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Fasting in the month of Ramadan at college can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Juggling school work and exams along with personal goals and extra worship might be both stressful and frustrating at times. Yet, the ambience created by the presence of fellow Muslims becomes both heartening and spiritually uplifting.
“It is more encouraging to do [additional] worship when everyone around you is as well,” commented Shafaq Akhter, a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She shares an apartment with two other Muslim girls. “It does get a little tough balancing out student life and keeping up with Ramadan goals, but every time I see myself slipping in one way or the other, I get a lot of support from friends and family to [ensure] a good balance.”
Before Ramadan begins, Akhter decides her spiritual objectives: to read a portion of Quran or to memorize certain verses daily and then maintaining a record over the course of the month, which helps her quantify her progress.
“As the month goes by, I find it harder to keep up with my goals,” she observed, adding that she picks up her pace in the last 10 days. “I believe it’s always helpful to try to get your friends or roommates to set goals for themselves. Even though we had different goals, we continued to encourage each other to keep up with them.”
Nihaad Zaman, a student at Middlesex County College, N.J., warns against making too many resolutions or setting standards that are too high. “Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said the most loved deeds by God are the most regular deeds, even if they are few,” she cited. “It’s best if we just do a little extra, constantly, and then add on as that becomes easy for us.”
As for herself, rather than spelling out resolutions, she continues her regular worship in more quantity and intensity. Her main resolve is to be a better Muslim at the end of the month. “Ramadan is a month of training for the next year to come and if we don’t come out of Ramadan a better Muslim, doing more for the sake of God, then we did not get the full benefit of the extra that we did in Ramadan,” she opined.
Saif Syed, a senior at University of Wisconsin, Madison, feels the sweetness of spending Ramadan among Muslim friends, something he never experienced until college. “It’s easier and more rewarding to arrange for an all-night-worship event with friends on campus as we can encourage each other to stay up and read Quran,” he said.
The most challenging task for him is to arrange his schedule in order to spend the most time in the mosque, especially the odd nights of the last 10 days. “We have a mosque right on campus,” Syed said. “I can even do my homework there. Spending time in the mosque even doing homework feels rewarding.”
He advised that students should have a detailed plan as to how they wish to handle everything together, from studying to worshipping to extracurricular involvements. “It’s very easy to get caught up in the community obligations and then stress out over our relationship with God and strengthening our spirituality, but it’s really important to make sure we’re improving our relationship with God and strengthening our spirituality,” Syed, 21, advised.
Keeping a weekly calendar helps Hisham Zahid, a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y. He sees Ramadan as an opportunity to “develop time management, create positive habits while lessening the bad ones, and associate with people in positive and productive environments,” he noted.
Although most Muslim Student Associations provide daily dusk meals for students, the pre-dawn meal is an independent affair for dorming students. For Muslims sharing an apartment, as Shafaq Akhter does, the pre-dawn meal too is a time to share.
“The environment has a great impact on your daily life and keeping a positive atmosphere promotes proper decision making especially when it comes to a balance between school, extracurricular activities and fulfilling spiritual goals,” Zahid added.