Fasting for his faith

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

Four of the original five starters on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive line are hurt.

The fifth is about to stop eating and drinking for a month -- during the day, anyway.

Bombers centre Obby Khan is a practising Muslim, which means he will observe the holy month of Ramadan that begins tomorrow at sunrise. The primary ritual during the month is the Fast of Ramadan, which prohibits Muslims from eating or drinking during daylight hours.

'HEALTH AND SAFETY REASONS'

Khan, however, will eat and drink normally the day before a game, the day of a game and the day after a game "for health and safety reasons."

Since the Bombers (6-7) have a huge East Division clash tomorrow afternoon in Montreal against the Alouettes (7-5), Khan will wait until Tuesday to begin fasting.

"If I was to play a game in the afternoon and not drink any water I would pass out, (quarterback) Kevin Glenn would get killed, and then I would be out of a job," Khan said. "So that would not be good."

Ramadan, the ninth month on the Muslim calendar, is a period of extra worship and contemplation. Khan, 25, has always observed Ramadan, but it has never affected his play on the football field.

"It's never been a problem, so the coaches and I never talk about," the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Ottawa native said. "If it becomes a problem, like if I start lagging or my performance is bad, then we'll have a talk. Until then, I believe it makes me stronger and better."

Khan will not put anything in his body during daylight hours for the next 30 days, including gum, medicine, intravenous fluids or even toothpaste. He will eat a meal after sunset (called iftar), again at 9 p.m. and then before bed.

He will then wake up just before sunrise and consume a big meal (called suhoor) to get him through the day.

In addition to avoiding food and water, Khan will pray for an extra hour on top of the five daily sessions he does normally.

"It's a very, very significant thing for us," Khan said. "... It's supposed to be difficult. The month isn't supposed to be easy. God put the test in there for a reason. If it was just don't eat or drink for an hour, well, anyone can do that."

It's not just a physical sacrifice, either, as Muslims believe the fast can be destroyed by negative actions or thoughts during the holy month.

"That goes to the extent of ... not having bad or improper thoughts or swearing or talking bad about someone or having evil thoughts about someone," he said. "You try that for a day, and it's tough."

Smoking and sex are also prohibited during fasting.

The hardest part of the day for Khan is from when he gets home from practice until the sun goes down. His teammates suggest he sleep until sunset, but that defeats Ramadan's purpose.

"The hardest part about it for me is the headaches," he said. "That comes more from dehydration throughout the day, but as soon as I drink at night I'm fine. The headache is gone instantly."

The pain is worth it for Khan, who looks forward to Ramadan every year.

"By the end of the month, I tell you, you're recharged for the whole year," he said. "Your faith is as high as it's going to be. Your belief is through the roof.

"You go 12 hours without drinking water, you'll thank the Lord for everything he's given you. You go 30 days, it's amazing how grateful you are to what God has given us."


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