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How Muslim Professionals And Athletes Handle Fasting

In the past several years, the hours between sunrise and sunset for Ramadan have been lengthy, stretching close to 14 hours over the summer.

Without food or drink, energy levels dip tremendously and that ‘2:30’ feeling is one that lasts all day. Some even struggle to stay focused on simple tasks as the fast can become a hindrance to one’s worklife. But the beauty of Ramadan is that all those who observe it struggle together, and the fast becomes a lesson in perseverance and God-consciousness.

There are some, however, who work in environments that can make fasting increasingly difficult. From an orthopedic surgeon, to a chef, a school teacher, and a high school basketball player, their perspectives inspire us to attain spiritual heights through fasting.

Dr. Adam Fahs, 33, is an orthopedic traumatologist who says that fasting has helped his attentiveness on the job.

Dr. Adam Fahs

I am a big stress-eater, So I tend to eat a lot of unhealthy foods at work when I’m stressed,” Fahs admits. “This manifests in sugar crashes later in the day, but fasting allows me to stay at a steady-state of focus, without the peaks and valleys I used to experience with caffeine and sugar.

Each work day for Fahs looks different, as some days are longer than others. He says it is the nature of the trauma department where one never knows what to expect.

My longest single surgery I’ve performed while fasting was about 7-8 hours,” he explains. “I do get a little hangry (hungry and angry) if I’m operating all day long, and my patience at the end of the day may be a little shorter, but I don’t let this affect the quality of my work.

Doctors like Fahs are often considered life-savers and are highly regarded as heroes to their patients. They are greatly appreciated for their work because they are often met with life and death situations. However, while surgeons have the knowledge to save lives, the month of Ramadan continues to put things into perspective for Dr. Fahs.

I remind all of my patients that regardless of how well of a job I can do, God is the ultimate healer in the end,” Fahs asserted. “Every morning I pray that God guides my hand during surgery, and heals my patients after surgery. My faith allows me to be open with my patients regarding the spiritual aspect of healing, such as prayer.

Fahs’ experiences have strengthened his faith because of the suffering he is exposed to on a daily basis. He explained that being around so much heartache keeps him grounded, appreciative and reminds him of how fragile life can be. That at any given moment, he says, life can be taken away from us and it would be completely out of our control.

In a entirely different line of work, popular food blogger and chef, Summer Homayed, better known on instagram as @summers_homemade_meals fasts and has to work with food all day. Homayed has amassed over 250k followers and shares her mouth watering recipes through video reels and stories. Fasting around food is difficult to adapt to, but she says that she stays focused on how it could benefit her followers. Many of her followers rely on her page for food ideas and the catering services she offers. And, despite not being able to taste the food she makes, she remains confident in her cooking abilities.

Summer Homayed

Most recipes are so common that I can make them with my eyes closed,” Homayed said. “I believe it’s second nature for some of us. But, honestly cooking during Ramadan is magical. Sometimes, I cease to amaze myself. During Ramadan it’s like you have an angel whispering in your ear saying ‘add more flavor’ and somehow the food tastes better.

Homayed advises people who are cooking for their families during the month of Ramadan to make sure they prepare ahead of time. She says that making a menu plan for the month helps manage one’s budget and can avoid wastefulness. She also highly recommends freezer meals, which can be a time saver.

According to Homayed, being in the kitchen all day during the month of Ramadan requires a transition in mindset.

Ramadan isn’t about starving, it’s about sacrifice,” she says. “Going through a hard struggle for the sake of God. The sacrifice we make is a reminder of what real people struggle with in this world. It reminds me of how grateful I really should be.

Parents send their children to school, often left wondering how a fasting school teacher deals with children all day. For Juhi Fatima, a Montessori school teacher at a local early learning center in Dearborn, Mich, working with young children without food intake comes with its own challenges.

Alhamdulillah, it’s manageable though it feels tiring towards the end of the day,” she says. “I am able to focus but sometimes I am unable to execute my plan. When that happens I just keep trying until I am able to do it.

Teaching children is a multifaceted job. For Fatima, she not only has to teach, but manage behaviors and the emotions of young children, some as young as 3. Despite the hardships on the job, Fatima keeps a positive outlook.

Fasting helps me appreciate the blessings that Allah has given me,” she says. “It also helps me gain control over hunger, thirst, anger, frustration and other emotions which helps in strengthening our spiritual growth.

And while enduring the aches of hunger can be an obstacle in every profession, for athletes and those who have to upkeep physical activity, the task is even greater.

Recently, NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets made headlines in an interview about his observance of Ramadan.

I am walking with faith and that’s all that matters,” Irving said. “When I get a chance to do this, in this type of arena and showcase my talents that have been granted to me strictly from God and I am humble.

Mohammad Habhab, a sophomore on his varsity highschool basketball team, opens up about his experiences on fasting during his season.

Mohammad Habhab

I think that it’s really more of a mental thing than anything,” he explains. “So as long as I make sure to focus on my task, and don’t think about not being able to eat or drink, then it doesn’t really affect me.

Hearing what Irving said about fasting inspired Habhab to believe that when spiritually motivated, one can still play at an elite level without food or water. Habhab, who scored over 200 points this season, explains that fasting allows him to focus more on his faith and helps plant the seeds for spiritual growth.

I think Ramadan helps my spirituality in a way where I can just focus on being the best me every single day,” Habhab said. “Whether it’s prayer, or just learning more every day, not just in Ramadan, but after Ramadan, and throughout the year.

These varied experiences highlight that fasting is not only beneficial to the human spirit, but possible for anyone to practice.. There are of course exceptions, like for those who are ill, pregnant, nursing etc. But, whether you are performing hour-long surgeries, constantly cooking for your family and others, dealing with young children all day or having to maintain your energy level for big games – the strength one musters to complete these tasks are grounded in faith.

In this special month, Muslims celebrate the aspect that human beings are in need of nourishment from the One who is needless of anything. The Almighty God allows the believer observing a fast during Ramadan to tolerate the dryness of thirst, the emptiness in the stomach and the heaviness in the eyes in order to realize the fragility in the physical state. And, through reflection and worship, the fast advances the believer’s spiritual position in seeking nearness to the Creator.

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  • Mariam Dahoui Charara

    Mariam Dahoui Charara earned an undergraduate degree in journalism and a Masters in Teaching from Wayne State University. Initially an aspiring sports writer, her passion for writing shifted after having a family. She is a published author of children’s Islamic books and aims to continue to write with purpose from her hometown of Dearborn, Mich.

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