Dubai: The past few weeks have been challenging for Muslim healthcare professionals and other essential workers. Despite working longer hours and putting themselves at risk of getting exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19), they’re still managing to fulfill their duties and religiously observe fasting during Ramadan.
Speaking to Gulf News, Jordanian expat Hiba Sabobeh, an urgent care nurse at NMC Specialty Hospital-Al Ain, said: “We are in the frontline encountering numerous critical cases related to COVID-19. During Ramadan, I work 10 to 12 hours a day depending on the situation.”
“There can be immense stress at work in terms of patient health and safety as well as our personal safety. It has always been a challenge donning a complete PPE (personal protective equipment) suit for over 10 hours while fasting,” Sabobeh added.
But healthcare workers like Sabobeh have managed to find a balance between work and faith.
“Sometimes, I hardly find time to fulfill my prayer duties on time during my period of work,” said Saboheh, adding: “But I remember Allah always in my thoughts.”
“At the end of the day, it is satisfying to fulfill my job responsibilities as a frontliner and a Muslim by balancing my work and faith,” she proudly underlined.
Getting through with the challenges has also been made less difficult with the support of colleagues, Saboheh noted.
Going the extra mile
A colleague of Saboheh, Dr Ashraff Al Othman, consultant orthopedic at NMC Specialty Hospital-Al Ain, for his part, said: “The usual mosque prayers during Ramadan are missed so much because of the precautionary measures against COVID-19. But like my colleagues, I also manage to pray at home after my eight to 10 hours of work.”
“Most of our time is now spent with patients and we cannot make them wait for long, considering the safety of other patients and staff. Hence, we go the extra mile to ensure that we complete our work at a faster pace,” Al Othman pointed out.
“This Ramadan has been different in many aspects. Unlike previously, where we would dedicate maximum time to our prayers, we have spent the majority of our time in the protection of our patients and staff now,” he added.
“Iftars with friends and family have also been curtailed in order to keep them safe. I generally try to keep myself away from them,” he continued.
Not breaking the fast with friends
For Muslims, breaking the fast together is a very important religious observance. And this is what Pakistani taxi driver Hashim, 26, misses most this Ramadan.
“During previous years, my friends and I would go to mosques to sit together and share iftar meals. We also used those times to strengthen our bonds and share personal stories of how our day had passed. But now we avoid big gatherings and eat iftar meals separately,” he said.
Hashim, however, said he has never failed to fast during Ramadan. “Fasting while working is my form of prayer. I also listen to radio broadcasting the Holy Quran while I’m on duty so I can meditate on the holy verses,” he added.
His friends are also fasting and they support each other by encouraging everyone to continue fasting for the whole month despite the challenges.
Ghulam Mutraza, a chef at at an Ajman hotel, told Gulf News: “I am working for shorter hours during this period but on split shifts – from 1pm-4pm and from 12am-2am. I usually have suhour between 2.30am to 4.15 am, then say my morning prayers. Afterwards, I go to sleep at 5am to gain energy for my day’s work.”
“I break my fast and eat iftar with my colleagues at our staff cafeteria, followed by the prayers. During Ramadan, I pray five times a day and make it a point to connect with my family and loved ones back home in Pakistan by calling or chatting with them,” he narrated.
Mutraza added work is more this Ramadan because of the pandemic. He said: “We have stringent hygiene and sanitation measures in the hotel because of COVID-19. We have stepped up our food preparation and cleaning procedures, including wearing of face masks and checking of temperature before going to work.”
But despite the odds, Mutraza said he finds it fulfilling to be able to serve as an essential worker during this challenging time.
He added: “I consider myself to be fortunate as I am able to work and do my share within my capability and talent.”