Celebrating Professional Athletes Perseverance During Ramadan

Muslim Athletes at Ramadan - Mesut OzilMuslim athletes from around the world, like Germany’s Mesut Ozil,
must choose whether to honor their religious fast during Ramadan.
(Photo by Huffington Post)

For an entire month, professional athletes all over the world face a challenge that is out of their control. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a month in which Muslims worldwide do not eat food or drink water (called a “fast”) from dawn until dusk, everyday. For professional athletes, this means no water or food while competing for hours on end.

Ramadan is an annual observance regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month of fasting lasts around 29-30 days, which is based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon. For these 29-30 days, Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking liquids, smoking, engaging in sexual relations, and, based on interpretation, anything deemed as sinful.

The growing speculation around professional sports is that players competing during Ramadan could potentially harmful, with the risk of injury and dehydration being much higher.

One monumental case where a star athlete had to make a decision on if he wanted to play his sport during Ramadan was with basketball NBA Hall of Fame center, Hakeem Olajuwan. In February 1995, Olajuwan had to choose whether he wanted to proceed playing or take the time off and do his religious diligence during Ramadan, letting his body take a break. Olajuwan chose the former and decided to play basketball during Ramadan. That month, Olajuwan was named NBA Player of The Month for his play. Even with Ramadam taking a toll on his body, he managed to dominate the NBA and shine light on the Muslim tradition simultaneously. Immensely commendable, his feat paved the way for athletes around the world to follow in his footsteps.

Muslim athletes at Ramadan - Hakeem OlajuwonHakeem Olajuwan
(Photo by Houston Chronicle)

Recently, Olajuwan’s efforts, which paved the way for athletes to conquer the Ramadan fasting while continuing to play their respective sport, have again come to the forefront with brothers Husain and Hamza Abdullah. The two football stars said that there was never a question of whether they would play or not during the holy fasting month.

“We had a really good start fasting and playing,” Husain said. “We saw Hakeem Olajuwon push through … and knew we could bear through it as well.”

Though it may sound like an easy mission to accomplish, the rigor of playing under those circumstances is hard to handle. Whenever Husain felt like he couldn’t fight through it he would tell himself a verse from the Quran, Chapter 2:286, that translates: “On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear.”

Olajuwon even said that when he found himself in a difficult situation, when he would have liked to give up, he reminded himself of this verse. The decision of Husain and Hamza Abdullah to play throughout Ramadan is another remarkable and influential accomplishment from two athletes, who could have easily chosen not to fast that month on account of their football careers, or not to play their sport because of their religious practices. Instead, they did both.

One thing that each of these players has accomplished is a celebration of their religion, their culture, their history, and their way of life. At Everlasting Footprint we promote the free practice of religions, and we praise athletes all over the world who fight through the struggle and pain of playing while fasting for Ramadan every year.

About Brandon Plotnick

Brandon Plotnick is a student at Florida State University, majoring in the Editing, Writing, and Media program in the English department, with a focus on sports journalism and media production. He has written for Florida State’s student newspaper, The FSView, as well as a Greek Life newsletter, The Odyssey, in his time at Florida State University. His dream is to cover South Florida professional athletics as a sports writer. Brandon was born and raised in Weston, Florida, and currently has a residence in South Florida.

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