بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By Unaiza Ahsan
Graduate student life is full of multiplechallenges, most notable of which is juggling many different tasks with deadlines at the same time. Many students find themselves overwhelmed by the workload expected of them, and slip into a sense of hopelessness. This reflects in their spiritual productivity as well because now, there is simply “no time” for anything that doesn’t have a deadline. As a grad student studying in the US, I have faced the same challenges. It is very easy to procrastinate, and let time slip by while denying the existence of responsibilities andletting your eeman (faith) suffer. However, there are several solutions to this problem where one can achieve not only work productivity but also increase spiritual productivity as a Muslim grad student.
Renew your intention
Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) relates that: “I heard Rasulullah (sa) say, “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended…” (Bukhari and Muslim).
This is a well-known hadith but it drives the point home beautifully. Whatever action we undertake (whether it is tackling a tough assignment or preparing for a midterm exam) with a sincere intention to please Allah (swt) will automatically become an act of ‘ibadah. The very thought “I am working hard for my finals because I want to excel in this field with ihsan and please Allah (swt)” is so uplifting that it is hard to lose the motivation after thinking this. Similarly, if one makes a firm intention to manage time more efficiently in terms of doing the prescribed and voluntary acts of ‘ibadah during graduate school, that intention will be his/her starting point. One can only move forward from that point on.
Connect with Allah (swt)
When a Muslim connects with Allah (swt) five times a day, seemingly large problems become smaller and more manageable. The best way to connect with Allah (swt) is through the daily salah.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salah (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2]. Who wouldn’t want success as defined by Allah (swt)? The success a Muslim is looking for goes beyond grade point averages. It is in the pleasure of Allah (swt).
Salah is not the only way a believer can connect with Allah. Shaikh Omer Suleiman posted a beautiful quote when he said, “Talk to Allah in your own language with your heart fully present. Allah doesn’t need you to rhyme or speak Arabic.” One can pour out all worries, troubles, and anxieties in front of Allah (swt), and He (swt) is always there to listen and help.
Start your day at Fajr
As grad students, especially those who are programming and then debugging their code, it seems next to impossible to tear away from the computer without getting to the bottom of that “segfault” , even if it takes the whole night. This is detrimental to the daily routine recommended by our Prophet (sa) who did not like to talk after Isha salah and disliked sleeping before it. Inevitably, this routine causes students to oversleep, and miss Fajr salah.
This is a pity because the Prophet (sa) prayed: “O Allah! Make the rising in the morning of my Ummah auspicious.” [Abu Dawood; a sound hadith]
There is nothing better than the quiet and calm of the early morning to recite the Quran, offer Fajr salah, read the daily adhkar and duas, and plan out the day.
Take a break!
There are times when grad students simply overstress themselves. They think that by working 24/7, they will increase their productivity. The result is that they are perpetually exhausted, and their spiritual life inevitably suffers.
It is highly effective to take short 10-minute breaks every 50 minutes, and go for a short walk, say a quick dua, read a small portion of the Quran, or simply take a short nap. This refreshes the brain, and inserting short spiritual acts (such as reciting a portion of the Quran) into the daily routine definitely increases spiritual productivity.
By following the above mentioned tips, a Muslim grad student will find peace even when chasing deadlines, preparing for exams, and the like. The greatest source of that peace will be the pleasure of Allah (swt) Insha’Allah.
 In computing, a segmentation fault (often shortened to segfault) or access violation is a fault raised by hardware with memory protection, notifying an operating system (OS) about a memory access violation. (Source: Wikipedia)