Approximately 1.8 billion people in the world take part in the annual, one-month-long custom of Ramadan.
Ramadan, for those of us who don’t know or are just simply unsure, is the most sacred month in Islamic culture, uniquely marked by a period of fasting and abstinence.
Before delving into how followers of the Quran cope with the difficulties associated with fasting and abstinence, it is important to first understand the purpose of Ramadan.
Historically, the month of Ramadan was meant to honour the passing of the first chapters of the Quran from Allah to the Prophet Muhammad in 610. However, now it is associated more with the personal reflections that come with empathy in sacrifice.
Ramadan (Sawm) serves as the fourth pillar of Islam, and participation in it each year helps them not only commit to Allah, but also unite with other Muslims going through the fast.
The rules and obligations that Muslims have to observe during Ramadan are few, but strict:
- Before fasting each day, Muslims participate in a meal called the suhoor at dawn.
- After the sun sets, families gather for iftar, the end-of-the-day fast-breaking meal. This is usually broken by consuming dates.
- Prayer is, arguably, one of the major components in observing the Islam faith, and additional nightly prayers are to be performed during Ramadan.
- Abstinence from pleasures include sexual activity as well as eating and drinking.
- Women who are pregnant and ill people are examples of Muslims who are exempted from the fast.
Although there are many more rules to adhere to during the holy month, the few shown above are the most integral. (A list of all the rules can be found here.)
Going about one’s daily life while simultaneously abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset is, needless to say, no easy task.
Old habits have to be renewed for more efficient ones. Certain activities have to be forfeited to better accommodate one’s new fasting schedule for the entire holy month.
Ramadan is a month pointedly marked on the Islamic calendar; however, the start and end dates of the custom vary from year to year on the Gregorian calendar.
This year, the holy month began on the 5th of May and lasted until the 4th of June. To the readers out there who have graduated from high school: that’s exactly around the time for finals.
That season is already stressful enough with AP Mocks, consequent AP Exams as well as class finals. To add on that layer of abstinence feels like the icing to a not-so-gratifying cake.
Curious as to what difficulties fasting students have during finals, I interviewed two classmates who’ve participated in Ramadan for years.
SAS high school junior Leena Zitoun shares that she had started strictly participating in Ramadan around her 8th grade year. While she had started to fast from an earlier age, she reveals that children usually “[fast] for a couple of days and then move on” instead of completing the month.
On the contrary, Aqilah Badrulhisham, an SAS high school sophomore, states that she has been a full participant of Ramadan since she was merely nine years old. She identifies fasting as not only “part of [her] religion, but part of [her] culture too.”
When asked about the difficulties that they faced during the fast this year, both students admitted to different hardships that was especially prevalent for them during Ramadan.
The strict schedule of waking up before dawn to eat was Leena’s biggest issue, who explains, “I think it’s hard ‘cuz I have to wake up at like 4 am and then go back to bed and then wake up again. Also it’s really hard after school because it’s towards the end of the day and I get pretty tired.”
Aqilah admits that every year has its own fair share of difficulties, but having to “take a test while being extremely hungry” and trying to concentrate while studying during finals has been a battle.
As school comes to an end and Muslims around the world have completed their fast, Leena and Aqilah have both compiled a list to help other students in the following years on how to deal with the restrictions of fasting.
Start. Work. Immediately.
“You should never take for granted the amount of energy you have at any given time,” Aqilah firmly advises.
The first thing to suffer as a direct consequence of fasting is one’s energy levels. By starting to do homework and studying as soon as one gets home from school, one can take advantage of the natural highs and lows of the body’s fluctuating energy levels.
Pre-Plan Your Day.
“Making a schedule and sticking to it can only benefit you,” Leena affirms.
By planning out hourly tasks, it can keep one focused through the challenges that come with being hungry for a long time. Nevertheless, it is still important to create some leniency, as having an overcrowded schedule can run the risk of tiring one out.
Try To Have Some Regularity.
“If it wasn’t Ramadan, and you would’ve hung out with your friends, then hang out with them,” Leena voices.
Although one’s participation in certain activities will definitely change, it is crucial to maintain a sense of normalcy and consistency throughout the month of Ramadan. This can help distract from the consequences of the fast, as well as ensure that one’s routine does not suffer as much as it might.