Employee Spotlight: Fasting, Faith are Key Tenants of Ramadan Holiday
Walser employees Hassan Ghandour and his sister Dania El Ghandour pose for a photo outside Walser Nissan Wayzata
Hours before General Manager Hassan Ghandour is opening the doors to Walser Nissan Wayzata, the dealership he operates, he’s starting his day on a spiritual level.
Ghandour is currently observing Ramadan, the month-long religious holiday of Muslims. Ramadan, which began on April 2, is a holiday centered around fasting, prayer, and being around loved ones. For one month, millions of Muslims worldwide abstain from eating or drinking even a sip of water between the hours of sunup to sundown. The holiday also requires prayer five times a day. It’s a practice Ghandour has known all his life.
“It’s like my body is programmed for it. It’s like flipping a switch. One day you’ll be eating normally, and then the next you’re fasting, and it’s like, ‘Okay, yeah, you’re done now.’,” he said.
While there are many Islamic holidays throughout the year, Ramadan is considered the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. It’s a time of self-reflection and an opportunity to count one’s blessings.
“The fasting is a way to be reminded of [Ramadan’s] purpose and why we do it. To feel with the poor, because a lot of people don’t have running water, don’t have access to food. There is so much we take for granted,” he said.
Ghandour has first-hand experience with that perspective. He emigrated with his family to the United States from Lebanon in 2005.
“They pretty much get electricity for four hours a day. Here, if we trip a breaker and we don’t have lights for two minutes, we kind of freak out. If the internet goes down, it’s like, ‘Why is the Internet so slow?’. You just remind yourself, you know, how lucky we are to have what we have.”
Dania El Ghandour, Ghandour’s sister, echoed those sentiments. She said Ramadan is also a time to avoid other negative behaviors like gossiping or lying.
“If you’re angry about something, instead of yelling or whatever, I’m going to just take a step back, you know, remember that I’m fasting. Be calm and take a different approach,” she said. “It’s more of a daily reminder, to just kind of behave, you know? Be the best version of yourself.”
El Ghandour also works for Walser remotely as a Phone Specialist in the Business Development Center (BDC). She hopes sharing more about Ramadan will create greater awareness around fasting and what the holiday means.
“I think it’s just being aware of the Muslims around you. Be aware of your Muslim peers and know that they are not eating or drinking at this time,” she said. El Ghandour said while she has no problem declining food or water or having conversations about Ramadan, that awareness makes it easier.
Ghandour agrees that increased awareness over time has evolved into more overall support.
“When we used to talk about Ramadan, I would say 95% of my coworkers, customers, everyone, would be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what that is.’ But with social media, more people are open to knowing about it. It made me feel good that my coworker sent me a text on the first day of Ramadan saying, ‘Happy Ramadan,’” he said. “It was so nice of him to remember.”
Both siblings said it’s not offensive or rude to ask someone about Ramadan or being Muslim if one’s heart is in the right place. In fact, Ghandour said, it’s a great way to learn more about each other beyond regular work conversations.
“A lot of times, car people are only thinking about cars, cars, cars. We kind of have that narrow tunnel vision. But when you start adding little flavors to it, all of a sudden people feel like this is an inclusive place. There’s a person like me working here, or someone who believes in the same thing, or is the same color as me,” he said. “You have that more broadened horizon and everyone can feel like they’re welcome.”
Ghandour said he recently went to a fish fry with a group of his teammates during the season of Lent. A simple conversation about why fish fry dinners happen on Fridays during the Lenten season led the team to a restaurant in Dayton where they shared a meal together.
“I just started asking about it. And I always look at it like that. I’m going to ask people what I don’t know about because I’m curious. I want people to ask me the same thing if they’re curious,” he said.
The holy holiday of Ramadan ends on May 2.