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Navigating Ramadan during final exam season

Nazeefa Ahmed, April 22 2022—

As of April 2, 2022,  Muslim students at the University of Calgary will be fasting during what is known as the holiest month of the Muslim calendar — Ramadan. Before sunrise every day, Muslims will eat a heavy breakfast and not eat or drink until after sunset.

This year, however, on top of the physical and spiritual demands of the month, students will also be enduring final exam season. This is the first in-person Ramadan many students have had in two years and there are many supports available at the U of C to make the transition as smooth as possible.  

If students are staying late on campus to study, there will be free Iftars offered every Friday in the Vitruvian Space. The Landing has also been opened before sunrise and after sunset for Muslim students living in residence.

Clubs like the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) will also be hosting Taraweeh prayers for the first time on campus — making it easier to connect with their faith in an academic setting. This club in particular, according to their Instagram, will be “posting educational quizzes throughout Ramadan to facilitate easy learning on different Islamic topics.” 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Zareen Tasnim, a University of Calgary alumna, talked about her experiences with fasting while studying in person before the pandemic.

“Getting rid of distractions was a big thing for me […] I always went on social mEdia to take a ‘break’ from studying but it really helped to change that habit during Ramadan,” she said. “I would prioritize my work in a way so I could use those breaks to nap or finish a task that required less focus.” 

Fasting students can also apply for an exam deferral if they want to write their finals after Ramadan is over, but your professors are also here to help during the course. 

“Accommodations depend from professor to professor, but many are flexible so if you need extra time on an assignment, struggling with a concept or want to alternate a time for your presentation — ask,” said Tasnim. “You won’t know if they’d be willing to make those changes unless you ask.”

It is important to remember that, while these supports are available, students should not leave everything to the last minute. Especially since finals are during the last ten days — the holiest period of the month — getting as much work completed as early as possible will allow you to focus on both academic and religious obligations. 

To be successful in the last stretch of the semester, Rufida Elhouderi, a first-year accounting student, takes a hardworking and spiritual approach. 

“[I am] taking a moment to think about how I can help myself complete my tasks successfully, by relying on the most powerful, Allah,” said Elhouderi. “He knows my struggles and efforts, so acknowledging that first will help a lot. Then, I recommend writing an actual schedule — write down exactly what you will do that entire day, includ[ing] prayer times, breaking the fast, as well as study time.”

Despite the challenges, Muslim students continue to fast during this month because it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Fasting is not simply a deprivation of food and water, but it is also a month to purify one’s heart, increase one’s connection to God and create habits to carry into the rest of the year.

Since fasting during Ramadan is integral, students also may be worried that by focusing on school, they are not fulfilling their religious obligations to the fullest extent. But Maryam Agunbiade — a third-year Biological science student — takes a different perspective. 

“A lot of people think about school [and] work as separate from deen,” she said. “I don’t see it as separate because, in the Quran, Allah commands us, ‘Read in the name of your Lord.’ If you perceive studying as an act of worship, you are not separating your time anymore. Yes, reading the Quran is important, but learning about the world you live in is also important.”

Fasting during the last stretch of the semester will be challenging, but with some discipline, community support and trust in God, Muslim students at the University of Calgary will finish the semester with flying colors.

This article is a part of our Voices section.

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