SHAFAQNA – Shahr Ramadhan is always an interesting time as one question that raises itself by many colleagues is why do we fast, and another question that is asked by EVERYONE is why are there parts in the Earth which have in excess of 24 hours of straight sunlight… How do the people living in those lands fast (or pray for that matter)?
I’ve been scratching my head for years in regards to answering the second question. Whilst I’d be lying if I said I know the complete answer, here are my thoughts in progress!
First and foremost it’s important for us to remember that Islam is a religion for everyone. What that means is whether you live in a first world country or in a tribe of 20 in the middle of the South American rainforest, Islam has to practically integrate into your life.
With this being said, let’s look back to the ruling on fasting. We are supposed to begin our fast at the crack of dawn and break our fast once the sun has set. In other words, if we live in a land where there is only sunlight we will be unable to break our fast (or even start it for that matter)! And if the sun is always set then we can not fast to begin with. So does this mean Islam does not apply to all people and fails to meet the needs of those who live in such places? My thoughts are no.
Looking outside of religion, we find the sun (and it’s absence too) a valuable source of our health and wellbeing. The sun provides us with Vitamin D, without which we are at risk of developing rickets for example (a condition which can lead to soft bones and skeletal deformities). We also are unable to grow crops that require sunlight to bear fruit and to even see around us! And with it being proven by science that sleep is best undergone at night, our sleep will never be as fulfilling if performed during daylight hours.
Now whilst I’m neither expecting anyone to migrate to a different land not having forgotten that we have lightbulbs, vitamins and fruit imports to tackle these problems, we should remember that these are only the next best thing. We compromise as a result of where we live, and with fasting this should be no different. Our mara’ja have created rulings to compromise for those living in such lands. In the same way that we adopt artificial light and artificial Vitamin D, we adopt an artificial fast of sorts and this isn’t a failing of God or his religion. Rather if we’ve learnt to cope with the physical ordeals of these lands, we can’t expect anything other than for us to learn to cope with the spiritual ordeals too.