Observing Ramadan As A CFO
Meet Kamran Munir, chief financial officer of automotive acoustic and thermal insulation company Autins Group plc. For nearly 30 days each year, you won’t catch Kamran ordering his favourite coffee, eating his lunch with colleagues in the breakroom, or frequenting any of the cafes that surround his workplace. That’s because, like 1.5 billion other practicing Muslims all over the world, Kamran will be fasting from sunrise to sunset until the arrival of Eid-al-Fitr. Although far from an easy task, for many Islamic people, the spiritual and emotional rewards more than make up for the temporary physical discomfort.
Kamran’s job can certainly be stressful, high-pressured, and at times require intense concentration and attention to detail. As a CFO, he’s responsible for tracking cashflow, financial planning, managing the ins and outs of operational performance, and much more. Nevertheless, throughout Ramadan Kamran will voluntarily go without food and water during daylight hours, as well as refrain from certain habits such as gossiping or quarrelling. During this time, some Muslims also choose to abstain from worldly distractions such as watching TV and listening to music, and will instead fill this time with prayer and introspection.
Considering the personal significance that the festival holds for him, Kamran reflects, “Ramadan is a holy month for self-improvement, contemplation, prayer and fasting. Giving back to others and making charitable contributions is also a critical objective, as this allows us to remember those who are less well off than ourselves, and may not enjoy adequate food, shelter, or other luxuries that we take for granted. It’s also a time to improve our will power, as well as strengthen our conscience and ability to embrace right and reject wrong.”
Fasting at the office
One prevalent misconception during Ramadan amongst those outside Islam is that people who perform jobs with a high degree of responsibility are exempt from fasting. However, this is not the case. As one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting during the festival is mandatory for all healthy adults with certain exceptions – for example, women who are pregnant or menstruating. Islamic surgeons fast, as do airline pilots and athletes. And after many years of experience, Kamran explains that balancing his duties with foregoing sustenance isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. He told us, “Of course, at times fasting can be challenging. For example, it can be difficult to get through the working day without a coffee or two! However, I don’t employ any real strategy. Instead, for me it’s a matter of relying on my faith.”
Like many Muslims, Kamran feels like he benefits from “divine assistance” during this time, buoyed by the clarity a life free from material distractions can bring. “I begin to feel the influence of God almighty throughout my daily life, and things become easier, almost as though I’m experiencing some form of divine intervention,” he explains. “In fact, I’ll often feel like many projects I’m involved in are actually more successful during Ramadan.”
Despite the need to juggle his high-powered responsibilities with the holy duties that Ramadan entails, Kamran finds that his life during Ramadan doesn’t actually change that radically. He explains, “On a working day, I’ll rise before dawn to eat a little to prepare myself for the day ahead, and I may start work one hour later, and finish one hour later. Other than that, the only real difference is that I’ll have fewer breaks throughout the day, as I won’t be eating or drinking. Overall, I’ll be surviving on less sleep, so it can take me a week or two to adjust. Additionally, when I return home at the end of the day, my evening will be taken up with night-time prayer, as well as breaking my fast. Family time is something I especially love during Ramadan – we go out much less, we eat together, we pray together, and we’re compelled to be more reasonable towards and accommodating of one another. I find that my patience is actually strengthened, rather than reduced due to the discomforts of hunger and thirst. I appreciate my wife, children and family more than ever.”
Supporting Muslim colleagues during Ramadan
Discussing some of the ways in which organisations can support colleagues fasting during Ramadan, Kamran explains, “I think the most important thing is to realise that when someone is fasting, you might notice their demeanour change slightly. For example, you may realise they are quieter or more reflective than usual. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re less interested in or committed to their work, and you should still make every effort to fully involve them in everything. Non-Islamic colleagues also shouldn’t feel that they need to be secretive about eating or drinking, or avoid mentioning food and drink. Fasting is a small sacrifice we’re happy to make, so there’s no need to feel bad for us or worry that we’re suffering. Finally, be flexible and considerate. If your co-worker needs to rearrange a meeting because they’re finishing work earlier or later, for example, try to be accommodating.”