From Sunrise to Sunset: The Lives of Muslim Students During Ramadan

Examining how Stuyvesant’s Muslim students balance religious obligations with academics and extracurriculars during Ramadan.

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For the vast majority of Muslims, Ramadan is the pinnacle of the year. Considered the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, its days are filled with lively religious celebrations and duties. Days begin with quick meals before sunrise and end with bustling sunset iftars surrounded by dozens of relatives. Nights are spent in packed mosques for hours of special prayers. As rewarding as these celebrations are, Ramadan can also contribute to exhaustion throughout the month—especially for Stuyvesant students with packed schedules.

Surprisingly, fasting in itself is not what drains Muslim students. Many Muslim students start fasting from a young age, typically around the time they hit puberty when fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, becomes mandatory. Hence, they become conditioned to ignore cravings throughout the day. Sophomore Marzuk Rashid commented, “Maybe [it would affect me] when I was little, but nowadays, I have gotten used to it. The hunger kind of just fades away [...] I ignore it because I want to focus on anything besides it.”

For many Stuyvesant students, the real struggle comes with inconsistent sleep schedules. During Ramadan, students fast from sunrise to sunset, meaning that they must wake up to eat a small meal before sunrise. In addition, as the month progresses, the designated mealtime gets pulled back earlier and earlier and further wrecks consistent sleep schedules. Consequently, junior Sophia Dasser noted that her sleeping habits can become sporadic during Ramadan. “I won’t sleep until 2:00 [or] 3:00 a.m., but then I’ll wake up at 5:00 [or] 6:00 a.m. Some nights, I don’t sleep at all,” Dasser explained. Though many students already go to bed late because of copious amounts of homework and studying, Ramadan can amplify those habits and make them more inconsistent.

This can also lead to lower energy levels throughout the school day. Sophomore Munem Tajwar noted that the days feel longer and more exhausting during Ramadan. “I do find myself losing focus and track of time in the second half of the day, especially after lunch. My brain is stimulated in the beginning of the day, and it’s easier to get through, but after lunch, I find myself a lot more tired then and not really able to focus as well in class,” Tajwar explained in an e-mail interview. It is common for students to lose their steam as the day progresses, but lunch is typically their time to recuperate, something Muslim students lose during Ramadan.

Dasser echoed this sentiment, adding that extracurriculars can make days even more draining. The timing of Ramadan changes each year since the Islamic calendar is dependent on the moon, but this year, it coincides with the start of spring sports seasons, naturally impacting Muslim students’ athletic performances. “Ramadan is exactly in sync with lacrosse season, and I’m in lacrosse. Sometimes it is really tough because the sun will set and I’m still at a game, and I haven’t eaten all day,” Dasser explained. “I’ll just break my fast wherever I am, and then I know that I probably won’t get home until 7:30 [or] 8:00 p.m., and I can eat then,” Dasser added.

Students also struggle with prioritizing their families over school during Ramadan. “I don’t get home until 8:00 [to] 8:30 […] so it’s a struggle to unite with [my family],” Dasser said. “If I know that I don’t have a game but I have practice, maybe I can leave early and make sure I'll make it for iftar […] I do make sacrifices to spend more time with family, and it’s definitely noticeable,” Dasser explained.

As difficult as juggling Ramadan and academics can become, it can be intimidating to ask teachers for help. “Last year I was really scared to talk to teachers. I wish I had; maybe I wouldn’t have put myself under so much stress. [It’s okay to] tell them ‘I need an extension for this homework’ or ‘I’ll be up very late for religious reasons,’” Dasser said.

Flexibility with schoolwork is important for Muslim students due to the month’s significance in Islam. Ramadan is seen as an opportunity to strengthen one’s spirituality, and it goes far beyond fasting; Muslims are expected to abstain from harmful deeds such as lying, gossiping, and fighting. Instead, they devote their time to acts of worship such as reading the Quran, praying, and donating to charity. Every second of Ramadan is precious, as it is an opportunity to better oneself. Senior Yusha Aziz explained, “Ramadan to me is definitely just a time when I’m able to work on myself more […] I tend to go to the gym [and] play outside.” Aziz added, “[For] every second I don’t use properly during Ramadan, I feel bad.”

Along the same lines, emphasis is placed on connecting with loved ones. To many Muslims, it is equally important to strengthen relationships during Ramadan as it is to grow as an individual. The month is filled with a sense of unity between Muslims, even in small ways. “To me, it’s about community and family […] Ramadan, usually, is when we are all praying together […] and even eating together. We see our friends, and there is a sense of community,” Rashid said.

This sense of community between Muslims often stems from shared experiences. Rashid mentioned that being surrounded by Muslim friends during Ramadan can ease the individual burden, as there is a sense of empathy. “You know, we’re all fasting; we’re all in the same boat. It’s nice to have that bond,” Rashid said. According to The Spectator’s October 2022 survey, 11.7 percent of the class of 2026 is composed of Muslim students. Similarly, a November 2021 survey found that 12.2 percent of the class of 2025 identified as Muslim. Muslim students feel the effects of a large Muslim student body, especially as they seek support from fellow classmates during this time.

These classmates do not have to be Muslim, of course. Dasser has observed compassion and understanding for a diverse range of religious practices throughout the student body. “I think what makes [Stuyvesant] so amazing is that everyone is super educated, and even people who are not go out of their way to educate themselves,” Dasser added. Cultural awareness allows students to feel comfortable and safe within the school community.

However, because Ramadan brings so many additional responsibilities, it is important to stay on top of time management. Junior Tasnim Ali said, “The best I can say, and the simplest, is avoid procrastination. It is not worth it, especially during Ramadan […] You have to go home [and get] refreshed for another day. Procrastination will only take [time away from that].”

Aziz reiterated this, suggesting that students use their time wisely, even if it feels difficult. “If you have free time [and] you feel yourself [getting] super hungry or thirsty, just take the second to distract yourself. Do a math question or something,” Aziz said. “Make sure you don’t sit idle because if you do sit idle, [the hunger is] going to feel a lot [worse],” Aziz added.

Ramadan is a cornerstone of Muslim students’ lives, and despite its challenges, it is a period of celebration and gratitude. The month provides an opportunity for students to focus on something other than school; they can use Ramadan as a time to work on themselves, better their relationships with family, friends, and the broader Muslim community, and devote their time to deeds that bring joy to both themselves and others. Ultimately, Ramadan can be a month of reflection for both those who celebrate and those who do not—it teaches all of us about the importance of acceptance. Stuyvesant is a diverse community of individuals of all backgrounds; to flourish, it is critical that everyone is provided with support and understanding.