KIRUNA, Sweden – Muslims in the Nordic region will be fasting the longest day in 2016 tomorrow, June 20, as Scandinavia marks the summer solstice, experiencing the most challenging Ramadan in over 30 years.
“Yes, this year’s Ramadhan comes in the middle of summer,” Retno Aini, who resides in Tromsø in Norway since 2013, told ScandAsia.com on Sunday, June 19.
“We have the midnight sun every year during Summer, which means from May to August the sun never sets.”
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started on Monday, June 6.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
This holy month can be challenging for Muslims living close to the North Pole, since the sun is up all Summer from May to August.
Fasting was not the only challenge facing them after scholars differed on how they would observe dusk and dawn in cities where sun never sets.
The never-ending days have prompted confusion amongst Muslims living in Sweden, as they hope to strictly observe the custom of fasting without any unbearable hurdles.
“Based on the ijma [consensus of opinion of the] ulamas, it was decided that when sunset times could not be observed, prayer times [and fasting time] would follow Makkah time,” she explained.
“Please note that the fatwa regarding prayer times [following Makkah time] is only implemented in the months during the midnight sun [May to mid-August] and the polar night [24 hours of darkness, from late October to mid-January] seasons.”
In 2014, European Council for Fatwa and Research, which details adjustments for fasting Muslims in the northernmost parts of the world, issued fresh guidelines, allowing Muslims to follow the sun in Stockholm or in Malmö.
The experience still was challenging to many Muslims.
“By early evening, maybe around 6 to 7 pm, I started to feel tired and energy-depleted. What I usually do is find another distraction, anything. I guess the trick is to keep myself busy,” Retno Aini said.
In Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.
Muslims also dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.