Ramadan in arctic circle is a tricky affair – clerics set up new fasting rules

SHAFAQNA - Muslims in the Arctic Circle are urgently coming up with new rules for Ramadan when they are banned from eating during the day - as the region will have 24-hour sunshine.

A Swedish Muslim association says new guidelines are being drawn up for the fasting month, which begins on June 18 this year, as members of the religion are not supposed to eat until sunset.

Just three days later is the longest day of the year – when the sun blazes around the clock above the Arctic Circle and only sets for a few hours further south.

‘We’ve got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting,’ Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, told AFP.

‘You’re supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm.’

In previous years Muslims in sub-Arctic towns like Kiruna were advised to break their fast at the same time as people in the south but a meeting of Swedish and European imams in northern Sweden this week recommended a new approach.

‘Now you should go by the last time the sun clearly set and rose,’ said Kharraki, adding that detailed guidelines were still being worked out and could also involve breaking the fast in the early evening to be more in line with the rest of the world.

The new rules being drawn up by a pan-European association – the European Council for Fatwa and Research – are expected to apply across the continent and will include advice on situations where Muslims can break the fast to avoid collapsing from lack of food and water.

‘People can try to fast for 19 hours but not handle it. That’s not the idea… If you don’t manage to do your work or stay on your feet, then it’s time to break the fast,’ said Kharraki.

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