Supporting students and staff during Ramadan

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan begins this year on or around Monday 11 March 2024 and lasts 29 or 30 days. Muslims follow the lunar calendar so the exact start and end dates depend on the sighting of the moon. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr follows Ramadan and will take place around Wednesday 10 April 2024.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is the month of fasting. Muslims believe it is the month the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the messenger Prophet Muhammad. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The overall purpose of the fast is to gain Taqwa (which means to gain piety or God consciousness). This is achieved through an increase in prayers, reading the Qur’an, self-reflection and self-discipline.

Muslims are encouraged to increase their good deeds in Ramadan, from giving to charity, to increasing good values such as generosity, patience and forgiveness, with the intention that they strive to maintain these model values throughout the year. Ramadan is divided into three parts; the first third of the month is the time for Rahmah (mercy), the second third is for Maghfirat (forgiveness), the last ten days are for Nijat (salvation). In Arabic, Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) is described in the Qur’an as “better than a thousand months”. It is celebrated in the last ten nights of Ramadan, most likely on the 27th night of the month.

The fast entails refraining from food or drink (including water) from dawn until dusk. Most Muslims will wake before dawn for a meal before the start of their fast, and break their fast with dates and water at sunset and a meal thereafter. This year, fasts in the UK will last on average more than 16 hours; the start and end times vary as the month progresses.

Fasting in the summer is also combined with disturbances in normal sleep patterns that can leave individuals feeling more tired than normal, particularly mid-afternoon and towards the end of the day. Also, towards the latter part of the day some individuals who are fasting may feel a little lightheaded. In addition, many Muslims observe long night-time prayers at the mosque (terawih) or at home, which also reduce sleeping hours.

Those exempt from fasting – or permitted to break their fast – are children, the elderly, the sick or people with long-term health problems (e.g. diabetes), those travelling long distances, women during their monthly cycle, pregnant women and breastfeeding women. In some cases, missed fast days are made up at a later date, before the next month of Ramadan.

Guidance for students

For guidance for students on observing Ramadan, please see the Student Services guide entitled 'Guidance for Students Sitting Exams' [PDF].

Guidance for staff

I manage and/or work with staff that are fasting. What do I need to know?

Muslim staff may wish to request slight adjustments to the working day during Ramadan. For example, some Muslim staff members may wish to start earlier in the morning or have a shorter lunch break so that they can finish early. In some cases, staff might like to work from home for some of the week, to help maintain their own energy levels. As part of LSE’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, managers are asked to accommodate this where at all possible and within reason.

Some Muslim staff members may endeavour to practice their faith more during Ramadan than they might for the remainder of the year. As a consequence of this more Muslim staff might wish to offer prayers during the day. This will normally be around 1pm and 5pm in the summer months for a few minutes each. Again, it is helpful if such requests can be treated sympathetically by managers. Prayer rooms and washing facilities for Muslim staff and students are provided in the School’s Faith Centre.

It is considerate to avoid scheduling staff social activities or working lunches during Ramadan.

What happens when Ramadan ends?

Eid-ul-Fitr is the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, for which some Muslim staff members will wish to take leave from work. The day begins with giving to charity and prayers in the mosque, and thereafter sharing celebratory meals with family and friends and exchanging gifts.

As with the start of Ramadan, the exact date of Eid is also dependent on the sighting of the moon. For this reason it might not be possible for the staff member to be very specific about the day he/she would like to be away from work. Again, managers are asked to take this into account and be flexible where possible.

I will be observing Ramadan. Is there anything I need to know regarding my work arrangements?

To facilitate flexibility on both sides, you are advised to talk to your line manager as soon as possible. You should try to come to a mutual agreement with your line manager about any flexibility you wish to have regarding your working hours during Ramadan, and the times you wish to spend in prayer. If you take time to pray outside of usual break times, then you should make up this time later, as prayer is a personal matter.

If you are attending interviews, training courses or other events, please take time to notify people of your needs. If you feel weak or unwell at work, you should inform your line manager as soon as possible.

There are rest spaces located around campus, for example, in the basement of 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the lower ground floor of the New Academic Building (LG10). Contact the Reception Team of each building to gain access.

When requesting days off for religious observance, please give your manager as much notice as possible, even if only an estimation of the dates can be provided prior to the sighting of the new moon.

If you need any specific advice, please contact your Human Resources partner.

This guidance is based on similar information provided by the Civil Service Muslim Network and by University College London.