CAIRO - In the midst of a scorching summer, Utah Muslim athletes are preparing themselves for one of the hottest-ever fasting months of Ramadan, in a trial to balance their faith and sports life.
"It will be good for me. It will help me with my endurance and develop my faith," Halah Khan, a 14-year-old athlete, told The Salt Lake Tribune.
I might take a break depending on how my body holds up, then regain my strength and do it again, she added.
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Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur'an and good deeds.
According to astronomical calculations announced by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), the holy fasting month of Ramadan will start on Friday, July 20.
This year's Ramadan coincides with London Olympic Games, creating a challenge for more than 3000 Muslim athletes expected to take part in the international competitions.
Many of them, including Mo Sbihi, the first practicing Muslim to row for England, plan to delay their fast until the Games end.
Others have appealed to a verse in the Quran, which says that those traveling should delay their fasts.
"If you are a traveler and are far away from home, you can break your fast," says Imam Ali Daltir, of the Salt Lake Valley's Al-Huda Islamic Center.
"Islam gives you permission to make it up another day."
Balancing soccer and faith, Halah's sister, Aliya Khan, who also plays for Hillcrest High, sees the spiritual benefits.
"It's really hard mentally and physically to work out while I'm fasting. I find myself counting down the minutes until I can drink," 16-year-old Aliya said.
"But you have to integrate the two. It's about balancing."
For her, Ramadan could be a new turnover in her life.
"It's not just a religious experience," Aliya said.
It helps you take a second look at your life."
Despite the challenges of fasting, Ramadan brings good spirits to the Khan family.
"It seems like such a hard thing, but we love this time of year," said Rafia Khan, the girls' mother and a convert to Islam.
"It brings our family a lot closer. We spend more time thinking about the gifts we have and being grateful."
Taking a couple of years for her body to acclimate, Rafia Khan awaits the fasting month.
She is convinced that "Allah doesn't give us anything we can't handle."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net