News / USA

Ramadan Tests US Teen Athletes

Samee Khan, 14, (second from left) abstains during a water break at football practice because he is observing the Ramadan fast.
Samee Khan, 14, (second from left) abstains during a water break at football practice because he is observing the Ramadan fast.

When the George C. Marshall High School cross country team assembles each day for practice in Falls Church, Virginia, Maha Hassan is not among the runners.

Instead, the 16-year-old athlete walks around the school track on her own to try to keep her conditioning up.

Hassan is not running this summer because she is observing the Ramadan fast, which means she abstains from all food and drink during the daylight hours.

Maha Hassan,16, is not running with the cross country team this season, opting instead to focus on fasting.
Maha Hassan,16, is not running with the cross country team this season, opting instead to focus on fasting.

Added challenge

The timing of the Muslim fast changes each year. It occurs during the ninth lunar month of the year and begins with the sighting of the new moon. This year the holiday began on August 11, during one of the warmest months of the year.

“I would like to run but I have to remember that I am fasting. I have to remember that I would be too tired and wouldn’t be able to try my hardest,” says Hassan. “After Ramadan is over, I can run on my own until winter track in November.”

Hassan has fasted during Ramadan since the age of 13 and decided to observe the holy month this year instead of participating in cross country. Her decision to fast came after spending the summer with her cousins in Sudan.

“When I was talking to my family, I felt like it should be more important to me and that I should be more involved in my religion.”

Hard choices

Young Muslim athletes often try to participate in both fasting and their chosen sport. However, hot summer days have prompted many teen athletes at Marshall High School to reconsider.

Rakin Hamad (middle, number 58) fasted during the last three football seasons but decided not to this year due to the extreme heat.
Rakin Hamad (middle, number 58) fasted during the last three football seasons but decided not to this year due to the extreme heat.

Marshall football player Rakin Hamad, 17, is one of them. He fasted last year, enduring grueling practices in the heat without water.

“It was pretty hard. There were some points where it was just too hot. There were times I had to go to the trainer and just lie down.”

After learning that his coach planned to hold two practices a day, Hamad reluctantly decided not to fast this year.

He will start applying to colleges soon, and believes playing on the varsity team could bolster his chances of getting into the university of his choice.

“I just decided I couldn’t fast this year especially since it’s the middle of August when the heat is unbelievable and with two practices, it was just too much.”

Soccer player Carma Khatib,16, fasts occasionally, but not on days when she has sports activities.
Soccer player Carma Khatib,16, fasts occasionally, but not on days when she has sports activities.

Soccer player Carma Khatib has found a middle ground that works for her. She fasted for the first time last year, trying it for one day. Khatib felt the experience helped her empathize with the less fortunate, who often do not have food to eat.

This year, she’s figuring it out as she goes along.

“I’ve fasted a couple of days. During soccer, I either don’t fast or I fast but I drink water so I stay hydrated.”

Personal decisions

These different approaches to observing Ramadan are not unusual, according to Joshua Salaam, youth director at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a mosque and community center in Sterling, Virginia.

“Some Muslim youth are not at the same religious level of others. Some youth don’t pray at all, some don’t fast.”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, director of the Minaret of Freedom Institute and a professor at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland, agrees.

“From my personal experience, Muslims are pretty good about fasting,” he says. “It is more common to see Muslims neglect their prayers rather than the fast because the five daily prayers cause more of an interruption during the day.”

Double devotion

Samee Khan is trying to maintain his dedication to both religion and football.

Samee Khan takes to the practice field while also fasting for Ramadan.
Samee Khan takes to the practice field while also fasting for Ramadan.

An observant Muslim, the 14-year-old prays five times a day and fasts every year.

He also plays on the freshman football team at Herndon High School in Virginia. As a child, Khan's’s father used to take him to Redskins training camp to watch the professional football players practice.

“I’ve always wanted to play football,” he says. “It was my first love.”

The three-hour daily practices take place in the early afternoon, during the hottest part of the day, making Khan's fast particularly challenging.

“It’s horrible. Sometimes you have trouble breathing. You have this terrible taste in your mouth,” he says. “The coaches don’t really cut us any slack.”

Having two fellow Muslims on the team helps, as does support and encouragement from his non-Muslim teammates, who admire Khan's discipline.

It isn’t easy, but the teenager wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I have a love for football and a love for my religion. So I’ve got to do both.”

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid