“This month really uplifts my mood”

Optometrist Shamina Asif outlines what Ramadan means to her – and shares her tips for newly qualified optometrists observing the month

A woman wearing a brown hijab and dark top with a red pattern smiles at the camera
Shamina Asif
Optometrist Shamina Asif is the founder of pre-registration training provider, Optom Academy.

Alongside working in independent practice, Asif is chair of Dudley Local Optical Committee and a lead assessor for the Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre.

She shares with OT her experience of observing Ramadan while working as an optometrist.

How many years have you observed Ramadan while working as an optometrist?

As an optometrist I have always observed Ramadan whilst working, so it is coming up to 20 years now. I have experienced Ramadan when we have had very long fasts in the summer as well as very short fasts in the winter where I would be opening my fast in between patients.

The AOP has created Ramadan at work guidance for employees and employers. Access the practical measures and tips here


Is there anything you would say to newly qualified optometrists who observe Ramadan when it comes to balancing your working life over the month?

My advice would be to try and take some holiday during Ramadan, especially in the last 10 nights. Speak to your manager about having a shorter lunch so that you can go earlier or start later (the latter might be better to help with sleep). Tell your colleagues about Ramadan at your practice meetings, take some dates or food after Eid, talk about fasting and educate everyone.

At Optom Academy I organised gifts of Palestinian Medjool dates for all my examiners – they all loved the taste of them. This was a great starting point to get everyone talking about Ramadan and discussing the significance of dates.

I even speak to my patients about fasting – they find it interesting and have so many questions. In one optical practice that I used to work at, some of the staff used to try and fast with me, so I would text them at sunrise and sunset – reminding them to eat. They then had a better understanding of fasting. It also helped us bond better as a team.

What are you mindful of when seeing patients who are observing Ramadan? Are there any adjustments that you make for them?

Naturally, we find a lot of patients will not come for their diabetic screening during Ramadan thinking that eye drops break the fast. I do try my best to explain that the fast is not broken by blocking the nasolacrimal duct but some patients are reluctant to have drops and you need to respect their wishes. In that case, you would advise them to have screening after Ramadan or before. With glaucoma drops, I advise them to put them in before sunrise and after sunset so that they are not compromising their eye health.

What is Iftar?

Iftar is the main meal of the fasting day, which occurs at sunset every day of Ramadan.

How do you find observing Ramadan affects your health and mood?

The community and family come together during Ramadan with food being exchanged with neighbours and friends that live in the area. There are Iftars in the mosque with everyone coming together to open their fasts as well as prayers in the night in congregation. The community feeling is amazing and one that I really look forward to. Not only do you get to reconnect socially but it’s great to be trying many different dishes that are being exchanged.

This month really uplifts my mood, as I spend more time spiritually switching off from everything and taking time to connect with God. All our good deeds are multiplied by 70, so I really strive to do as much good in Ramadan and this makes me feel positive.

My health is improved during Ramadan – I don’t feel as tired after lunch when seeing patients, so my concentration is better. I feel like my body has an opportunity to detox and the gut has a rest. I also feel like my time management becomes much better with everything residing around my prayers, opening, and closing fasts and extra time for Islamic reading/reflection. As I am not worrying about what to have for lunch and breakfast, I use that time more constructively.

How do you manage your energy levels at work?

With Ramadan moving back every year into shorter days, I am finding the fasts a lot easier. I haven’t had problems at work – if anything I feel less lethargic after lunch as my stomach isn’t using energy to process food.

When I was fasting in the longer days, I used to shorten my working day by starting later and finishing earlier – my manager was good like that. This meant I managed to catch up on sleep and work just as well as I would any other day.

Watch online: a trio of optometrists share their thoughts on observing Ramadan with OT