Should exams clash with Ramadan?

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With Bristol students now having received their results for the summer exams, Afrida Hussain reflects and questions how Ramadan might affect exam season for muslim students.

There is no doubt that exam season is one of the most dreaded periods of student life. For many, sleepless nights, physical and mental exhaustion are only a few of the difficulties we experience during this time. But in recent years for Muslims, this stressful period has also coincided with the holy month of the Islamic calendar - Ramadan.

For those unaware, Ramadan is a time of abstaining from food and water from dawn to sunset. This means Muslim students that fast in the UK have no food or water for an average of 19 hours a day, all while trying to revise and endure all the other baggage that comes with exam season. It is no easy feat, but God reassures us in the Quran by saying ‘Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bare’. This gives comfort to many that any hardship or difficulty faced in life by an individual will be one which that person has the ability to deal with.

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Epigram / Afrida Hussain

Nevertheless I do sometimes wish that the University was more aware of Ramadan, and I’m sure my fellow Muslims also have similar sentiments. There are mixed opinions as to how the university should react to this month when it coincides with exams. I have heard some fellow Muslims talk about how they would be happy if they received extenuating circumstances- with no food and water, hot weather and revision, other students wish exam dates could be changed around so they do not fall in Ramadan. I have also heard of other perspectives: some students mentioned that they find it useful having Ramadan during exam season, since they do not have to worry about cooking and eating during the day and have more time to revise. These students say they benefited from the community feeling during Ramadan, though others felt isolated and low on energy.

With results having been released, I asked first years, second years and those about to graduate about their experiences of fasting during exams. The responses were positive and perhaps support my own feelings. Although my exams did not fall in Ramadan this year - they did last year - I can most definitely relate to the experiences of these students. One student went as far as mentioning that he would not have got as much revision done had he not been fasting; he received a first class degree in chemistry. Another student put it simply: ‘food distracts me’.

One student mentioned that he would not have got as much revision done had he not been fasting; he received a First-Class degree in chemistry

Clearly, there are many different views and experiences faced by all these students. Perhaps the university management could wish Muslim students ‘Ramadan Mubarak’, and send emails of support and encouragement; maybe personal tutors could offer support and discuss plans on how students were going to fit their revision schedules around Ramadan. Social media support is also very powerful: helping Muslims and supporting them with words of encouragement from large groups can go a long way.

As a Muslim I believe that God or Allah (in Arabic) created the entire universe, me and you, and for Allah nothing is impossible. Doing well in exams can be achieved through careful planning, preparation and lots of prayers. I believe that God is powerful, and he describes himself as having ‘power over all things’. I truly believe in this. When everything in life can be seen to work in your opposition, the merciful God helps you in ways you cannot imagine. I believe that, for a God who created the skies so perfectly, the trees, the stars and the moon, for him helping me and my fellow Muslims to do well in exams is nothing. It’s a small feat for God!

However, as Muslims we are told not only to put our trust in God but to work very hard. We are taught to do whatever we can within our capability and then put our trust in God that he will give you what is best for you. Ramadan is not easy, exams are not easy, but I believe anything worth having is not easy to achieve.

Featured Image: Epigram / Afrida Hussain


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