Muslim Players Face Challenge of Ramadan Fasting

September 13, 2007

Author: Manya A. Brachear

Source: Chicago Tribune,1,1165054.story

For Omar Mukahhal and his other Muslim teammates on Stagg High School's varsity football team, the strength to endure the next 30 days of football season will demand mental and physical vigor. It will also be a spiritual test.

Not only is Mukahhal aiming for the playoffs, but starting Thursday, he will observe Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar. During this period, Muslims are commanded to fast from dawn to dusk as a show of self-discipline, gratitude and piety.

Not eating or drinking in daylight hours during football season is a feat unfathomable to many of Mukahhal's teammates, who regularly guzzle Gatorade and water during practice and scarf down pasta a day before every game.

But Mukahhal insists it's all about willpower. "You can do it if you put your mind to it," the safety said after running defensive drills this week behind the Palos Hills high school.

In the Arab and Muslim world, Ramadan permeates day-to-day life. In some countries, workdays end earlier, and productivity drops without consequence. Families often stay up all night. But for many Muslims in the U.S., the annual ritual often coincides with other national pastimes and traditions. As more generations become acclimated to American life, they must learn to embrace their faith on such new frontiers as the 50-yard line.