We are once again in that blessed time of the year– mosques are cleaned, delicious food is stockpiled at home, and there is a gentle hum of anticipation in the air. This can only mean the advent of Ramadan, the annual gift bestowed upon us by Allah . Whilst some are busy making exciting preparations and competitively discussing how many times they will finish reading the Qur’an, others are left with an understandable knot in their stomachs – how will they get the most out of Ramadan whilst dealing with their exams?
Most establishments take religious festivals into consideration before booking exam dates. Despite this, it is likely that they will stress they are not obliged to arrange examinations around them. Its also worth trying to speak to your exam coordinators to see if they can offer any additional support or input. However, I’ve put together some tips below to help you prepare yourself mentally and practically to deal with Ramadan and your exams and make sure you’re not stressing out about making the most of either of them:
It may not seem like it, but you are one of the lucky ones.
“The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When Allah loves a people, He tests them. Whoever accepts that wins His pleasure but whoever is discontent with that earns His wrath.” [Ibn Majah]
Allah through His infinite mercy is constantly providing opportunities for His slaves to elevate their status. Exams in Ramadan will undoubtedly be difficult, but your burden should be seen as a testament to Allah’s mercy and His will to ensure that you in particular bring out your true potential and capability to succeed.
Know That You Can Handle It
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 286]
Again, your exams are a testament to the favours bestowed upon you in this sacred month! Allah has created you and has also equipped you with the necessary skills, physique and mentality to conquer this mammoth task. You are blessed with abilities not granted to everybody.
At the same time, we must remember and be grateful for the ease in our lives. Ramadan is mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an only once and in the same ayah (verse) Allah mentions:
“Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 185]
Although this is in context of the fasting guidelines for a traveller or somebody who is ill, the statement remains applicable to every trial and tribulation in a man and woman’s life. It is in the month of Ramadan that the Prophet asked 313 men to forsake their wealth, families and potentially their lives for Islam and again requested the same of 30,000 men at Tabuk. More than 1400 years later, there are still men, women and children throughout the world today who will fast in the month of Ramadan while having no shelter or access to healthcare and are being persecuted for testifying to the Oneness of Allah and Muhammad as His messenger, like the millions of Muslim refugees and displaced persons in conflict zones. Many will not know whether they will live to see their families at the end of the day and yet they do not see Ramadan as an added struggle. It is a blessing and mercy of Allah that he has made our most pressing matter a simple examination that carries at the most, negligible value.
Embrace Your Challenge
Only when you acknowledge and understand your task can you begin to prepare for it. No one said it will be easy, but don’t be prepared to settle for anything less than your best. Muslims should strive for perfection in all aspects of life and Ramadan is not an excuse for less than 100% effort. Moreover, it is a chance to excel and be blessed with a higher echelon in this life and the next.
Begin today by taking stock of how much revision you have done and how much you still have to do. This is not a ‘quick 5 minute exercise’. Meticulously scrutinise and plan how you will use the remaining time before your exams to prepare for them. Are there areas where you struggle and will need to dedicate more hours to that particular topic? Are you sufficiently prepared for the exam? What else can you do? Have you sought guidance from senior students who have already sat the exam? Have you practised on past papers? Have you discussed how you can boost your grade with your teacher? This is the precious time that you will wish you spent more wisely if during the examination you have a sweat on your brow!
Work Hard, Work Smart
Start revising early! Work hard and work smart. Waiting until the night before an exam to start revising causes stress, usually provides insufficient time and you fail to reach your potential allowing for mistakes and panic to enter the exam room with you – not what you need for a Ramadan exam. Ignore your colleagues that promote this idea and surround yourself with those with a desire to excel.
Make a revision timetable and then stick to it. The altered hours of eating and sleeping in Ramadan mean preparing ahead is key. A typical Ramadan timetable coupled with exams includes the following basic activities:
- Qur’an recitation
- Dhikr (remembrance of Allah)
- Time with the family
Planning when and how best to perform these activities is absolutely essential if you want to make the most of Ramadan while not compromising on excelling in your exams. Keeping in mind factors like Fajr and Maghrib timings, which days you have exams and which exams will need intensive preparation, chart out your own personalised Ramadan timetable. Create a timetable now and work to perfect it. As Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit’.
Additionally, use smart techniques to make the most of your time and energy during Ramadan and avoid exam panic:
Sleep as early as possible after taraweeh and add in naps to your daytime timetable, you will need to keep your mind fresh and sharp for the exam.
If slumber overtakes you during revision or your eyes are feeling heavy, take a productive break. Recite a page from the Qur’an, perform dhikr in silence to the beat of your own heart, or even listen to a recitation of the Qur’an. If you choose to revise between taraweeh and suhoor and you begin to zone out, use the opportunity to refresh your mind and iman by engaging in one of the most special acts of worship associated with the elite of this ummah – tahajjud (night prayer).
The day of the exam will also require a different timetable. As mentioned, you need to tailor your timetable to your needs and what you feel will be of most benefit to you. A suggestion is that you refresh your mind prior to entering an exam room by getting some air or relaxing with friends. Don’t bury your head in the books just before you enter. This can cause panic and is counterproductive. Yes you may see a new fact that you previously didn’t know, but not only do you not memorise this new point but your panic makes you perform worse than you would otherwise. For a morning exam, I find that if I stop revising a little earlier the night before, I am more focused during the exam.Try to avoid discussing the exam after it has finished. Nothing will change on the exam paper and you will be left until results day, wishing you had put a different answer to the one you wrote. Rather, unwind and relax your nerves by glorifying and thanking Allah for helping you get so far through dhikr like “Subhan Allah”, ‘Alhamdulillah”, “Allahu Akbar”.
Having a wholesome suhoor (pre-dawn meal) is more than vital. Those that don’t eat breakfast cannot function at the same level as those that do. Choose foods that break down gradually and provide energy throughout the day for your suhoor and iftaar meals. At iftaar, don’t pile the fatty food down your gullet. This is against the sunnah of our beloved Prophet and will only increase your fatigue, making taraweeh and waking up for suhoor very difficult.
Have No Regrets
One of the most painful situations for you to find yourself in is being in a state of regret. Regret leads to frustration, which moves to anger, which can create fractured relationships, which can transpire into long term complications and depression. If you give it your best and have made all the preparations possible, then walk out of the exam room smiling. You have done your part and the rest you must leave, as it is for all matters, to Allah . In the words of Umar :
“No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself for the outcome of all affairs is determined by the decree of Allah. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come on your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from you it cannot flee.”
Finally, the month of Ramadan is the most blessed of all months. When the exams are finished and have been sent away for marking, remember that as a Muslim you still have left in your arsenal your most powerful weapon for your success – dua.
About the Author:
Usman Adam is a hafiz and newly qualified doctor. He enjoys writing and is the assistant chief editor of the international medical blog, JPMS. He enjoys socialising with friends and family.