Did Luis Suarez’s Biting Break His Fast?: A World Cup / Ramadan Update
It’s a World Cup Ramadan, the first one since the 1980s. It’s like a White Christmas? Kind of? Except Ramadan is more like Lent than Christmas.
Today marks the third day of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. This weekend, concerns over the Muslim World Cup players made their way across the internets. I happened across posts of the Vox and Mashable links and observed much speculation and questioning regarding the rules of fasting during Ramadan, as well as talk of exemptions to fasting.
There are indeed exemptions to fasting, just as there are exemptions to any and all Islamic practices, in the interests of survival. Refraining from all food, drink, and medicine is often not medically viable for people with health conditions, pregnant people, and/or the elderly, who are considered exempt from fasting. People on their periods or experiencing post-partum bleeding are not permitted to fast (as in they could stay hungry and thirsty all day if they wanted to, but it wouldn’t count as a Ramadan fast day) and are supposed to make up their missed days afterwards.
Travelers are also explicitly named as exempt from fasting. Based on that alone, I had assumed that all of the Muslim World Cup players had considered themselves exempt. Some are still choosing to fast, it seems.
Some Muslims claim that since the players are doing their jobs, and their jobs require hydration at the very least, Muslim soccer players are permitted to make up their fasts later. When I was a Muslim living in a non-Muslim-dominated world, I understood that it was my job to find employment that complied with my religion rather than to alter my beliefs to fit my employment — unless I was in a life-or-death situation, which, as mentioned before, grants exemptions from any and all religious practices. On the other hand, I did find one scholar whose opinion is that fasting exemptions are granted to those engaged in hard manual labor.
As for Luis Suarez? There is actual precedent for the question of whether or not his biting would break his fast if he were a Muslim. If he had swallowed any skin or blood as a result of his gnashing, he’d have nullified his fast. If not, his fast would still count. Of course, if you don’t believe his account of how he “lost [his] balance, making [his] body unstable and falling on top of” the player he bit, then he was clearly demonstrating deliberate aggression, which is against the rules of fasting.
* I don’t know of a better term for them than “moderate”, but I dislike it because it paints more literal Muslims as “extreme”, which, for those who follow Islam, “extreme” often implies terrorism and violence. Also, there are Muslims who will claim that their less literal version of Islam is still “real” Islam, while others who don’t practice literal Islam will say that they are imperfect Muslims rather than followers of a less literal but equally valid interpretation.