The Hijra balancing act

 

By Sade Tavangarian

It’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the football team is practicing during their second “two a day.” As the team breaks for water after practicing a play, something appears to be wrong in the picture. All the players run to take a water break while one player watches his teammates quench their thirst in the hot summer sun. In fact, he can’t eat or drink any substance from sunrise to sunset because he’s fasting for Ramadan. Shortly the break ends, and as the football players begin their new play, his teammates look at him in awe.

Noor Fateh ’11 and Adel Kamal ’11 are both devout Muslims who celebrate Ramadan and happen to have varsity sport practices during their time of fasting.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, also called Hijra, and is a 30 day period during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting includes refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual relations.

Ramadan began on Aug. 11 and ends Sept. 9, clashing with Fateh’s intensive football training and Hell Week and Kamal’s basketball training.

Fateh’s typical morning schedule includes waking up at 4 a.m. to eat a big breakfast his mom prepares. He eats and drinks, and prays, and becoming fully hydrated to start an early morning practice.

“It’s been over 100 degrees on the field and I can’t have any liquid so the trainers help me out by giving me a lot of wet towels to cool down. The trainers understand my situation and are a big help,” Fateh said.

“I thought I would get lightheaded or quit, but I’ve been keeping up and I’m staying strong so far. It’s a good feeling you went the whole day without eating or drinking because you’ve held it throughout the day,” he said.

Fateh set a goal to push himself this year and practice Ramadan the full 30 days. He started to fast around the age of 10, but due to his intense sports schedule it has been tough to follow through. However, Fateh said, “now I realize it’s important that I do this because it is an important time of the year for Muslims.”

“Last year when I fasted during Ramadan I struggled. I did it for two weeks then I gave in. The point of Ramadan is to teach patience and I thought it was important for that I could fast the full 30 days this year to teach me what I had strayed away of last year,” said Fateh.

“I don’t get treated differently, the coaches are aware so I do take breaks every now and then, but it’s pretty much the same.”

Fateh also participated in Hell Week, which also overlapped with the Ramadan calendar this year.

“It [Ramadan] was truly a whole new meaning when it came around this year because the calendar goes back every year depending on the moon. This year it went back 11 days and hell week made it a lot harder to fast, which is why my coaches decided it was not best for me to sleep over during Hell Week so I can get rested, eat at 4 a.m. , and get ready for practice,” said Fateh.

“The coaches have been really supportive about my situation. It is also helpful because my best friend Adel has basketball training so we hang out a lot during this time. It is easier when you have someone else in the same situation as you. My family also fasts with me.”

Aside from playing football, Fateh prays five times a day.

“It is good that you fast but you also have to pray. When you pray more it helps purify people and allows you to do better deeds.”

Kamal also fasts during basketball training. The point of Ramadan for him is to learn about patience and humility.

“I try to make a point that it shouldn’t be a handicap. They understand that and naturally they give lenience towards what I do. They don’t give up on me,” Kamal said.

He has been fasting every year since he was seven and finds it easier now because his entire family joins him.

“It’s part of your religion. It’s not optional unless you are sick and it shows dedication,” Kamal said.

He fasts for 30 days from sunrise which is about about 4:30-7:45 a.m. until sunset at 7:45 p.m. During the day you must reframe from food and drink, pray, avoid profanity, and stay on the right path,” said Kamal.

Kamal believes fasting helps him in basketball training because in comparison to when he is fasting, the season feels so much easier.

“Once you fast you can’t do anything about it. You have to fight through it. It is the time to bring goodness for yourself and focus on your religion and drain out distractions,” Kamal said.

“People think it’s a grueling experience, but its not that bad. You try to keep your mind off it. I think of it as missing lunch,” Kamal said.

 

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