Preparations for the holy month of Ramadan
Sunday, May 01, 2016
When I joined Khidmah one of the first proposals and awarded contracts I had the privilege to mobilise was for over 200 mosques in the western region of Abu Dhabi. The contract was awarded 10 days prior to the holy month of Ramadan and stretched our resources with all hands on deck to ensure maintenance was under control. That first Ramadan tested our team but also taught us many lessons that we were able to use in future years as part of our preparation. So here are some of my lessons learnt and considerations with the Facilities Management of mosques and in particular in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan and Eid.
Understanding what mosques are used for and how this effects FM Plans
While it may seem common sense that mosques are used for prayer it is also important to understand in more detail prayer timings and how Salaat (prayer) is conducted five times during the day. Organising manpower timings around prayer times is important especially as the timings shift during the year and this is something many companies struggle with. The importance of conducting ablution or wudu where Muslims will wash their hands, mouth, nose, arms and face to prepare for prayer is vital to understand. As a FM provider, the importance on having spare mixers, shattafs and even pumps cannot be underestimated. Regular checks by onsite cleaners prior to prayer times will ensure repairs can be made to not interrupt those attending the mosque.
Understanding Mosque design and the difference between types of mosques
It is also important to know the layout of the mosque and to ensure operational plans are tailored to meet those requirements. Mosques can vary in design and size from a caravan in the middle of a desert to a Juma Mosque in a township. Juma mosques are busiest on Friday and should be always well prepared at the end of the week. Juma mosques will most often have the largest minarets, a prominent Mihrab and large domes signifying the vaults of heaven and prayer rooms built for a large number of Muslims attending Salaat-ul-Jumma (Friday Prayer). There may also be external areas and larger designed areas of for ablution. Female prayer rooms also need to be prepared around prayer timings. Identifying what features each mosque has will ensure the methodology can be tailored not only based on asset lists and planned maintenance but will also consider accessibility to high work areas and resources required to carry out work during times where prayer is not occurring.
Preparing for Ramadan and Eid
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims will fast during the day and then break their fast at sunset. Additional prayer timings and an increase in visitors will occur especially in the lead up to the Laylat al-Qadr or the night of power which is considered the holiest night of Ramadan. Many activities will occur during the month with the community hosting meals at the mosque both for Iftar and Suhour. It is important for FM teams to be part of this charity and each year the Khidmah management team hosts a number of dinners across the UAE for our technicians that is attended by our management.
Prior to Eid al Fitr being declared to mark the end of Ramadan it is important that FM’s know all the locations for Eid prayers. Many of the locations are external and are not used throughout the year and may not even form part of the contract. Preparation is more intense with many assets laying unused for the year so preparation should occur well in advance.
It is advisable to resource your technical team with Muslim staff who can not only take part in prayer in mosques but also understand considerations such as ensuring to not wear shoes inside. It is important to understand the challenges your team have during the Holy month of Ramadan when fasting and ensuring planned maintenance is done early prior to mid-morning. A second shift can then be incorporated just prior to Iftar. Cross training of onsite cleaners in not only detecting and raising reactive requests but also in fault minimization will add value to the services delivered and reduce downtime of the facilities.
It is important that Imam’s are met well prior also to discuss with them what their plans are for the holy month. In the second year of operation we were able to use visitor data to make changes to electrical and HVAC infrastructure to ensure additional cooling could be applied during the largest prayer timings especially with Ramadan occurring during the Summer months. It was important to ensure upgrades of infrastructure occurred all the way to the utility provider to ensure no services tripped. Additional changes can be made to prolong the life of assets such as ensuring more robust mixers are used in ablution areas with push buttons and aerators to reduce total water consumption.
The holy month of Ramadan is a special time not only for Muslims but also the entire population of the United Arab Emirates. I always encourage FM’s, even if they are not Muslim, to try fasting to better understand the journey their technicians are taking and also to attend iftar with them. It is a time of reflection, detoxification and charity that encourages us to look after one another. It is a time that I always look forward to every year and I am humbled that my team can support in the preparation of Mosques for the holy month.
(The blog is written by Ryan Darnell, the Executive Director-Facilities Management, Khidmah for FM Today Magazine)