New Fasting Rules Where Sun Never Sets

STOCKHOLM –Making fasting easier for Nordic Muslims, where fasting lasts for more than 20 hours in summer, a Swedish Islamic organization has presented new guidelines to cope with that situation ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“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 Agence France Presse (AFP).

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

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, starts on Thursday, June 18.

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.

In some parts in northern Sweden, such as Kiruna, the sun never sets for much of June and July.

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.

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.

Drawn by the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the new rules are expected to apply across the continent and will include advice on situations when Muslims can break fasting to avoid any detriment to health for 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.

In 2014, the council issued fresh guidelines, allowing Muslims to follow the sun in Stockholm or in Malmö.

Muslims make up some 200,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to semi-official estimates.

But according to the Islamic Center in Malmö, there are around 350,000 Muslims living in Sweden.

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.