The Olympics, Muslim athletes and Ramadan
This evening the Olympics kicks off with its opening ceremony. Thousands of athletes and visitors have travelled from around the world for this celebration of sporting prowess, inclusivity and shared humanity.
For the Muslim athletes, they have a dilemma, as the entire duration of the Olympics falls within Ramadan. Should they fast or not? Will fasting impair or improve their performance. On both questions, the participants have keen choices to make. Senior Islamic scholars have given varying advice: some saying they should, others that the exemption based on being travellers mean that they don’t need to. Whatever athletes decide it is an intensely personal decision where the practice of their faith which can be an extremely powerful factor, comes together with their sporting life passion. It is one of the great examples of the Muslim Futurist whose faith is a powerful influence and for whom it motivates them to excel. And scientific evidence is also unclear whether fasting improves or impairs sporting excellence. It seems to depend on which sport, and what time of day athlete is performing.
But it’s not just athletes that have challenges and opportunities during Ramadan. In social and cultural events, London Muslims will be holding iftars in and around the Olympic venues, and mosques have been encouraged to open their doors to visitors. Both events value community, diversity and togetherness, both intense periods of activity.
For the coming days of sport and fasting, we wish all the Olympians a very successful games. Here are a selection of the Muslim athletes who will be competing.
Top: British athlete Mo Farah [image BBC]
Middle: Palestinian runner Worood Maslaha [image Reuters]
Bottom: Long distance Canadian runner Mohammed Ahmed [image Reuters]