London 2012 Olympics Coincides With Ramadan – What Now?
It’s a matter of Jannah and Jahannam no less. Around 3,500 Muslim athletes are expected to descend upon London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Like many before them, they face a predicament: The Games fall on Ramadan, the lunar month when the faithful are to take neither food nor liquid from sunup to sundown.
To be held from July 25 to August 12, the London 2012 Olympics will drop a big test on the laps of the athletes, reportedly the largest Muslim contingent ever for the Games. Will they sacrifice their dreams to preserve spiritual integrity? Or will they sin to reach for the gold?
Muslims indeed walk a fine line during Ramadan, the onus even heavier on athletes as they live out their faith before the public. Both Ramadan and the Olympics have a common denominator, though: demanding self-sacrifice and self-restraint to perfect oneself.
History has shown Muslim athletes to zealously stick by the Sharia or Islamic law – come high water or Jahannam. Women in particular have been known to bend outfit rules to the Sharia, which generally stipulates that they conceal their bodies. In the Athens 2004 Olympics, Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara ran in clothing that covered her from head to foot.
Others are less prudish. Next week, Afghan boxer Sadaf Rahimi will flout Taliban and ethnic mores by competing alongside men.
Indeed, the London 2012 Olympics hold the distinction for representing both sexes in all participating countries. Such Islamic hardliners as Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are all sending women to the Games, in a move hailed as a victory for equality.
This year’s Olympics will truly see ambition and religion being negotiated in more ways than ever. Traditionally seen as an exacting faith, Islam is expected to cut sportspersons some slack when physical conditioning is at stake.
Many of the athletes have admitted they won’t abstain from food. Rahimi, for one, cites passages in the Quran that lets travelers postpone fasting during Ramadan. Upon the advice of Islamic scholars, Moe Sbihi, a rower for Great Britain, vowed to feed the destitute with 60 meals for every day he disregards fasting.
If anything, these actions only underscore the flexibility and malleability of Islam. Challenging circumstances, as in the Olympics, do not really upend Islamic law. By helping the poor and compensating in other ways, athletes are only upholding it, albeit in a roundabout way. Allah would still be a proud spectator.