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Inside Grant Thornton

Fast with us: sharing our experiences

In 2022 Ramadan falls between 2 April and 2 May. To encourage a wider understanding of Ramadan and the religion, some of our Muslim colleagues paired up with non-Muslims to guide them through a day of fasting.

Many Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting every day between dawn and dusk. In 2022, our Muslim network hosted a ‘Fast with Us’ initiative – Muslim and non-Muslim colleagues paired up for a day of fasting, with continuous conversations before and after, as well as throughout the day. The non-Muslim participants learned more about Islam, Ramadan, and Muslims' experience of fasting. And their Muslim guides also gained a lot from the opportunity to share and support their colleagues.

To find out more about how this initiative benefited the participants, we asked one pair to tell us more about their experiences.

Hishaam and Carl

 

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Hishaam Ahmed, Audit Associate

I fasted from dawn to sunset and really enjoyed my conversations with my fasting partner, Carl. I talked Carl through why we fast as Muslims, the benefits of fasting and what we do to prepare, which in truth is extraordinarily little (more than anything, we mentally prepare for the month as it approaches). We talked about other things Muslims do during the month, like praying, spending time with family, and giving to those less fortunate than us.

My key takeaway from my pairing experience was the impact that building bridges between communities can have and that in reality, there’s very little we know about each other without digging deeper. As a partner in the firm, Carl is a leader who wants to learn more about our people, and that’s something that I’m sure many will appreciate seeing, as I did.

Building understanding works both ways – we cannot expect a more inclusive culture without people who're willing to learn and to be open and honest. It takes a team effort to build that understanding.

Being able to share things about my faith made me appreciate who I am a lot more, and as Carl learned about my faith and culture, I can do the same to learn about other cultures.

What I enjoyed the most was the sense of community spirit. Carl and I stayed in touch over three days – we connected before we fasted, during the day, and in reflection the following day. This showed me that small efforts can build to make an enormous difference. It’s made me appreciate the wonderful people in the firm who have taken an interest and united with us to fast. It meant more than you could ever imagine.

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Carl Williams, Audit Partner

Prior to my day of fasting, I asked lots of questions about my friend Hishaam, the fasting process, what was important about Ramadan and fasting, and how fasting impacted him mentally and physically. Hishaam helped me prepare and was there during the day to check in with me.

For me, the key learning was that eating and drinking are habits and are not essential for everyone during Ramadan. I learned about Hishaam’s family and more about Muslims, the religion and heritage – from eating right-handed and that dates are the first food most Muslims eat to break a fast to reasons why some Muslims may not be fasting at all. I discovered that eating together as a family both before and when breaking the fast is important to many. I also learned about the charitable giving that happens during Ramadan.

The experience gave me the confidence to ask questions and be curious. It reminded me that I get energy from getting to know others and put into perspective how much time I’d spent away from the office over the past two years. Interacting with others online created a community atmosphere too.

I slept through my early morning alarm, so I missed eating and drinking before starting the fast! Physically, I was fine apart from a slight headache in the afternoon and found that keeping busy was important to keep my mind off hunger and thirst. Sharing my story was another challenge – I wanted to but didn’t want to seem ingenuine. Talking to Hishaam and Vai Balendran, my reverse mentor, gave me the courage to share my experiences on LinkedIn and Yammer. I was welcomed into the world of our Muslim colleagues' experience, which was humbling. I’ll be fasting for longer towards the end of Ramadan.

Valuing diversity through everyday inclusion