Young East Texas Muslims take one for the team during Ramadan

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

It's 2:45 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon.

With her racquet in-hand, Zonera Javed runs onto a Kilgore High School Tennis court.

"The hardest thing is trying to make sure you don't over do it," says the 17-year-old senior.

It's Javed's second year on the varsity team.  Wednesday's practice is not out of the ordinary, but her coach is paying extra attention to her.

"She has to cover up her whole body and where long sleeves and pants," says Jason Maroney, Javed's coach.  "We were just worried about the heat."

Javed is Muslim.  She's already competed in singles and doubles matches under the sweltering August sun, and daily practices are no different.  Unlike most of her tennis peers, Javed has to do it on an empty stomach.  She's fasting for Ramadan, one of Islam's holiest months of the year.

As long as the sun is out, Javed doesn't have a bite to eat, or take a drink of anything.  She's been fasting for nearly a month.

"God asks us to do it," she says.  "In my opinion, if God wants us to do it, there's a very valid reason behind it."

Muhammed Sattar plays football for Whitehouse Junior High.  "[Other kids] sometimes tell me, 'why don't you just get a drink--no one will know,' but, I tell them that it's a part of my religion," he says.

Both Javed and Sattar admit fasting is difficult, but it gets easier with practice.

"It gives me discipline," says Sattar.

"The goal of all acts of worship in Islam is to perfect one's character," says Imam Faisal Ahmad with the East Texas Islamic Society.

Ahmad says fasting is fundamental to Islam.  Ramadan commemorates the time the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad centuries ago.

Ahmad says young Muslims are not required to fast, but appreciates young followers wanting to grow closer to God.  He says if things get too hard, or dangerous, breaking the fast is always the best option.

"God doesn't want us to punish ourselves, but he wants us to train ourselves and discipline ourselves," says Faisal.

Sattar says he's been pretty good, and has yet to break his fast.

Javed says practice helps. She's been building up her fasting skills since she was nine years old.

Doctors say fasting can put young athletes at greater risk of heat related illnesses and fatigue.  Eating a protein and fiber rich diet when the sun is not up can help keep those athletes fueled, longer.

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