At Capco UK, the month of Ramadan is typically commemorated with social celebrations open to all colleagues in our London and Edinburgh offices. The implications of COVID-19 and social distancing have meant that this year’s celebrations would take a slightly different form.  Our BAME Network was not to be deterred by the pandemic, however.  Every Thursday afternoon, from 30th April to 21st May, the firm was invited to be a part of four informative 30-minute virtual gatherings to commemorate one of the five pillars of Islam.  In this blog, we’ll be sharing what we learned from those who celebrated the holy month of Ramadan under lockdown. 

1. Not even water?

In this session led by Capco’s Ceyda Ozturk and Amaarah Mirza, our Muslim community shared what Ramadan meant to them, common misconceptions about fasting (such as drinking water, which is not allowed), and how observing Ramadan were getting the most out of their working day. Indeed, Crunchy Nut Clusters and Kissan Mango both came highly rated for pre-sunrise food preferences!  

We also heard how COVID-19 had enabled deeper personal connections during Ramadan than perhaps in years past.  

Amaarah said: “If we weren’t in lockdown, we would be organizing time with our friends but this year many of us are spending more time with our families which has been great.” 

Awaes Chaudhry also noted how he and his colleagues had been bonding with Ramadan-observing clients through the lockdown: “We’ve been sharing our fasting and lockdown experiences this year.” 

2. How to stay healthy

The agenda of our second video conference, led by Simon Baig and Shamir Syed, highlighted the importance of spiritual and physical health during Ramadan, and especially in lockdown. 

Simon spoke of how he had reduced his food intake the week before Ramadan to aid fasting, and how he felt that fasting today was much easier than in the 70s, where “there was very little known about Ramadan at school or in wider UK society.”  

Shahmir Syed meanwhile said: “In previous years I have napped at Capco London during lunchtime to beat my fasting fatigue. My colleagues understood and always respected my privacy.”

Bakhtiyar Ahmed shared how reminding himself why he was fasting helped get through the period: “I get by from knowing that there will be food on the table at the end of the day. There are people out there who have nothing to open their fasts with every single day, so just a gentle reminder when we pray or eat this evening, please pray for those less fortunate.”

3. How to balance work with fasting…while at home

During this interactive video conference led by Jibran Ahmed and Capco’s BAME Partner Sponsor Keith Turner, we heard how this year’s lack of commuting during the holy month had not only helped Ramadan-observing employees to save more energy than in previous years but even improve their lifestyle habits. 

Ceyda remarked: “Having a Ramadan under COVID-19 has allowed me to focus more on introspection and Qur’an self-study.” 

Jibran Ahmed commented how living alone had positively changed his spending habits and diet during the festive period, “This year, my meals have been a lot healthier.”   

Participants also chatted about work productivity and output during fasting, which they felt was unchanged.

To the point, Lucinda Szebrat, Executive Sponsor for Diversity & Inclusion at Capco UK said, “I spent six years living in Cairo, Egypt so I am very familiar with Ramadan and its traditions; and I have never observed changes in work quality from those fasting. However, rather than make an assumption on this, we will continue to make sure team members’ circumstances are always taken into account should they require flexibility to fully participate in religious activities.”

4. The significance of Eid & post-Lockdown celebrations

Our final digital meeting was chaired by Mohammed Hussain, Mohsin Khan and Arsilan Butt. It centered on the different ways families and communities would be marking the breaking of the fast at the end of Eid this year. 

Arsilan said, “There’s always this feeling the morning after where you feel sad that it’s over. I always miss Ramadan.” 

Mohammed said: “Whilst the mosques are still closed, throughout Ramadan we have adapted and will use the opportunity to perform our Eid prayers at home with the family instead.”

Mohsin said: “COVID-19 has given me more time to spend with my loved ones. In some ways, this year has been a good version of different.”

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