by Mohamed Bendary
As told to Jacob Bogage
Right now, I’m fasting because I’m Muslim. I would consider me and my family practicing Muslims. My father grows out his beard. We fast. We go to the Mosque on Fridays. We pray, all that good stuff.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan started for Muslims June 28 and it’s going to end July 28. It’s 30 days. I’m going to be fasting every time I play in front of a college coach this summer.
A lot of my teammates at St. Anthony’s (N.J.) think I’m crazy. They think I’m drinking or I’m only fasting for a couple hours. It’s pretty intense. My sister fainted last year while she was fasting.
People have no idea most of France’s team was fasting during the World Cup. Algeria, the whole team was fasting.
A lot people had no idea about that or just in general, how many Muslims there are that are fasting right now. I’m just doing it during camp.
I’m in this constant state of lightheadedness. There were some games where I’d look at certain lights and they would look extra radiant to me.
I tell my friends I feel like I’m dreaming, like I’m half conscious. I’ve been losing weight during the month. I don’t really know how much.
The first year I fasted was the fourth grade. My parents wanted me to start at a young age so it wouldn’t be harder for me when I got older. My mom always checked my tongue to see if it was white. When you don’t eat or drink, your mouth gets dry and frothy.
But I understand my teammates. Certain things you’ve never done or never tried, they seem so crazy. We always say at St. Anthony’s, “Your high school team comes before your AAU team. Religion comes before everything else.”
I feel very comfortable going to a Catholic school as a Muslim. I take religion classes at St. Anthony’s and it’s interesting to learn about Catholicism. The other half of the year we learn about world religions.
Even though I feel lightheaded, I’m happy. I got offered a scholarship by NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology) yesterday. My father got the call too. He was so excited.
I was talking to coach Bob Hurley, my coach at St. Anthony’s, about if I should come to Team Camp or not and he said I should go. You want to give yourself an opportunity and this is an opportunity.
That offer from NJIT, that’s something that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t come.
Coach has had Muslims on the team before. All the Ahmads, all the Mohammeds. One of our assistant coaches is Muslim. Arjan Perovic, the head coach of my AAU team, The City AAU, is also fasting. We eat at the same time. We can be together when everyone is eating. We’re in the same ship.
God is testing you during this month. You can over indulge on food, water, sex, sleeping. Those things you’re supposed to monitor when you’re fasting. You’re supposed to really be a good Muslim and be close to God.
It’s a very blessed month. A lot of people are holding themselves back and it’s a beautiful thing.