Listening Beyond Words

Jumping on my bicycle this morning, I was thirsty and, on reflection, hungry. I’d foregone a morning cup of tea and watched my son eat his breakfast while I explained why I wasn’t eating mine.

It’s Ramadan, the holy month of Ramadan. Celebrated by 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. For many non-Muslims, this may be seen as a month of not eating in the day. For Muslims, I’ve learnt, it’s a lunar month of spiritual dedication and meditation.

At 100%Open we celebrate being open. Living in the wonderfully diverse city of London it’s obvious to those who want to see that it’s Ramadan. Projects in Oman, Egypt and Indonesia have added to our awareness. So, with the encouragement from one of our colleagues, we’ve taken the plunge to try a day of fasting. It’s a normal work day, with all the usual habits.

I’ll admit to feeling hunger pangs at 10:20 and am slightly trepidatious as to how I might feel as the day goes on. How would the teams we’re working with in Oman, change their daily activities as they fast through the day? What would it be like in Cairo – 45 Celsius, 113 Fahrenheit last week – passing daylight hours without drinking? What would the packed and humid streets of Jakarta be like without pausing for a water, coffee or tea?

Talking with people in our project team at Yomken.com in Cairo, Egypt, it became clearer, slightly. As Ramadan begins the whole family starts the fast together, the normal rituals and habits are replaced for everyone. It’s a time of togetherness, where family (and friends) support each other in their shared worship.

As the body adjusts to the new rhythms of eating at night and fasting by day, avoiding water, consuming less caffeine, the cleansing of body and mind begins as a shared process.

That brings a whole new level of understanding and appreciation of Ramadan to me. A time of togetherness, a shared experience.

I have no idea whether Ramadan is endured for the celebration of Eid at the end. How many people know that Advent is the lead up to Christmas? Or that Lent is preparation for Easter?

But when you’re required to make a daily commitment of going without food and drink surely you can’t easily dismiss engaging in the reason why.

So as 1.8 billion Muslims throughout a globalising world celebrate Ramadan, it’s worth reflecting how much non-Muslims listen to and accommodate for the wider considerations of Islam. Or indeed any other religion.

I’ll admit, it’s hard to break the habit of nibbling away at food as we work. It’s good to ask the team if they’d like a drink, when taking a break to grab a quick coffee. But I’m not sure how I’d feel if I heard those offers if I’d been fasting for the last 18 days.

And then there’s the work as well.

These reflections are not intended as an essay on a or any religion. But a small revelation and recognition of the complexity of our differences and the importance of understanding and celebrating those differences.

It’s only by really seeing those differences that we can start to understand and create a world for living and work that works for everyone. That takes courage, it definitely requires openness and courage. And it requires communicating and listening beyond just words.

Ramadan Mubarak

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