Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NFLer says secret to fasting during Ramadan is “pickle juice’’

Hamza and Husain Abdullah of the NFL are putting their careers on the line for the blessed Pilgrimage to Makkah – Hajj.

Sarah-Taissir Bencharif

Staff Reporter

More than 500 people, many of them young men and women, gathered in Mississauga on Friday evening to break their fast with NFL players Hamza and Husain Abdullah.

The brothers, practising Muslims, are taking a break from their football careers to speak to youth at mosques across the United States and, luckily for local fans, in Toronto. The iftaar, or breaking of the fast, hosted at the Islamic Society of North America’s headquarters was co-organized by the Canadian Dawah Association, a group aiming to bridge the gap between the East and West.

“It’s pretty inspiring,” said Yusuf Yusuf, 13.

“Not many people get to see famous sports stars, and it’s pretty cool that they’re Muslim.”

Hamza and Husain, accompanied by their older brother Abbas who takes care of their marketing, hope to be effective role models for youth who, they say, need them more than ever.

“They listen to us more than they would their parents,” said Husain, 27, who played with the Minnesota Vikings.

Things can be difficult for young Muslims, with all the negative stereotypes about Islam, said the brothers.

Husain said he would have loved to get advice from Muslim role models as a youth.

Their core message is simple: want for others what you want for yourself, said Hamza. They want to encourage Muslims to better cater services for their youth and to promote a sense of community, citing Islamic centres in the U.S. with amenities like basketball courts and shared community space that help retain their youth.

And so they are doing their share, they say.

Last year’s NFL lockout inspired them to think about pursuing this higher calling, said Hamza, who played for the Arizona Cardinals.

The brothers are known for fasting during the holy month of Ramadan even while enduring gruelling football training. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking water between sunrise and sunset.

The 2010 training season, which fell during Ramadan, felt especially challenging for Hamza.

“The first day, I lost 11 pounds,” he said. The twice-daily practices during training season were initially “a shock to the body,” said Hamza, 28.

“It’s important to learn what your body’s limits are,” said Husain.

Since then, they devised a plan with nutritionists to recover the energy they expend during the day after sunset. Between meals, they’d have 2 a.m. protein shakes and plenty of hydration. Husain’s real secret to keeping up while fasting? Three ounces of pickle juice before sunrise.

“It keeps you from cramping up,” he said.

The brothers and the team of organizers from Toronto will be going to Mecca in October to perform the Haj, or holy pilgrimage.

Though they are taking a break from the NFL this season, neither Hamza nor Husain has any plans to retire. They say they will be back to football after this year.

The brothers miss their families back in L.A., but they’re grateful for the opportunity to inspire young Muslims.

And they did. Says Samreen, 17: “Being Muslim doesn’t stop you from doing what you want to do.”

Check out their blog:

Add your comment