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Observing Ramadan as a Cyber Security Apprentice at HMRC

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and inclusion, Employee support

Ismail Ghafoor sitting at a desk with 2 laptops and several large screensHi I’m Ismail and I’m a Cyber Security Apprentice. From day one, the apprenticeship has been action packed, making new friends, meeting new colleagues, learning interesting and creepy stuff about cyber criminals and their devious attack methods, going on training courses and continuously building on skills, capability and knowledge.

Studying is part of my apprenticeship. The rest of my time I work in a secure command centre protecting our systems, services, staff and customers from cyber-attacks. No two days are the same, with cyber criminals constantly changing their tactics.

For Muslims, like me, we’ve just had the holy month of Ramadan. That time of year when more than 1.8 billion people fast; abstaining from food and drink from dawn till dusk. Observing my first Ramadan at HMRC hasn’t been an issue for me, as the flexible timing allowed me to balance between my work and my religious duties.

My weekly working hours were reduced from 37 to 25 to 30 hours, with flexibility on how many hours I worked each day. I usually started work after 10am, and depending on how I felt and my workload, I’d finish as early as 3pm or as late as 7pm. I’m a Hafiz (a person who has memorised the Quran), so in the month of Ramadan I lead a prayer called the ‘Taraweeh prayer’ late at night, reciting more than a volume of the Quran from memory. The flexibility of hours really contributed to making work during Ramadan manageable.

I am really appreciative of my team members as they have been extremely supportive. From changing my working hours and covering for me whilst I was off, to reducing my workload to ensure that I wasn't overloaded.

Picture of a sunrise

If you'd like to know more about Ramadan

I’d like to share more about Ramadan for those who don’t observe it, but are interested in understanding it. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. The term Ramadan is derived from the meaning ‘severe heat’ as the month coincided with hot weather. It’s not just a month to starve yourself during the day and make up for it at night. As a Muslim, Ramadan is a religious duty. I am obliged to follow it, and although it may seem a lot to ask to stay away from food and drink for a large portion of the day, the benefits definitely outweigh the temporary hunger.

The main purpose of Muslims fasting all around the world is to control and subdue desires and abstain from sins. Fasting in the month of Ramadan automatically triggers a sense of cautiousness in every action you do. You think twice before doing something; will a certain action hurt somebody’s feelings? Is there any benefit from me doing this? Will I be held accountable for this action? All these self-reviews stem from something called Taqwa, which is an Arabic term, meaning Awareness of Allah. You fast through the whole month focusing on the fact that Allah is observing each and every action of yours and through this acknowledgement, you make each and every action of benefit and good cause.

Ramadan is great for refining your personal character and conduct but the greater benefit is that the poor are thought about and assisted. Muslims use the time to consider those less fortunate and those who can’t fast for medical reasons, offer compensation to the poor as a means of making up for the fast they’ve missed. Having an idea of what the poor go through every single day, creates a sense of appreciation and consideration in your heart. You become grateful for everything you have, whether it’s the roof over your head or access to clean water.

The generosity isn’t just limited to the poor. Fasting makes you appreciate the bounties you are blessed with and by acknowledging your blessings, it ignites a want or a need to share these blessings. Whether it be sharing food with your neighbour or going out of your way to find and feed a homeless person, the generosity a person feels in the month of Ramadan has no boundaries.

Ismail Ghafoor head shotI hope this blog has helped increase understanding of the true beauty and meaningful purpose of Ramadan. I’m grateful to HMRC for supporting me during this time.


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  1. Comment by Zakir Patel posted on

    Excellent blog. Brilliant to hear that you were supported by your colleagues and organisation! Keep up the good work and best of luck with your studies.

  2. Comment by Suzanne Bilbrough posted on

    Great article. The more people know the more they will understand. Delighted you are being supported which means you can undertake your role as a Hafiz - reciting from memory must be a big challenge in itself! I know I am late but Eid Mubarak.

  3. Comment by Gary Smith posted on

    Great article Ismail and beautifully written. HMRC is clearly a leader in government as a supportive employer. Good to see.

  4. Comment by Lyndsay posted on

    Great blog Ismail, really interesting. Good luck with the rest of your studies.

  5. Comment by Al Elliott posted on

    Thanks Ismail - really interesting to learn and understand more about Ramadan and hear that so much good comes from it too.

  6. Comment by Mark Coldbeck posted on

    Thanks for sharing Ismail Ghafoor. Very insightful!