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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid