “Ramadan Kareem (wishing you a Ramadan filled with generosity).” Another suggestion from Dr. Khaled is in English.

“We wish each other more spirituality and Divine mindfulness,” he said.

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