“What, Not Even Water?” A guide to inclusive language during Ramadan

As Ramadan continues, Sabreena Dean encourages companies to embrace a spirit of inclusivity and understanding

Sabreena Dean

Marketing Manager GroupM


Often referred to as the month of fasting for Muslims, Ramadan is also a period of spiritual growth, mental endurance, and reflection. Muslims observe fasting from dawn until sunset, refraining from consuming food and drink during daylight hours for 29 - 30 days.

And despite not being able to indulge in life’s simple pleasures, Ramadan is a time Muslims look forward to every year. Just as spring has sprung, it’s a time to reset, spend time with loved ones, and celebrate one of the most important religious holidays.

For me personally, I love the balance Ramadan brings. Quiet moments mixed with chaos, long periods of fasting turn into short hours of feasting, and the month centres on inner reflection and celebration.

Inclusive Language

There's growing global awareness of diverse cultures and religious customs, and Ramadan stands out as one of them. In 2022, Tesco broke ground by launching its out-of-home (OOH) campaign 'Together, this Ramadan,' focusing on Iftar, the evening meal that signifies the end of daily fasting. It was an authentic celebration and one that generated quite the buzz on social media.

Naturally, with this buzz, came questions. What exactly is Ramadan? Why is it observed? How long is the fasting period? While curiosity is welcome, it's essential to consider the way in which these questions are asked.

As someone working in the advertising industry, I've seen the power of inclusive language first-hand. In our line of work, where communication is key and diversity drives innovation, the way we speak and engage with one another holds power. Inclusive language isn't just about being politically correct; it's about fostering a culture of belonging where every individual feels respected, valued, and heard.

Advertising should be a true reflection of our society, culture and aspirations. It has the power to shape the world around us. We also believe this should be true for those who work in the industry, and we work hard to share resources and information to help our people be allies to many cultures, beliefs, and communities.

Below, I have shared some useful tips around inclusive language, and ways to help you support your Muslim colleagues, friends, or neighbours during this month.

Wish them a Ramadan Mubarak!

Or a Happy Ramadan—whichever way you feel more comfortable saying it. We truly appreciate the thought and gesture more than you know. The standard greeting 'Ramadan Mubarak' translates to 'Have a blessed Ramadan,' while 'Ramadan Kareem' means 'Have a generous Ramadan’.

Not even water?

The phrase we hear every single Ramadan without fail. Yes, we cannot eat or drink anything, not even water. This abstinence is viewed as an act of faith and self-discipline. The fast is then broken each evening at Iftar, which is the meal after sunset during Ramadan.

Temptation doesn’t bother us

We really don’t mind if you eat or drink in front of us. We appreciate your concern for asking—we really do—but it’s ok. Making a big deal out of it in front of your fasting colleagues can actually make things more awkward for them.

Be more considerate

Paired with fasting, Muslims also aim to increase their religious practices, which include praying. Therefore, please be mindful of the times when meetings take place. Your colleagues may need to adjust their schedules, so be aware and respectful of this need. Additionally, encourage your colleagues to take regular breaks throughout the day to remain well-rested and productive.

Why aren’t you fasting?

Refrain from assuming everyone observes Ramadan or adheres to the same practices within the Muslim community. Not all Muslims observe Ramadan, and even among those who do, practices can vary a lot. Some Muslims won’t observe fasts for very personal reasons. So please remain respectful and don’t ask. No one should be made to justify their reasons.

Keep it positive

We know fasting is difficult. That’s the point. So, instead of saying “That must be really hard—even if it's your genuine reaction—instead say “You’ve got this!” or “I really admire your commitment to your faith”. It’s nice to feel supported, and it’s important to remember we choose to do this and find it empowering.

As Ramadan continues, let's embrace the spirit of inclusivity and understanding. By fostering a culture of respect and support, we can ensure that everyone feels valued and included.

Ramadan Mubarak to all those observing!

Guest Author

Sabreena Dean

Marketing Manager GroupM


Sabreena Dean is the Marketing Manager at GroupM UK, leveraging 6+ years of experience in her role. She is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and currently sits within GroupM UK’s employee resource group committee, evolving their approach to fostering a culture of belonging and inclusivity for all employees. Sabreena has achieved the following awards: Marketing Team of the Year by Campaign Magazine and ALF Awards x BD100 Best Marketing Team of the Year in 2023.

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Inclusion Ramadan Holidays