Observing Ramadan during finals makes eating, sleeping and studying hard to balance for Muslim students


Khánh Nguyễn

Ida Barakeh, a senior studying business management, observes Ramadan during finals week. For the first time in about a decade, the 30-day-long Islamic holiday of Ramadan includes the last week of classes and finals.

Study sessions, paper deadlines, and exams make for a busy week. But for Muslim students observing Ramadan this year, finals week entails an added challenge — strict fasting from sunrise to sunset.

For the first time in about a decade, the 30-day-long Islamic holiday of Ramadan includes the last week of classes and finals.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar that is approximately 10 or 11 days shorter each year. Even though it’s fallen during the summer for years, Ramadan will be during the school year for the next two decades.

Omar Syed, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering and president of the Muslim Student Association, said Ramadan brings a person closer to God.

“Ramadan allows us to physically and spiritually kind of focus on bettering ourselves and allows us to really develop patience and things like that and really get closer to our religion,” Syed said.

Fasting isn’t required for everyone.

“It’s only required for kids once they hit puberty,” Syed said.

Small children, pregnant and nursing women, and those who are too old or sick to fast safely can abstain. Not all Muslims participate, just as not all Christians observe Lent. But lots of Muslims do honor the Ramadan fast.

That includes students — even during exams.

“It’s been really difficult this year. More than other years,” said Ida Barakeh, a senior majoring in business management.

“I want to absorb as much as I can when it comes to education, and I can’t do that on an empty stomach.”

Barakeh said she’s become more nocturnal since the start of Ramadan.

“I’ve been studying at night,” she said.

She’s been struggling with fatigue and a disruptive eating and sleeping schedule.

She had a final at 11 a.m. Monday.

Over the weekend, she said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do that. I woke up at two o’clock today.”

Sleeping during the day is a natural way to cope with daytime fasting.

Tasneim Jesri, a sophomore majoring in biology, is also adjusting to a nighttime schedule. After coming home from class or exams, Jesri has begun napping everyday.

“It’s gotten really bad,” she said. “My sleep schedule is very off.

So is her eating schedule.

Jesri said she gets up from her nap about an hour before she and her family break their fast to do some studying before she eats. After that, her family goes to the mosque for the additional prayer time that takes place during Ramadan. It goes pretty late, Jesri said. With her school work, she hasn’t yet been able to attend with them.

Jersi said she tries to get to bed by 1 a.m., but she’s up and eating again around 4 a.m. — before dawn.

On Monday, Jesri took exams from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“I’m used to like snacking the whole day, so I have a lot of energy, but with fasting, it’s obviously a little different,” Jesri said.

During the last week of classes, Barakeh attended her international management class, which met from 7:05 – 9:45 p.m. She said there are about 10 Muslim students in the class and that they all get up to eat around the same time.

Her teacher has been accommodating of this, though she doesn’t know if its by accident or on purpose.

“He’s been giving our break to us like two minutes before we have to leave to eat. So he gives us the time,” she said.

Though the fasting is difficult, especially with school, none of the students considered doing anything else, they said. It’s just the way it is.

“I guess I fast because I have to — I mean, it’s one of my religious obligations,” Jesri said. “One of the main reasons is just because God told me to.”