Ramadan and Exams
The blessed month of Ramadan will begin on Wednesday 16th May, subject to moon sighting. It will last for 29/30 days, with fasts, on average, starting at 2.30 am and breaking at around 9.20 pm. This is a very long time without food and water and that, coupled with all the extra duties you will perform during this month, will be tough.
Many of you will also be sitting your GCSE, AS and A level exams at this time and will, without doubt, have a clash of conscience and guilt as to whether you should fast or not. I experienced this dilemma when sitting my A levels at this time of year many decades ago. My first exam was Economics. I revised for days hoping that certain questions would appear on the paper. When the day finally arrived, I walked into the room full of nervous energy, flipped over the paper and looked at the questions. I was so pleased to see a question on "protectionism" - all my Eid’s had come at once! What happened next was not so great … my mind went blank and I struggled to finish the paper. The only consolation was that it was a mock exam. I went home and started revising for the next exam. This was when my parents took me aside to explain that postponing my fasts until after the exams was a possibility. Like many of you I had not thought this was an option. I thought it was a sign of weakness and I felt guilty even thinking about it. I thought it was a sure fire way of failing and, at the age of 17, I felt invincible and there were other Muslim students telling each other that not fasting would result in failure or a bad mark. A whole host of emotions to face and exams too!
However, my parents watching and observing me over the next few days could see that a few hours of sleep and long fasts were affecting me badly. They were right and I ultimately took their advice. I hasten to add that my parents were not scholars of Islam, just normal parents trying to do the best for their children. I am now a parent and have faced similar dilemmas - yes, I also feel all the emotions you are going through, your parents will be feeling the same, but I gave the same advice to my children that my parents gave me.
In the eighties, when I was doing my exams, there was not the information you now have via the Internet - there is lots more advice available to young people nowadays. It remains an individual choice but there are scholars who think that sitting important exams is a reason for postponing your fasts to a later date. The pursuit of education is also a religious and moral duty for Muslims.
Have a wonderful and blessed Ramadan, and all the best for your exams.