NSMen Share: Fasting While In The Line Of Duty

It is not easy finding a balance between one’s spiritual and national responsibilities.

By Sean Yee        8 April 2024

With the month of Ramadan soon coming to a close, our Muslim brothers and sisters would soon begin their celebration of Hari Raya Puasa, a festival where appreciation, forgiveness and love are in abundance. True to the spirit of the festival, it is apt that we revisit and reflect on the stories of National Servicemen who continue to safeguard our lands, while preserving their commitment to their faith and the customs it entails. 

We spoke to four of our Muslim brothers on what it was like to perform National Service during the month of Ramadan as well as their hopes and dreams for 2024. 

Not going to lie, it can be challenging to find a compromise between our religious obligations and the rigorous training that comes alongside being a soldier. The exercises are intense on a normal day, let alone during the Ramadan month. Thankfully, I had commanders and platoon mates who were always looking out for me.

As for the specifics, there were a substantial number of adjustments made to our daily schedules so that we could carry on with our fasting safely. We had nourishing pre-fast meals specially prepared for our Suhur. Our dinner arrangements were altered to better align with our Iftar (breaking fast). On certain training days, we could even dress down to avoid accelerated dehydration. It really helped that a lot of checks and balances were in place so that all of us could observe the ceremonial month safely and authentically. 

Now that the fasting month is almost over, I’m just excited to finally indulge in the revelries of Hari Raya! An introspective period for us all, it is one of the few times in the year that we can focus on expressing our gratitude and love to the many who have supported us in our respective journeys. 

– CPL Ahmad Solihin, 701 SIR, Infantry

Was it easy to fast while serving the nation? No. 

That said, we don’t give our resilience enough credit. I adamantly kept my mind focused on the bigger picture, remembering the sentiments and sanctity of our customs that many before us have worked so hard to preserve. With that in mind, suddenly, my earthly concerns are no longer as consequential. You’ll be surprised what we can achieve if we just keep at it, and have a bit more faith in ourselves!

Of course, safety is, and should be your top priority. Only you know your body’s tolerance, and if it is truly time to let go, let go. There will always be another training session, another assignment, but there is no other you. 

Surprisingly, this month-long occasion also proves to me that there is an abundance of good in people. During my time in Brunei, my non-Muslim brothers would volunteer to take up additional duties so that we had more time to acclimate ourselves to the intense nature of our service. They didn’t have to do it, but they wanted to. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.

This year, I hope to extend the support I had to others who need it more!

– CPL Aarifeen Izzul, 922 SIR, Combat Medic

I don’t know how some of you do it, but training while fasting was so challenging! 

If not for my NS mates, I do not think it would have gone as smoothly as it did for me. The extra provisions definitely helped, which included additional rest periods and a reasonably lighter workload. I’m not sure how these provisions came about, but I’m sure that it came at the expense of non-Muslims, who have to reinforce the platoon with extra hours of their own. Thank you to my friends who were more than willing to support us through an incredibly significant month. 

On that note, I hope to celebrate my Hari Raya Puasa with everyone who has stood by me through the good and bad! To be able to spend quality time with those I love is truly a blessing that cannot be measured in gold. 

– CFC Hariz, Medical Response Force, Combat Medic

It does take a while to get used to not being able to eat and drink during a 12-hour shift. 

But I’m so grateful that there were other officers in my team undergoing the same challenges I faced. And to see them bravely take these on without fear, unfaltering in their beliefs, was inspiring. Knowing that I was not alone in this imbued me with hope that I too can push through.

It did help that everyone was kind and accommodating. Trainers were always asking if we were okay during intense exercises. Officers made sure again and again that we were fully hydrated and well before we commenced fasting. With so many friends, family and colleagues believing in our fortitude and embracing our beliefs, it was easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If anything, it encouraged us to work even harder.

To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, I wish all of you an amazing and blessed Hari Raya! 

– 3SGT Asyraf Bin Mohamad Yusop, Ground Response Trooper, Infantry 

Main photo: SPH Media Trust

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