Inclusion Consultant, Aliya, offers advice on how to balance revision and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and gives suggestions for Non-Muslims on how to support your Muslims friends, colleagues etc during this time.
Rushing to finish the third bottle of water before the sun rises, dealing with the mood swings of that one family member at suhoor (if you know, you know) and arguing about who must do the burdensome washup after iftar, is but a small glimpse into the Ramadan experience. But Ramadan is much more than refraining from food and water for a period of time. It’s a lot deeper than that!
What is Ramadan and the reasoning behind it?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is a part of “The Five Pillars of Islam” making it an integral part of the Muslim faith. During this blessed month, Muslims across the globe cannot consume any food or drink (yes, even water!) from sunrise until sunset. We call this period “fasting.” Sexual relations between married individuals are also forbidden between dawn and dusk. This is the only acceptable form of intimacy in the religion. The pre-dawn meal is known most as “suhoor” and the sunset meal is known as “iftar.” The main goal during this holy month is to develop a better, stronger, and closer relationship with Allah (God). We try our best to achieve this by learning more about the religion, reciting and reflecting on the meaning of our religious text, The Quran, and increasing in righteous acts such as giving to charity. The refrainment from acts that are normally allowed for us creates self-discipline which increases our awareness and consciousness of our Lord.
Revision while Fasting- a piece of advice.
One of the main challenges I, and many other Muslim students face is when Ramadan coincides with the exam period. The initial lack of energy may result in difficulty concentrating on assignments and study. Also, having to balance exam preparation with the month where focusing on the spiritual connection with Allah is crucial simultaneously can prove difficult. This often leads to students feeling conflicted on what aspect to prioritise. To be honest, this is something I’ve personally struggled with until recently. What is the answer you may ask? It’s quite simple, yet easier said than done. Good time management and organisation!
The first step is to recognise how and when you as an individual work and revise better. Are you more of a morning worker or a night person like myself? Iftar is when I have the most energy from all the food I’ve eaten and so I find studying after this time works the best for me. I will usually then study until suhoor, and after the morning prayer I’ll get my sleep in. If you are more of a morning person and get super sleepy after iftar like many others, you may benefit from revising after suhoor instead. This means you get some of your sleep time in straight after the night prayer. I believe it’s essential to make sure you get enough sleep to avoid burnout, so please try, and take a nap during the day if you really need to!
I also would recommend planning your Ramadan goals and studies around the different prayer times as this helps build structure and organisation of your day. For example, “From Asr (afternoon prayer) until Maghreb (sunset prayer), I’m going to read two pages of the Quran and reflect upon the meaning, listen to an Islamic lecture/video, and do some flashcards on the nervous system”. Having a set to-do list in-between the different prayers makes revising much easier, without neglecting the value that comes with the month by incorporating your Islamic-related aims.
Respecting and supporting your fellow Muslim colleagues- a drive for inclusiveness
“So, you can’t even have one sip of water, that’s so hard oh my days”, “Come on, just take a bite, no one will know you’ve eaten it”, “I can’t believe chewing gum is off limits as well” are some of few of the many statements and questions Muslims hear nearly every Ramadan. While many Muslims including I, are more than happy to answer innocent questions and educate people on its purpose, some statements may come across condescending and ignorant. It’s important to understand that this time can be challenging for some Muslims and saying some of the statements above do not help the situation. Instead, you can support your fellow Muslim colleagues and friends by giving acknowledgment saying “Ramadan Mubarak”. Trust me, they’ll be impressed! If you’re in halls and have a Muslim flatmate who is fasting, there’s no harm in asking them if they’d like to have iftar with you. It’ll make them feel included especially if they’re fasting on their own for the first time away from family. In summary, Ramadan is significant time for Muslims all over the world which can be challenging for university students with exams. Please try to be more inclusive and considerate during this period.
If you would like to learn more about Ramadan, this article by the Aljazeera is really beneficial.