As Islamic communities around the world prepare to observe the holy month of Ramadan, BAM’s Kabir Rasool and Ghufran Ullah discuss their experiences as Muslims in construction
What’s involved for you during Ramadan?
Ghufran: Fasting for all 30 days is gruelling, it takes a lot out of you. I don’t think people realise the commitment that is needed.
Kabir: Not everybody does the full fast but those who do have my respect. In this day and age, people should understand more about Ramadan, but few do.
How does fasting affect you?
Ghufran: The big thing for me is tiredness. I have a long journey to work and back. I need to break up my routine, spend more time in the office, or I can burn myself out on site.
Kabir: I was a heavy smoker, but nothing must pass your mouth, not even water. Being a Muslim project manager, it does help my team because I understand how to be flexible for them.
What can sites do to help?
Ghufran: We have a very multicultural site, many Sikhs as well. They love to hear about religion and politics. But in all my years in construction, I cannot remember being given any guidance about Ramadan. We have 30 years at BAM between us!
Kabir: It would be a great subject for a toolbox talk. There is a lot we do already on this site [Southam College in the Midlands].
For example, I’ve got separate eating areas for vegetarians and for halal food, and for fasting. I remember one meeting for a previous client, a number of us were fasting Muslims, and the client offered us bacon sandwiches during the meeting.
Another client, knowing I had a long presentation to give and could not drink water, said: “Leave the details; keep it short.” He understood.
Ghufran: Sleep deprivation can be a problem too. I need to get up at 4am sometimes to eat before the sun comes up. I can become short-tempered later in the day, so a short nap really helps, and some flexibility with working hours. BAM’s flexible working is great, but site managers cannot work from home.
Kabir: I’ve sometimes had to tell him to take a break. What I can do is allow him to start and finish differently. That means he can make it home to be with his family in time to break their fast together, which is an important part of Ramadan.
What can management expect?
Ghufran: Timing is important because the fasting corresponds with the sunrise and sundown.
We fast much longer in the summer, when it is hotter too. Many Muslims take holidays at the end of Ramadan when the celebrations begin.
Kabir: That’s understood well by management here, thankfully. The start and end of Ramadan are the toughest. But it’s so humbling when we all eat together. That’s the real purpose of Ramadan. Reflection, becoming a better person, appreciating all we have and the struggles of others.
What would you ask of colleagues?
Ghufran: All I would ask is that others listen and try to understand it. Be kind and respectful.
Kabir Rasool is a project manager and Ghufran Ullah is a site manager at BAM.