Ramadan: an exercise for the body, soul and… the Doctorate

Amira Baha Aldeen (Grenoble DBA 2015)

In this month’s blog post Amira Baha Aldeen (Grenoble DBA 2015) discusses the challenges and the advantages of studying in the holy month of Ramadan. Between 6th June and 6th July Muslims around the world have been fasting, including active doctoral students. Followers of the faith are encouraged to abstain from eating food or drinking water starting from sunrise to sunset. The fast is meant to be both a spiritual and physical challenge. But what it is like to continue with doctoral studies during this period? Already a major challenge for many students!

Coping without Coffee

The main purpose of fasting is to empathize with the suffering of the less privileged and help the privileged to identify with their pain. That is why Ramadan is a chance to encourage people to be charitable and compassionate to one another.

images (1)Working and studying in Ramadan in an empty stomach and no caffeine can be a true challenge and people’s lives tend to be a real “hunger games” especially in the summer where it is warm and the need for water tends to increase immensely. When trying to advance doctoral thesis this period can be   overwhelming because a lack of caffeine and studying do not mix.

Many doctoral students also give classes during this period. Teaching undergraduate students is usually a constant struggle but in Ramadan, that struggle is doubled as students lack focus and motivation more than usual. Dealing with hungry, sleepy, and decaffeinated students us similar to dealing with fussy toddlers.

A New Working Rhythm

téléchargement (3)In Muslim countries, the working hours are reduced because fasting can affect people in different ways. For example, some people may become a little irritable or tired at times. This can be more noticeable when Ramadan falls in the summer months, like nowadays, it can particularly challenging as the days are loner and warmer. However, Muslims in non-Muslim countries have to work normal hours while fasting. This can be more challenging, as working hours are the same, routine do not change, and colleagues may offer food and drink to those who fast if sharing food with other colleagues, or eating during meetings.

For doctoral students working on their studies part-time Ramadan is a great exercise for time management because students have to balance work, family, studying and the practice of fasting. As a former doctoral student, I found that the best time to work on my thesis was after breaking the fast when I could consume tea or coffee – only doctoral students know how much caffeine is needed to work on that thesis! Sleep deprivation becomes inevitable because of the long hours you spend working on your thesis and the short nights during the summer time.


Control and Discipine

imagesNevertheless, Ramadan is the perfect time to practice patience and self-discipline which is needed in all areas of life.  Ramadan is a time to control one’s desires and get closer to God. The self-discipline that we learn, carries on to other areas of our lives so we can be better family members, friends, co-workers and, yes, doctoral students.   This discipline is what you need to carry on with that thesis despite all obstacles (trust me I know 99.9% of them!)  . Taking the decision to get a doctorate degree requires one to be determined and most importantly, disciplined.

Be disciplined and success will be yours


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