Ramadan, the most sacred and spiritual time of the year.
The highlight of our year, the month which we all so eagerly await. Exam season, however? Let’s just say it’s the complete opposite.
Many of you, including me, will be sitting exams during Ramadan this year. Exam season is hard enough, with all the revision, planning, and stressing, but combined with the long hours of fasting and Taraweeh prayers, it can be difficult to balance the two.
Having sat my GCSE and A-level exams during Ramadan, I know exactly how challenging and stressful this time of year can be. It’s easy to start dwelling on the hardships of having Ramadan and exams simultaneously, but have we ever stopped to consider the fact that this may not be so bad after all? That in fact, this combination is the biggest blessing we could receive from Allah; during this time in which we are so in need of his compassion and mercy?
Many people contemplate whether they should fast whilst sitting exams, as they feel that it may cause them to lose concentration, and make them feel fatigued and weak.
Some scientific benefits of fasting
Pythagoras, a famous mathematician would fast for 40 days before an examination, and required all his students to fast before joining his class. This is due to the many benefits of fasting, some of which are:
- Increasing the number of brain cells
- Improved memory and cognitive
- Reduced oxidative stress
- Reduced blood pressure
These are only some of the scientific advantages of fasting which have been discovered so far, but as Muslims, fasting has its spiritual benefits too, and it not only affects our body, but also our minds and our hearts.
Fasting and Islam
Rasulullah ﷺ said:
“Whoever fasts a day in the path of Allah, Allah will keep his face at a distance of seventy years from the fire (of Jahannam)” (Bukhari)
“Certainly the breath of a fasting person is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.” (Bukhari)
Now tell me, why would we choose to miss a fast, a fast that is so beloved in the eyes of Allah, an act from which we receive endless rewards? Many of us will want to achieve the highest possible grades we can in our exams, to please both our parents and our teachers. But what about pleasing our Lord? Are our exams worth not gaining Allah’s rewards?
We are so fortunate that Allah’s blessings and mercy are being showered upon us in this holy month and our prayers, which we so desperately ask from Him, are more likely to be accepted as we prepare for our exams.
Allah has chosen us, me and you, to sit our exams during this beloved month, and so for that, we should be eternally grateful.
Ibadah (worship) and Exams
Nabi Muhammad ﷺ said:
إِنَّمَا اْلأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّات
“Verily actions are according to intentions.” (Bukhari)
Yes, that’s right. Provided that we have the correct intention, studying can also become an act of ibadah.
Remember, educating ourselves is also a part of our religion; using the knowledge we gain to help and benefit others.
However, this isn’t to say don’t engage in other acts of ibadah such as reading the Quran, making dhikr and praying in the best state possible, as these acts of worship help cleanse our soul, bringing us closer to our Lord.
It can be difficult to balance worship whilst studying, which is why I’ve come up with some tips to ensure that you make the most of your Ramadan during exam season.
Ramadan and Exams: Some tips
Tip number 1: Alter your routine and plan your day.
During Ramadan, our routine, including our sleeping and eating patterns, automatically change. This is why it’s important to find a routine which works best for you. This means to manage your time wisely.
For example, when your energy is optimal, you can make use of that time to study and revise, and similarly, when you feel your energy is at its lowest. you should rest.
Everyone has additional responsibilities during the day; you may have to go to school, or work, but it’s important that you don’t overload yourself, as your energy levels will be at their minimum.
It’s also a good idea to try and plan your day around Salah (prayer) times and dedicate 10-15 minutes after each Salah to read some Quran or do some other form of Ibadah.
For example, if you’re on study leave you could do most of your revision after Iftar and Sehri, when your body is energised. You could then rest and catch up on your sleep during the day, whilst also doing a bit of revision as well as doing some ibadah.
If you’re still attending school, it’s still a good idea to try and do some revision after Iftar and Sehri, but perhaps add a couple of naps here and there so that you still have some energy for the day. Then once you get back from school, you can catch up on the sleep you’ve lost out on.
But remember, everyone’s days are different, so it’s important to come up with a routine which suits you. To help you plan your revision, I’ve created a blank revision timetable which you can access by clicking here.
Tip number 2: Vary your revision techniques
Revising on a normal day is difficult enough, but revising whilst fasting can be even tougher. This is why it’s worth discovering alternative ways of revision, which will keep you studying for longer.
It’s a good idea to come up with some revision techniques which are easier and quicker to absorb. These can include flash cards, quizzes, posters etc.
It may also be a good idea to make your revision notes after Iftar and Sehri, when you’re feeling energised, and not overwhelmed with hunger. This way, you can then read through condensed, essential notes during the day rather than through long pieces of text like textbooks.
Tip number 3: Take breaks
It can be easy to sometimes get so engrossed into revision that you completely lose track of time, so remember, it’s important to rest, and take breaks every once in a while.
There’s nothing wrong with planning a few breaks into your schedule, and having some time to yourself. In fact, taking regular breaks is shown to increase productivity, and helps you to reduce stress as well as refresh your attention.
Tip number 4: Eat healthily and keep hydrated
Iftar: The moment we all so eagerly wait for at the end of a long day of fasting. I know there’s nothing more we want than to a have a samosa or pakora, but we should be aware of the negative impacts these types of food have on not just our health, but our productivity and energy levels throughout the day.
It’s a good idea to try and plan your meals for the week beforehand, so it’s not too stressful coming up with ideas on the day.
It’s also important to eat your food slowly, as this causes the energy of the food you’re consuming to release a bit slower so that you’re energised for longer.
Last but not least, drink plenty of water between Iftar and Sehri, to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the rest of the day.
Tip number 5: Believe in yourself
Developing a positive mindset during exam season is one of the most important things you can do. It can be difficult to study when you’re not feeling motivated, and when you feel like you just can’t do it (trust me, we all feel like this at some point).
The key to believing in yourself is recognising your own potentials and aims. This means not letting any negative thoughts overtake you.
Always remember, these exams are for no one but yourself, so don’t let other people’s comments affect you in any way, and never ever compare yourself to anyone else. Believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“Believe in yourself. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
The power of Du’a
I just want to end by talking about the power of Du’a.
In the Qur’an Allah Ta’ala says:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me—indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of every supplicant when he calls upon Me […]” (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 186)
Du’a is an act which connects us spiritually with our Lord; an act which we engage in when we feel desperate, in need and alone.
Du’a is an incredible power which many of us do not apprehend the importance of, as it is one the times that we directly speak to our Lord, which sometimes is all we need to calm and rectify ourselves.
Especially at this time of year, during exams, we are so desperate to get the best grades possible, and I believe one of the keys to this is du’a, as well as of course, studying to the best of your ability.
There have been so many cases when I’ve come out of an exam in tears, thinking that I’ve done terribly and let myself down. However, every time I open my results I’m surprised at the outcome: how did I do this well? Then I remember the du’as made by me, my parents and my grandparents.
Remember, du’as can transform your life, so ask from your Lord, especially during this blessed month of Ramadan.
Finally, always keep in mind that at the end of the day it’s not the exams of this world that matter, that determine who we are. Rather, the exam that really matters is the exam for the Aakhirah (hereafter).