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Happy Ramadan! A Message from the Salaam ERG at Ubisoft Toronto

April 20, 2021
4 minutes read
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Happy Ramadan!

With the new year, Ramadan is upon us once again! My name is Kareem El-Baradie, Production Coordinator on Far Cry 6 and Global Lead of the Salaam Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Ubisoft. Salaam is an employee group dedicated to empowering all who identify as Middle Eastern or North African at Ubisoft. With nearly 2 billion people celebrating Ramadan over the next 30 days (April 2- May 2) we wanted to celebrate the importance and value this month has to many members of our community. One of our goals as an ERG is to increase the cultural competency of the video game industry. Our hope is that through sharing our personal experiences we collectively gain a greater understanding and respect for all cultures and faiths. With this knowledge we can make an effort to promote inclusivity across our games.

To share more about Ramadan, I will be answering some commonly asked questions:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the month in the Islamic calendar in which Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamad, peace be upon him (PBUH). Based on the lunar cycle, the calendar doesn’t correspond with the Gregorian calendar and moves up 11 days each year. It is one of the holiest months of the year in Islamic faith, and is tied to one of the core beliefs in which Muslims, if able to, are required to fast each day of that month. Fasting in this instance means the act of not eating or drinking anything, including water from sunrise to sunset.

When sunset comes around and it’s time to break our fast, it’s tradition across many families and communities to come together. Throughout my life these have been memories I have cherished. As a child, my best friends and their families would have a BBQ every weekend at a local park. It’s hard to forget the dichotomy of running around in eager anticipation before we break our fast, to lazily laying on the grass in a food coma afterwards. As I got older my self-control improved, if only slightly. Now at gatherings we tend to lazily sit around before and after the meal enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on why we fast.

Why do Muslims fast?

There are many reasons why we fast, but some of the most important ones are:

  • Spiritual reflection and heightened religious devotion. By choosing to not eat or drink, we are actively reaffirming our commitment to our faith. With the busyness of our lives, spirituality often falls by the wayside, but trust me, having an empty stomach makes it the first thing on your mind.
  • Self-improvement. The goal of Ramadan is to not only abstain from food or drink through the day, but all “impurities” – it’s a process to cleanse the soul. Sinful speech such as swearing, and harmful action against others, are some of the things Muslims must refrain from to not risk breaking their fast. The goal is to take that energy and channel it into kind actions and donations.
  • Charitable action and donation; a very important component of Ramadan. Without food or water, the gift of its availability becomes clear. The knowledge that at any time you can run to the kitchen to eat or drink makes you appreciate that millions around the world do not have that privilege. For this reason, charity is encouraged, especially during Ramadan.

Given the rigorous nature of Ramadan, fasting isn’t compulsory for those who are physically unable to do so. Those who are elderly, pregnant, travelling long distance, or have health needs are exempt from fasting. In my younger years fasting was a lot easier. I remember playing basketball in the scorching heat at lunch during school and attending swim practice afterwards. Now that I’m older I tend to move as little as possible to reserve my energy.

What comes after Ramadan?

The end of Ramadan is celebrated through Eid Al-fitr, which translates to “Celebration of Breaking Fast”, one of two major Islamic Holidays. Many Muslims equate it to Christmas, and when I was a kid Ramadan was right around the same time. Eid Al-fitr and Christmas share many traditions. Gifts are given out, families come together, and there are plenty of sweets to go around… but no tree, unfortunately (I was always jealous of that part). Growing up in the U.S and having Ramadan in the winter was a special experience as it felt like the whole world shared in the Holiday Spirit.

Growing up my parents would wrap and hide gifts from us. My sisters and I made it our life’s purpose to sniff them out before Eid. Our investigative prowess made it clear that there was no way they could be from Santa Claus. I was so proud of this acquired knowledge when I was a 1st grader that I broke the news to my classmates and got sent to the principal’s office. From that day on I was sworn to secrecy and kept the knowledge with me till the news broke out in 4th grade.

Ramadan at Ubisoft

While one benefit of working from home is that Ramadan has become a lot easier to practice without people walking around with food or standing by the water fountain, please do not feel like you have to tiptoe around those who are fasting! It is a commitment we make with ourselves and working through its unique challenges is part of what makes this month special.

That being said, if you manage someone who is fasting, please consider asking them if they prefer adjusting their work hours or if they need any additional support.

Thank you for giving your time to learn more about our traditions and culture.

– Kareem

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