A Canadian Muslim friend, let’s call him “M,” spent the last Ramadan in Saudi Arabia — his first-ever Ramadan in the Kingdom. It was a different experience; he would not label it as good or bad, “it was just different,” he insists.
The first jolt of surprise came when his office announced the new working hours during the holy month. He did see that coming, as a Muslim back home, he is used to fasting the long daylight hours during the Canadian summer days. Why an eight hours shift was reduced to six was beyond his comprehension! He tried his peers and subordinates first, the only common reaction he got from all of them was the sheer surprise directed at the question itself: “Of course the working hours should be cut, it is Ramadan my friend!”
Most of his colleagues responded not noticing that they were only paraphrasing his question into an answer. When he pressed further, he got diverse answers from “We would be exhausted without food and water and tea all day long, man!” to “Of course to get more time dedicated to worshiping and reciting Qur’an.”
Being the practical person he is, such answers did not cut it for him, what exhaustion they were talking about? He would understand if their job required any kind of fieldwork, but it was nothing but air-conditioned offices and cushioned chairs. Getting more time to worship, why not thinking about doing their jobs as a way of worshipping nonetheless? So he decided to go to the management. Of course he would not try to question the cultural norms of the country. He knows how sensitive such matters are. Nonetheless, he wanted to talk business. Many of the deadlines and projects he committed to deliver would be impacted by such changes and he would like to define some priorities. The director’s response was, “No, all targets stay, no compromises!”