World Bulletin / News Desk
Muslims living in the Arctic Circle, who in keeping with Ramadan guidelines are expected to fast from dawn till sunset during the holy month, may be following new guidelines this year in an attempt to combat the challenge of the region's long daylight hours.
Ramadan this year began on 18 June, which is three days before the longest day of the year on 21 June when, in some parts of the region are on 24-hours of sunlight - a challenge for those who need to break their fast.
As a result many Muslims living in countries in the Nordic regions, which include Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, have requested some religious advice and clarification on the appropriate time for Muslims to break their fast in the evening and resume it in the mornings.
Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, told Agence France-Presse: "We've got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting.You're supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm."
This year, for the first time in the growing Muslim community's history, the sun will not cease shining for the majority of the Ramadan month.
In an article in The Atlantic, Hassan Ahmed, a Muslim resident who works at the Islamic Center of Northern said, "the sun doesn't set. For 24 hours it's in the middle of the sky." Faced with the impossibility of adhering to the sunrise/sunset rule, Tromsø's Muslims must find alternative ways of determining when to fast.
"We have a fatwa," or clerical decree, Ahmed said.
"We can correspond the fast to the closest Islamic country, or we can fast with Mecca."
Sandra Maryam Moe, a Norwegian convert to Islam and manager of Tromsø's community center and mosque, Alnor, also said that : "since we have midnight sun during Ramadan this year, we've chosen to use the timetable for Mecca."
This means that if the sun rises in Mecca at 5:00 am, residents of Tromsø will begin the fast at 5 a.m. (Norwegian time). In addition to being a good symbolic choice, adhering to Mecca's timetable, according to Moe, also provides a practical benefit: "they have very stable times for sunrise and sunset so that makes the prayers and the fasting quite balanced."
Although challenging, this is not the first time that the Muslims of Tromsø's Muslim's have this experience.In winter, they have the opposite problem, where they experience polar nights.
Moe says they prefer to just stick to the Saudi schedule year round. "In wintertime we have polar nights, so it's the same problem here. There's no sunrise."