Balancing dua’a and student life

As a third-year student, I’m still at the bottom of the academic food chain. Meeting deadlines and juggling classes is something I’ve yet to master. But over the years I’ve established a routine for my daily predicaments: take deep breaths and drink loads of water, with constant dua’a for added relief.

Dua’a in Islam is a type of supplication. Derived from an Arabic term that loosely means to “call out” or “summon”, dua’a is seen as the essence of prayer and a profound form of worship. It’s usually performed after the five daily prayers. The time is given to put one’s hands together  and take a moment to speak directly to Allah. Whether it’s to give thanks or to ask for help and guidance, dua’a is a direct confession to God. Though I’m still uncertain whether I fully understand the complete worth of this particular act, I’m very much aware of the consequence it has on my academic capabilities.

I don’t believe in luck, and I think you can almost always find a correlation between the amount of effort you put into something and the end results. My GPA is proof of that. For courses I’ve poured sweat and many, many tears into, I’ve received the justified grades. For those I’ve slacked off in, that hasn’t always been the case. Even then, the amount of faith I put in the power of a simple dua’a before and after a particularly challenging day is surprising, to say the least.

It slips from my lips when I’m not quite sure if I’ll be enough. I make dua’a for help before a tough midterm, for strength for an upcoming interview, and to give thanks for the A on a paper I worked hard on. For me, dua’a comes as rants to no one in particular, because who’s really to blame when my computer crashes 20 minutes before class?

Though dua’a doesn’t necessarily make everything okay, it’s the promise for me that I’m not the sole reason everything’s a mess. It humbles me and lets me feel small so I’m not too proud to address my weaknesses and take on more than I can handle. Think of it as the net under a high-wire walker. The net’s there because without it, the wire would probably seem impossible to balance on. Without dua’a, life seems impossible to balance.

Being part of an institution where almost everything requires references, footnotes, or tangible evidence, I can see why dua’a might seem to some like fairy dust or a placebo. But dua’a isn’t a guarantee, and it’s never my back-up plan. I don’t rely on secret prophecies for the answers to my multiple-choice questions. In fact, to me it doesn’t even seem appropriate to ask for help when I haven’t helped myself first. And that’s what Allah says when He promises to change the circumstances of only those who’ve tried to change themselves.

I pull just as many long hours and all-nighters as the next person. I try just as hard to reach out for things I want. The difference is that after I’ve pulled that all-nighter and I’ve crammed to my brain’s capacity, I make dua’a for it all to go smoothly. And part of me feels at ease because I’m able to believe that it will.

This reflection is the first of a series the Medium is considering on faith-based practices at UTM, timed as the university and the student union are collecting opinions on expanding multi-faith space. If you have comments or would like to contribute, please write to us at

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