Behind the scenes of the impactful roles we place, the teams we build, our dedication to tackling climate change and sustainability challenges, is our ever-growing and passionate team. In our ongoing ‘Faces of Acre’ series, we want to shine a spotlight on the people who make up the Acre team and give our employees a platform to share their passions, speak up on important topics and talk about the pro bono work they take part in.
In celebration of Eid al-Fitr, we sat down with our Research Consultant Abdulaziz Adekola, to learn more about the importance of Ramadan, the challenges, the experiences, and the important lessons we can all learn.
So firstly, why do you and other Muslims around the world take part in Ramadan?
It was originally prescribed more than 1,500 years ago to increase the Muslim community's awareness of their Faith. As a Muslim, we are given a 30-day window to increase our faith, religion and spirtuality, and to completely disconnect from very earthy and natural desires. Food, water and sleep are probably the three biggest things sacrificed during the 30 days and in their absence, we focus on achieving a higher state of consciousness with God and our faith. Because of the lunar calendar, Ramadan will fall in different seasons depending on the year. Over the course of our lives, we have the opportunity to experience fasting during long summer days and short winter days.
And how do you prepare?
Fortunately, the physical side doesn’t tire me out at the moment. However, as I get older, I may have to monitor the food that I am eating and keep in good shape so that it doesn’t slow me down. To prepare for Ramadan, I usually fast for one or two days beforehand and spend more time in the mosque praying (Covid-19 permitting).
Can you remember your first fasting experience, the challenges you faced and how this evolved over time?
I must have been around 9 or 10-years-old when I first started fasting. It was during winter and we usually start fasting at around 7am and break at 4:30pm. At that age, I could easily manage all day without eating as I was distracted by playing with my friends. The challenges came as I got older, with more responsibilities in the day, despite my body being more equipped to fast.
During my time at university, fasting started during exam season (May) with a 4am start and 8pm finish. This was extremely tough as it was hard to focus, my brain wouldn’t settle on anything and it was so hard to sit there struggling to concentrate. I would say it is easier to manage in the physical prime years as our bodies are a lot more resilient, before taking on further life stresses.
Why is Ramadan important to you?
It is an amazing feeling knowing that there are around one billion people across the world who are also fasting and there is a real community feel to it. I believe there’s a lot of forgiveness from God and good actions are acknowledged and rewarded greater. I can drop a bad habit and then pick up a better one which is a personal accomplishment, as it's about bettering yourself.
Ramadan is a real time for growth. There will always be someone who has achieved more but it’s not about comparisons, it’s about asking yourself the question: 'Are you doing more than you once did? Or are you doing less of something than you once did?' I truly believe a person is never too far gone because there is always room for improvement, it’s about self-awareness.
How does fasting affect your working/personal life?
Focus is key for me. For the first two days of Ramadan this year, I was fully immersed in my work, I couldn’t get up and snack, which is the main reason I tend to get up from my desk. Because I was unable to eat or drink, I really focused on work. After the first week of Ramadan is complete, it gets tougher, but I am lucky that my job isn't physically challenging. I sit down all day at work, so it's more mentally demanding.
When I was younger, during the time of fasting I would try and live as normal a life as possible, whether it was attending university, work, late dinners or basketball practice. Then I realised I didn’t need to try to fit in and do what I normally do, I can take a month off and I also discovered I didn’t have to be out with friends all the time. It was good to be alone or spend time with family during that month.
How have you been finding Ramadan while working at Acre?
Working from home has really helped while fasting during Ramadan and I am lucky that this flexibility will continue moving forward. Starting at Acre has been really good, everyone’s been super nice and welcoming. Some of my friends have a football table in their office and go out for Friday drinks, but the main perk of my job is that I'm really happy working and while many people claim to have nice colleagues, the team at Acre go way beyond that.
If you could teach others one important thing about Ramadan, what would it be?
I firstly want everyone to understand that it isn’t a punishment, it is a privilege. Over the years, a lot of people have said to me ‘I’m sure you’ll be glad once Ramadan is over with’ or ‘You must be glad you don’t have to fast anymore’. For me, yes, it is a relief in a way but overall, it is a huge blessing to have been able to experience what is a holy month. It is a blessing to have made it from one Ramadan to another, we should all appreciate that we have made it from one day to another no matter who we are.
I have also adjusted to normal day-to-day life, and I am very comfortable about being with people at lunchtime and them eating and drinking around me. I want them to continue their day as normal. It is an opportunity for growth. In everyday life, everything is so instant and easy, we can have anything we want at the click of a button. When we stop indulging in every desire we have, we achieve a greater sense of control. This is where bringing yourself closer to faith through abstinence, represented by food and water, comes from. If I said yes to everything I want, there would be no discipline or control. It is really a golden opportunity to better myself and bring myself closer to my faith. So, when that opportunity is gone, I must wait another 11 months for it again.
For more resources and information on Ramadan please click here.