Balancing Spirituality with Sports: Training While Fasting

Husain Abdullah, safety for the Minnesota Vikings

For the National Football League (NFL), late summer translates into intense workouts and opportunities for players to build up their endurance. This Ramadan, Husain Abdullah, safety for the Minnesota Vikings, will be practicing for his team while fasting.

Despite the challenge of fasting while losing immense amounts of sweat, Abdullah says, “I’m putting nothing before God, nothing before my religion…This is something I choose to do, not something I have to do. So I’m always going to fast.”

To ensure his health and the most optimal level of performance, Abdullah has met with a nutritionist and set up a meal plan to last him through the remainder of the holy month.

The Vikings’ safety is not the only Muslim athlete fasting this month however.

The Fordson high school football team, composed primarily of Muslim students from a Detroit suburb, has opted to have practice from 11 pm to 4 am, after the players break their fast. For the passionate athletes, cutting practice was not an option, thus encouraging the coach to offer an alternative and healthier practice time where the young men could hydrate themselves and maintain adequate nutrition.

The goal is to allow players to break their fast, complete their prayers at the mosque, attend the five-hour practice, and get out just in-time to have a suhoor meal and pray Fajr. Adnan Restum, a member of the team, applauds the decision, saying, “It feels really great. If we’re doing it during the day, we wouldn’t have water and it would be really hot and everything.”

Other high school athletes may not be lucky enough to have late practices, but still choose to play while fasting. Samar Khan, a tennis player for Hinsdale South High School in Illinois, stresses that fasting actually helps her have better sportsmanship and encourages her to be patient against her opponents; she says, “You can’t get angry when you’re fasting.”

Even outside of the United States, Adil Khalid, Emirati Olympic sailor, works out intensely twice a day while fasting to prepare for the 2010 Asia Games and represent the UAE.

Across the globe, Muslim athletes in different sports maintain the self-control and dedication to fast while practicing, all united by an awe-inspiring sacrifice and conviction for their religious teachings.