Interesting story from NPR’s great religion reporter, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, about how the heat wave is testing Muslims’ faith as they fast from food and water during daylight in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan:
It’s a bit of a challenge, says Omar Shahin, an imam in Phoenix. At that moment, it was 105 degrees outside, and he was cleaning the pool in his backyard. The water was so close, yet so far.
“There is water in front of me and nobody around,” he says with resignation. “I can do it without anybody see me drinking. At the same time, I am controlling my desires. I am obeying the God, even when there is nobody around.”
The cleric says he’s been besieged with questions by members of his mosque — landscapers, construction workers, cooks who work in hot kitchens. They ask what to do if they need to drink during the day. And Shahin thinks back 20 years, to when he was working with contractors who were building his house in Jordan.
It’s a good report. But I’m still a bit partial on this story.
Many, many years ago, in 2005, I was living on the cusp of California’s Inland Empire—I refused to recognize Claremont as part of the IE, despite the 909 area code—and I found a Muslim on the varsity football team at Diamond Bar High School. It gets really, really hot in Diamond Bar, and Ramadan in 2005 fell in the first weeks of fall.
For about a week, I followed Hytham Elsherif as he attended class, practiced and played football, and broke fast with his family. Here’s how the article opened:
The football coach hollers, “Water break!” and the players cluster around blue Powerade bottles. Hytham Elsherif stands alone and to the side.
“Somebody soak him down,” an assistant coach says.
He unstraps his helmet so a teammate can squirt water on his head. He spits repeatedly to keep it from sneaking into his mouth.
Hytham is a unique member of Diamond Bar High School’s varsity team—he is its only Muslim. Because it is Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, Hytham is fasting from sunrise to sunset each day.
Starving the body for 14 hours is taxing on even the most sedentary. For a 17-year-old offensive lineman, it seems like a death wish.
“If he wants to play, it’s up to him,” says his mother, Naglaa Elsherif. “But he has to follow God’s rules—he has to fast. If he doesn’t have the energy to fast, don’t play.”
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