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The balancing act: 5 young Muslims share their Ramadan experiences
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The balancing act: 5 young Muslims share their Ramadan experiences

The balancing act: 5 young Muslims share their Ramadan experiences

Collage (clockwise from top left): Mohamad Mustafa Hamdan, Jenine Al Sarraj (centre), Janah Adafi, Naqiyah Rajkotwala, and Youssef Waly. Photos provided by each child's guardian.

To a generation that questions everything, it is no longer enough just to say that fasting is important. Teaching children about Ramadan and the struggles of the Prophet (PBUH) is not an easy task, especially amidst challenging weather and demanding school schedules. So how does the younger generation cope with the rigours of fasting and balancing examinations? Five students tell us.

JANAH ADAFI

UAE Dubai_Ramadan_student_Janah Adafi

Janah Adafi. Photo provided by Janah's guardian.

Janah, a student at the Dubai International Academy, distinctly remembers her first day of fasting as taking place during the weekend. “I think it would have been more difficult for me to fast during school hours as I was not used to it then,” the 13-year-old Australian said.

Janah has been fasting since she was about 9 years old. She believes that fasting is all about mental strength and willpower, which see her through the toughest days. And that is exactly what she will call upon this Ramadan to balance fasting with studying.

“I know that Allah will be proud if I adhere to my fasting,” she said. “So that motivates me. And my parents always tell me that fasting helps you understand what other people, who don’t have much, are going through.”

Janah started studying in advance so that she only needs to revise when the time comes. “I will relax for some time after coming home and then study till iftar. I will leave the tougher bits for after iftar, as I will be able to comprehend the tougher bits better after I have eaten. But I will not stress myself.”

NAQIYAH RAJKOTWALA

UAE Dubai_Ramadan_student_Naqiyah Rajkotwala

Naqiyah Rajkotwala. Photo provided by Naqiyah's guardian.

For 13-year-old Indian student Naqiyah Rajkotwala, fasting is a natural part of being a Muslim. “When I was younger, my parents had to help me manage the day as I got thirsty easily,” she said. “But now I don’t even feel it, and in fact I feel guilty if I miss fasting any single day.”

Naqiyah has been fasting since she was seven, and she likes to stay active during the day, preferring to rest after iftar. “I get a little lazier after I eat, so I try to finish my studying during the day. I just do some light revision after iftar so I can retain whatever I studied during the day.”

Being in the UAE affords her the privilege of shorter school hours and a temptation-free environment. “My mother, who grew up in India, always tells me how she, as a child, attended school all day, with people eating around her, and still kept her fast. This I believe is the true way to fast: resisting temptation and keeping your faith.” And this is why she is confident that she will get through her examinations with the same results as always.

MOHAMAD MUSTAFA HAMDAN

UAE Dubai_Ramadan_student_Mohamad Mustafa Hamdan

Mohamad Mustafa Hamdan. Photo provided by Mohamad's guardian.

Sixteen-year-old Lebanese national Mohamad Hamdan has been fasting during the holy month of Ramadan for quite a few years now. It has become such an integral act for him that he barely feels the difference. “I think I manage pretty well. I don’t really feel that affected even if I am going to school when fasting,” he said.

However, he admits that this year he might have to plan his time a bit more carefully. “Of course, I do feel a bit tired and drained. So my plan is to balance study time with rest time during the day. I will finish my exam at 10, so I will come home and rest for about three hours. Then I will study till iftar time.” He added, “Iftar time will be like a break for me, and I will hit the books right after, till it’s time to go to bed.”

Mohamad, who studies at Al Mawakeb School, also keeps in touch with his classmates on WhatsApp, sharing answers and giving each other support. “We may even get together after iftar and study together, so we can get through the portion faster.”

YOUSSEF WALY

UAE Dubai_Ramadan_student_Youssef Waly

Youssef Waly. Photo provided by Youssef's guardian.

It’s all about mind over matter for 11-year-old Egyptian student Youssef Waly. “I just feel like, even during cooler months, when school is on, we fast and go about our day as normal, so this should be the same,” he said with a shrug.

The Grade 7 student of Al Khaleej National School has been fasting since he was eight, so he is quite used to it by now. He plans to stick to his regular schedule of going to bed by 9.30 pm and waking up at roughly 5.00 am. “My mother supports and helps me manage during Ramadan. She cooks what I like to eat and makes sure I have proper suhoor as well.”

He continued: “I would not want to make big changes to my schedule, as I think that will be more difficult for me to manage. So as I return early from school, I will start studying immediately. It will be more difficult for me to study later in the day, close to iftar time. So that’s the time I will take rest. I will continue to revise after iftar and go to bed.”

JENINE AL SARRAJ

UAE Dubai_Ramadan_student_Jenine Al Sarraj

Jenine Al Sarraj. Photo provided by Jenine's guardian.

Jenine’s parents have always maintained an environment at home that is in line with the teachings of Islam. At just eight years old, she was already fasting through the entire month of Ramadan. The Jordanian Grade 7 student at Raffles International School surprised even her parents, who thought she would take time to get used to fasting.

“My mother teaches me that you get rewarded for fasting. And my father and grandparents also say the same. I don’t find it difficult as such.” She does admit, though, that this year might be a bit more challenging. But she has a plan.

“I will take a shower and clean up once I get home from school. Then I will study for some time. And then rest until iftar, and study again. I have to make a proper planner that will detail what I do every day, and how much I need to study so that I don’t fall behind,” she said. As the daughter of working parents, Jenine makes the most of her weekends to get all the help she needs. Fasting, she expects, will be a breeze.

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