Balancing Sport And Worship

By Neha Jacob

For senior Risolat Abdulazizova, a pitcher for Lincoln’s Girls Varsity softball team, the last month has not been easy.

“Fasting takes a toll on the body. I go for hours without eating, and it’s especially tougher depending on the day. For example, I tend to get hungrier on a warmer day. Sometimes I get hungry watching my friends eat,” Abdulazizova said.

This year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with the Spring high school sports season. Like many Muslim student athletes, Abdulazizova has been struggling to play a competitive sport, manage her team requirements, and keep her faith. For a month, she had to wake up at dawn to eat, then fast during the day until sundown.

“The hunger is manageable, it is the thirst that is hard to quench, but as the days goes on, your body adjusts and gets used to it and it becomes easier.”

For Muslim students, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer and self-reflection. Fasting is mandatory for Muslims as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the fundamental practices of the Muslim faith, and considered as obligatory acts of worship.

“Ramadan is such a special month for me and many other Muslims,” senior Dilara Agac said. “It is 30 days of fasting from dawn to sunset in order to grow, understand, strengthen and improve oneself and our belief in Islam and Allah.”

Agac is a varsity softball player whose daily routine, like Abdulazizova’s, started during Ramadan at dawn when she would eat to fuel her body in order to be able to function throughout the day at school and in sports. She would not eat again until after sundown late at night. Such a routine required rigorous discipline.

“During Ramadan I always keep myself in check in order to fully prepare myself when it comes to playing sports and fasting,” Agac said, “I always mentally prepare myself for the day ahead of me so that I don’t feel overwhelmed throughout the day or later in the day.”

For Agac, Ramadan is such a special time that the sacrifices she makes are worth it. In fact, the fasting actually brings with it a special feeling of fulfilment. Lincoln guidance counselor Mrs. Khan agrees.

“During Ramadan I intentionally and mindfully dedicate more time to myself and overall I feel better, my mind feels more at peace, and I feel spiritually better.”

Feeling more at peace makes her grow spiritually within her faith.

“Ramadan is a time you devout to learn more about God and time dedicated to him,” Mrs. Khan said, “throughout the day to grow closer to God, I pray as much as I can.”

Coach Shields, Lincoln Girls’ basketball coach, is sympathetic with Muslim students as they try to balance their faith and religious duties with their training schedule. She doesn’t want to see these young athletes forced to put their health at risk.

“I am always inspired by students who are fasting,” Shields said. “When I was in high school there was an athlete named Abdul and he played basketball all the time while he was fasting and he had so much energy.”

Young Muslim athletes at Lincoln are very dedicated. They devote their time to the sports they love while at the same time honoring their religion and faith. Ramadan allows them to strengthen their relationship to Allah by committing themselves to follow a very tough schedule while fasting.

Coach Shields is impressed by these student role models and inspired to learn more about the Muslim faith. “I am always in student mode to learn more about the Quran.”