Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, community and increased charity. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink (including water) from sunrise to sunset. Muslims are encouraged to eat a meal before dawn, and then break the fast immediately after sunset. The fast is traditionally broken by eating dates and drinking water. Each year, Ramadan moves back by 10 or 11 days. Over time, this allows Ramadan to fall within every season of the calendar year. Eid-al-Fitr, or Eid for short, is the first day of the following month and marks the end of Ramadan. Eid festivities can be held for up to three days.
This Ramadan, our Cincinnati consultant, Anuja Agnihotri sat down with a few of our Washington, D.C. consultants, Ahmed Chaudhary, Nabil Kaiser and Omar Khedr, to hear about why Ramadan is important to them and how they plan to celebrate Eid.
Can you talk a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
Omar: I’m originally from Egypt. I spent most of my childhood until my early 20s growing up in Cairo with a large extended family. I moved to the US in 2011 (after the Egyptian revolution) and have been here ever since.
Nabil: My family is of Pakistani origin but I’m a first-generation American having been born in Texas. I spent the first half of my childhood in Blacksburg, Virginia while my father was a professor at Virginia Tech, before our family moved to the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. After college and graduate school, I moved around to a few different states then settled down back in Virginia with my wife and 3 kids.
Ahmed: I was born and raised in Pakistan. I also lived for some time in the Middle East before moving to the US for my undergrad. I have been living here ever since. Outside of work, I spend most of my time playing sports, particularly cricket. I play in multiple leagues throughout the DMV area.
Why is Ramadan important to you? What do you do to observe Ramadan?
Omar: I’ve been fasting for as long as I can remember – ever since I was a child. Typically, I break my fast with a date and some soup, then I move on to the good stuff! Ramadan is a time when people love to get together so I’ll often find myself invited by friends / inviting friends for us to all break fast together. It’s an experience I cherish, and I love to take the time to connect with people, especially during that month. At a certain point in time, I was wary of fasting and the repetitiveness of it but (slowly) I started to appreciate the real intent behind fasting – appreciating what you have, appreciating your friends and family, and giving to those in need.
Ahmed: Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, which form the basis of how Muslims live their lives. This month allows all Muslims, including me, to devote themselves to their faith and come closer to Allah.
Ahmed, you mentioned you are in a cricket league and love doing CrossFit. How do you manage doing that while fasting during Ramadan?
Ahmed: I still try to stay active throughout the month, obviously not as much as I would normally be. I still play on the weekends while fasting (I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone) — for me the key is to stay hydrated the night before. It does take a few days for the body to adjust but a stronger faith compensates for it.
How would you like SEI to support and engage colleagues like you and the larger community during Ramadan?
Nabil: The month of Ramadan is more than just practicing self-control through fasting – charity is at its heart. Fasting is a way to remind us of the struggles that many who don’t have access to food and water go through. The best support that we could ask for from SEI is supporting the charities and causes that are a focus for us during this month.
Ahmed: There are two pieces to it: Internally, SEI already does a phenomenal job by giving Consultants autonomy to manage their day-to-day activities. It comes in very handy, especially during the month of Ramadan. I have adjusted my working hours based on my energy level during the day. Secondly, we need to create more awareness collectively to take the time to get to know our coworkers, classmates, and neighbors who are Muslim and observe Ramadan.
How will you celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr this year?
Nabil: This year for Eid-Al-Fitr I’ll be traveling to Miami to celebrate with my brother and his family, and my parents. Eid is a celebration typically spent with family, but because of Covid we haven’t been able to celebrate together for some time.
Ahmed: I plan on taking the day off and attending morning prayers. Going to rejoice with food and drink and spend time with family and relatives.
Omar: My sister is going to be visiting me from Houston over Eid-Al-Fitr this year, which I’m really looking forward to. I have a very close relationship with my sister and can’t wait to be able to spend such a special holiday / celebration with her.
What have you enjoyed the most about being part of SEI?
Nabil: The culture of SEI is what sets it apart from others. What resonates with me the most, and what I tell prospective candidates about, is the camaraderie, collaboration, and continuous improvement. It’s been refreshing to work in a community of peers that are always looking to help out instead of seeing each other as competitors — all while continually looking at how we can do things better and not settling for what’s been done in the past as being good enough.
Omar: I know this is probably the most common answer out there but it’s truly the PEOPLE! I’m new to SEI but have been absolutely astounded by how accommodating, friendly, and helpful everyone has been. There’s a genuine interest and care in each other’s well-being as well as a strong sense of camaraderie among the team.
What excites you the most about SEI’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion journey?
Nabil: The fact that SEI is not only acknowledging DE&I challenges and opportunities but doing something actionable about it is incredible. You often hear about organizations who talk the talk but with little action behind them. It’s great to know that our leaders actively support this journey.
Omar: I’ve worked for a few companies prior to joining SEI and have been amazed by how important and emphasized DE&I initiatives are here. It’s great to see that the organization really cares and does everything possible to ensure that the culture here is accepting and inclusive.
Ahmed: SEI provides the right ingredients from a DE&I perspective by allowing us to work together as one team with a focus on growing our organization. The best part is how DE&I is woven into every element of our business model — whether it’s our culture, our recruiting efforts, or our business development approach.
For those observing Ramadan, SEI hopes you had a blessed Ramadan and we wish you and your loved ones Eid Mubarak.