Published in  
October 12, 2020

Struggling with Exams in Ramadan

Dad: Do you have enough money to last you this Ramadan?
Me: Hmm..
Dad: What happened? Did you have Suhoor?
Me: Couldn’t wake up last night.
Dad: What? Why? How are the fasts going?
Me: Alhamdulilah good. But I can’t even put in 4 hours of serious study with the exams round the corner. Others are averaging like 24/7.
Dad: Wait, but how many around you are actually fasting AND studying? One? None? Doesn’t matter what others do. You work to your capability and leave the rest to Allah. We don’t want you losing any more weight.


So, I find this conversation in my Ramadan 1437 archives and can’t help but ponder over it.

I recall feeling super low about how I couldn’t give my best either in Deen or Dunya at that point of time. About how my elaborate time-table (make that plural) designed to chase Ihsaan was now, failing to work. How I was constantly trying to do justice to even the Fardh Salah, and on the same days, trying not to doze over Grey’s Anatomy text. How I felt I had no one to share this self-concocted depression and anxiety with. How I made and remade “productive” charts that tracked my movements for every single minute too. How my sleep cycle turned into exhausted naps, my basic Ibadah into struggle, my dark circles into dark pits. How I floated in an unsettling guilt gnawing away at my peace, forcing me to choose between extra Qur’an time or study revision. How I would cry in dua cause Ramadan meant 30 days of absolute, wholesome, uninterrupted worship (back in Saudi Arabia, they used to give the month off), not some event I had to make time for in my social calendar.

But somewhere along the way, over a span of 5 years, ticking off experience, self-help Islamic portals, maternal advice etc, I learnt of THREE fundamentals to dealing with my dilemma. One simple triad of firm beliefs is all it took to sail me through those study revisions, the extra Ibadah or the urge to walk out. Let me share them with you InshaAllah:


1. Faith in Allah

“Allah intends for you ease..”
So do not make matters difficult for yourself. Work smart to ace those finals AND make the most of Ramadan.
Do not set unrealistic goals that end up demotivating yourself. Do not nurture a wavering faith and excessive self-doubt. Do not compare your efforts with others and trivialize your own progress.
Every time you get a panic attack or feel hangry (hungry+angry) at yourself, say aloud, “Ya Rabb, THIS is for you.” (It actually works. The struggle seems auto-belittled).


2. Faith in You

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…”
Now, this is the best part. I was perhaps, one of the very few (if not the only one) in my batch of 70 students toiling in this phase. I happened to come across this ayah and realized that my struggle was mine alone and so was my reward from Allah. He has custom-designed this trial for you because HE KNOWS YOU CAN MAKE IT, and perhaps not others. Doesn’t that make you feel special enough?


3. The Reward

You may not receive it today or tomorrow or even the next year. You may not feel spiritually uplifted as you had hoped to. You may not even score the highest in your finals. But it’s essential for you believe that there’s ajar (reward). To believe in ajar is to believe in the ghaib (unseen). There’s already this insurmountable reward for fasting in Ramadan for His Sake. Add to that your struggle to excel in academics for His Sake and the good keeps piling up.

End of the day, it is just a matter of reversing your thought process. No matter how hot the day is, no matter how many exams you need to crack, no matter how little you had for Suhoor, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, as a matter of faith, strongly believe that this month will be easy!

– Rasha Abdul Aziz

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