With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.” (2:186)
In one of my favorite Friday sermons, Ustadh Hassan Elwan explains that to get what you want in this life, there are materialistic means and spiritual means. Many times our fault is that we focus so deeply on the material means that we forget that there are also spiritual means.
Here are my top 5 “Islamic means” to getting better test scores:
1. Don’t sacrifice your time with Allah
If we find ourselves so busy that we can’t pray on time or go to Friday prayers, then we need to reevaluate our study methods. I guarantee people balance their rights with Allah with their study time and have harder schedules then us. I can also safely say that they are probably scoring higher than us with less stress and overall time allotted for “studying.”
If we set time for Allah, do we really think He will leave us hanging in the 11th hour? Do we really think He won’t help us when calculus seems like a foreign language? Are we really going to fail when we “sacrifice” our time by praying on time?
Trust me, the only thing that’s going to happen if we sacrifice our time with Allah and miss our prayers is that we’re going to end up like Lebron James in the 4th quarter.
When you pray, or drive that extra 15 minutes to make it to Friday prayer, or take 15 minutes to read a page of Qur’an before bedtime, you are giving that time to Allah, but you are not losing it. If anything, it made your lecture more understandable and easier, so what would have taken 4 hours to understand, took only 2 hours. All because you stepped up to the challenge and didn’t use finals as an excuse for not taking care of the rights of Allah upon you.
2. Take advantage of your beautiful relationship with Allah
When we’re faced with tough lectures or challenges, instead of running around stressing out, we should stop and think, what is the best worship at this moment?
A person who takes advantage of his beautiful relationship with Allah understands that if there are 100 slides left in his lecture that make no sense to him, he’s going to take a 2 minute break and pray 2 rakah, because he knows that when he does this, his work is going to get done.
Another tip is to say “Bismillah” before beginning to study and before beginning your exam. Not simply saying the phrase, but really meaning it.
What does Bismillah mean anyway?
It means that you are actually seeking the help of Allah, the All-Knower and All-Wise, before you begin studying or before your test. When you say it with meaning and really take just 30 seconds to reflect on it’s meaning, there will be blessing in your work.
3. Minimize sins
Imam ash-Shafi’ee, who was renowned for his amazing memory, once said:
“I complained to Waqee’ (his teacher) about my weak memory
and he told me to stop comitting sins
for knowledge of Allah is the light
so how can light be given to a sinner?”
Thus, a practical way of memorizing better is to cut down on our sins. We should try to stay away from the sins we struggle with at all times, so that the fruits can be sought during our tough times. Be sure that Allah will recognize your effort and perhaps grant you better memory.
4. Effective Dua’ (supplication) to Allah
How do we speak to our Lord?
The joke on students is that most of us become really “religious” around exam times by praying more and making dua’ more to Allah (swt) for help. However, most of us don’t make this dua’ effectively. To make an effective dua’ that is more likely to be accepted, we must first learn the etiquettes of dua’. Once we’ve done that, there are a couple of extra things we can do:
- Make dua’ before studying
Put blessing into your work before you start it. This also serves to prepare us and put us in a state of mind to handle business. Our work will go much smoother when we already asked for Allah’s help before we start.
- Make dua’ while you study
This comes in handy when we are putting effort into our work, but need that extra “push” to really get through. During one of your breaks, take the time and make a 1-2 minute request of Allah to make it easy. Be sure that it will be easier after.
- Make dua’ after your finished for the day….each day
This wraps up the day and gives you the confidence that Allah will help consolidate into your mind whatever you have studied.
- Make dua’ for your classmates
The Prophet (saw) is reported to have said:
“The dua’ of a Muslim for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Everytime he makes a dua’ for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: `Ameen! May it be for you, too’.” [Muslim].
So the more people you make dua’ for, the more you get back.
- Make a personalized dua’
The dua’s that always float around on Facebook and E-mail during exam time are fine, but sometimes your situation is a little bit different. Make your dua’ personal because your situation is unique. Allah listens to the dua’ no matter who makes it and what language you make it in. Make a personalized dua’ for yourself and don’t get caught just repeating something you might not understand. Make it from the heart.
However, many of us might complain: “We’re not that good at making dua’ in Arabic” or “I don’t know what to say.” When this comes to mind, remember the hadith:
The Prophet (saw) and Sa’ad were making a beautiful dua’. At the end of the prayer, a bedouin came up to the Prophet (saw) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I cannot make those beautiful words that you and Sa’ad are saying.” And the Prophet (saw) asked: “What do you say when you make dua?” The man said: “Oh Allah, give me Paradise and protect me from Hell fire,” and the Prophet (saw) said: “Everything we say goes around this.”
- Trust in Allah (swt), but realize you need to put in work:
One day the Prophet (saw) noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it and he asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (saw) then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (At-Tirmidhi)
5. Realize what happens afterwards is up to Allah
If we make dua’, follow all the steps to maximize our scores, make all our prayers on time, and work really hard during finals week, we’ll get the best grades and be happy campers going into vacation.
But we might also come up short. We might also not do so well.
Remember that you put in hard work and time to make it this far. You did your very best. You asked Allah for the best, but sometimes, we won’t be the best. In these difficult times, remember that the Prophet (saw) said:
“Strange is the affair of the believer, verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the believer.” (Muslim)
Whatever happens after an exam is better for you. If you did well, it’s a reward for your hard work. If you didn’t do so well, it’s a learning experience or a wake-up call. Whatever happens after your finals, be content with what Allah has provided for you.
What if it’s hard to be content with your score? Make dua’ and ask Allah to help you be content with whatever happens after finals. This prevents post-exam depression and stress for the next round of exams.
To conclude, there are 4 basic steps to doing well on exams: being positive, tying your camel by putting in work, entrusting Allah with what you have studied, and being happy with whatever happens afterward.
May Allah help all those who have exams and make it easy for them, and make them content with whatever they receive, Ameen.