Growing up Muslim I started fasting at an early age because I thought it would make God answer my prayers more quickly.
"If I deprive myself of food and pray maybe I'll finally get Wolverine's healing factor!"
Decades of worship and food deprivation yet no superpowers later, turned the whole religion thing sour for me, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten what it's like to fast and the struggles a lot of my Muslim friends and community members endure during the holy month. Specifically, during exam time.
Swearing off food and water for a set amount of time always came easy to me (in fact I was a good Muslim boy and even fasted extra days during the year) but I knew tons of students who found it difficult to concentrate on studying for exams/tests during Ramadan because they needed the sweet energy provided by food to help their brain function properly.
And since we're now in the holy month for Muslims, people are already stressing about how they're going to get through studying for their exams while fulfilling their religious obligations.
If you grew up in a religious household, regardless of the religion, you may have found it difficult to reconcile your modern day existence with the expectations demanded by your faith. I know I've dined on my fair share of unhealthy guilt as a result of missing a prayer or not reading enough Quran or going to the Mosque enough.
And in my frame of mind right now, I could probably provide a million and one reasons why one shouldn't fast if they have an exam.
I could say that, hey, look, first off, fasting doesn't really accomplish much at the end of the day. If the goal is to "feel" how those who are less fortunate than you, then the entire charade of fasting is a bit of a farce the way that most people do it.
You wake up well before the sun breaks night so you can stuff yourself with food. Then you don't drink or eat for hours, but you know the second the sun drops again, you'll be able to engorge yourself on whatever you want. It's not like poor people know that once the day is over, they've got Taco Bell, or whatever delicious food their family spent all day preparing for them. So it's not like you really understand the plight of a poor person - you're just getting tired and hungry for no reason.
But on a more practical note, if God does exist then he probably wants you to do the best you can in life, right? And if you know that not eating is going to mess you up so much that it'll affect your ability to score well on an exam or be productive during the day, then you're doing not only a disservice to yourself, but also to God.
An almighty creator of the universe doesn't need you to deprive yourself of food as a sacrifice to him, it's not like he gets anything out of it. So if it's that big of a hindrance, then don't do it. Simple.
Of course there are going to be people who want to shame you for your choice, but if you wanna get all religious about it, only God can judge someone, right? And it's not like not fasting is illegal or anything, so drink your water, have your tuna salad, drink your espresso if you want - it's OK, I don't think you're going to burn forever while standing on hot coals until your brains boil for valuing your future over feeling some sort of shame from a religious community.
But, on the other hand, there are some individuals who dealt with a lot more strenuous stuff than studying while fasting. Take '90s NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon.
"The Dream" fasted and his statistics went up, not down during Ramadan. In fact in February 1995, he was voted NBA Player of the Month. He also led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back Championship titles smack dab in the middle of the Bulls' threepeats, but Jordan's absence from the game overshadowed his accomplishments.
Because he was such a great player, his teammates didn't mind re-arranging their practice times to better suit his schedule so he could perform optimally. Hakeem was willing to make it work, and there are a lot of Muslims who are worried about their exams who've come up with ways to do the same thing.
It just involves rearranging all of your priorities to make fasting work for you. So if you really want to do it, then I guess you can, or at least put an honest effort to.
This Twitter user seems to have it all figured out and a lot of my friends who had difficulty studying during Ramadan employed tricks just like this in order to get through it.
The one thing I can promise fasters is that praying for something has no proven effect on the outcome. So if not eating is having serious implications on your ability to study, asking God to hook you up simply won't work.
I mean if it did, I'd already have Wolverine's powers by now and I'd be preaching about how crazy you'd have to be to not be fasting.
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