For Tabinda Zuberi in Pakistan, Ramadan is a chance to make lasting memories. Zuberi and her daughters, Eeshal, 7, and Zimal, 1, enjoy Ramadan (pronounced “Ramazan” in Pakistan) and look forward to Eid al-Fitr — the dayslong celebration that marks the end of the holy month of fasting and reflection.
“Wearing beautiful traditional clothes, applying henna, cooking for sweet dishes, a lot of parties, family feasts and ton[s] of photographs from the occasion to cherish forever is how we spend our Eid,” says Zuberi, a local employee of the U.S. Mission to Pakistan.
Zuberi, who works at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as a community engagement specialist, is among the many U.S. Mission to Pakistan employees celebrating Ramadan April 2–May 2 with friends and family for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic limited celebrations.
On April 1, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wished Muslims worldwide a blessed Ramadan. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has made gathering difficult over the past two years, I’m hopeful that this year allows for more in person reunions and a deeper sense of connection for all,” he said.
The United States has enjoyed bilateral relations with Pakistan for 75 years, since 1947, the year of Pakistan’s independence. The countries’ partnership is based on strong people-to-people ties, with over 500,000 Pakistanis living in the United States.
The United States and Pakistan partner on priorities ranging from cultural preservation and public health to education and the environment.
The U.S. government first observed Ramadan in 1805 when President Thomas Jefferson hosted a Muslim foreign dignitary at the White House for iftar, the ceremonial meal when Muslims break the day of fasting.
During Ramadan, Shahan Shad combines spiritual reflection and worship with gatherings with friends for the early morning sehri and sunset iftar meals.
“The variety of food at sehri and iftar makes it more colorful and blessed,” says Shad, who works in the human resources office at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. “I gather all my family, colleagues and friends at different places for sehri and iftar, which creates a great sense of harmony in this blessed month.”
Gulshan Batool and her family spend evenings during Ramadan distributing iftar dinner to those in need. The day of fasting enhances the sense of satisfaction she feels from serving her community.
“Ramadan is a time of compassion and helping others,” says Batool, who works in the community engagement office at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. “Fasting for 30 days helps us reflect and teaches us to remain patient and understand what underserved communities go through when they don’t have a meal at the end of a day.”
The Department of State upholds equal employment opportunity principles and allows religious accommodations. This means that employees observing Ramadan can request adjustments to their workday schedules and seek opportunities for paid leave to attend prayers or other religious services. It also encourages supervisors to remain flexible in setting schedules during the holy month while still meeting work requirements.
Mosaic, a State Department employee organization, also takes steps to promote diversity and inclusion and support Muslim employees who are observing Ramadan. Mosaic advises supervisors to create space at work for reflection and prayer.