Why Muslims in Alaska will fast 9 hours more than Muslims in Cape Town (and what 1 scholar is doing about it)

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"Here's how long Muslims will fast on the first day of Ramadan, June 21, 2015." Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

"Here's how long Muslims will fast on the first day of Ramadan, June 21, 2015." Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

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(RNS) Ramadan begins on the longest day of the year, but for some Muslims living in Northern Europe and Canada, it's even longer. A British Muslim scholar says those Muslims don't have to suffer.

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  • Michael Glass

    Common sense modifications of the Ramadan fast are certainly warranted. As I understand it, people with medical conditions as well as the very young and the very old, pregnant and nursing mothers, people undertaking a journey and those fighting a war and also menstruating women are not obliged to fast. I also believe that those who become faint from a lack of water may have some water if necessary. Therefore, modifying the fast in high latitudes in summer should not be too much of a stretch.

    Certainly teachers and medical personnel should be made aware of the rules of the fast (and the exceptions) so they can advise the vulnerable where necessary.

  • Shana

    The hours listed in Seattle are wrong. We actually start fasting 2 hrs before sunrise. The fast starts before dawn with the early morning prayer. The people of Seattle are fasting from roughly 3:00am to 9:10pm, which equates to over 18 hrs.

  • Abdullah

    Michael,

    You are certainly right that those fitting into the listed categories are not obliged.

    Good points, and well made!

    Shana, had to do that lengthy fast in the UK! Good luck insha Allah 🙂

  • Tahseen

    Ramadan Kareem. May Allah SWT be blessed with all.
    Related to the above, the fasting times are longer than the Sunrise and Sunset timing. So if you post an article with timings, do so with the correct one.

    People who have long fasting hours (> 16 hours) IMHO need to use discretion of their own, rather than having a fatwa. Allah SWT has commanded us to fast and it is obligatory(2:185) and eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night](2:187). It is clear from these 2 ayaas we need to fast between dawn and maghrib. Also in 2:185 mentions about the hardship for certain people. So the timings and tolerance of fasting hours should be left on individuals to decide and in case of little children, parents can decide the best. There are many reasons for fasting and foremost important one is attain Taqwa. This way we devote our time to attain taqwa rather than concentrate on what food we need to eat.

  • SupposeNot

    i live in Fairbanks, AK. On the solstice civil dawn starts before civil sunset ends, and it doesn’t get dark. I hope my Muslim friends exercise due caution in how they observe the fast!

  • Oscar

    This was one of the first questions I asked when I con/reverted. I lived in St. Petersburg (if you have to ask which one….you’re on the wrong website), and during the summer, there are times of the year where there really is no dark or light. The sun doesn’t rise east to west, it orbits you, 360.

    The Imam told me that for places like that, to go follow the timing of the nearest city that isn’t affected by that. If I recalled correctly, there were times were I did not see night there….no way anyone is expected to fast a week without water or food.

  • Sohaib

    There is actually an even more “common sense” ruling that has existed since the time of the Prophet. People who have medical conditions, who are very young, pregnant, old and unable to fast, or travelling, are exempt from fasting entirely. As such, this fatwah is non-sensical since it pretty much reduces the fasting length for people who are capable of fasting for long enough and secondly, it tells people who shouldn’t be fasting in the first place that they can fast.

    I should add that I live in Edmonton where the fast is currently over 19 hours.

  • Sohaib

    Please note that the times listed in the table are incorrect. Fasting is from Dawn to Dusk not Sunrise to Sunset. As such, in general, the times in the table should be 2 hours or so longer than they are reported.

  • If I’m not mistaken, some cultures follow Saudi time, regardless of their actual hours of daylight.

  • Ali

    I also have big problem with this issue. I lived in Sweden and currently live in Manchester UK.
    This is my explanation that why we should not only change our fasting time but also prayer time!
    Pay attention to my hypothetical example: imagine god revealed to prophet peace upon him that you and your fowlers MUST drink one kilo of cow milk every Friday! (Just imagine) and you HAVE to boil it at 100 degree Celsius before drink it! (Again, this is just an example).
    Now, if somebody lives in Himalayas or Chilli (about 5000-8000 meter above sea level) the milk would boils at 80C at Himalaya and not 100C. In fact if you use 100c maybe you burn your milk.
    Time, pressure, gravity are not the same everywhere, they are variable. Therefore, in the Quran god is talking to prophet and people of that region and not everywhere. Back to my example again, one kilo milk doesn’t have the same mass everywhere, for example in the moon if you want to follow the SUNAT of the prophet you need at least to…

  • Ali

    boil it at 100 degree Celsius before drink it! (Again, this is just an example).
    Now, if somebody lives in Himalayas or Chilli (about 5000-8000 meter above sea level) the milk would boils at 80C at Himalaya and not 100C. In fact if you use 100c maybe you burn your milk.
    Time, pressure, gravity are not the same everywhere, they are variable. Therefore, in the Quran god is talking to prophet and people of that region and not everywhere. Back to my example again, one kilo milk doesn’t have the same mass everywhere, for example in the moon if you want to follow the SUNAT of the prophet you need at least to drink maybe 20 litter of milk to have the same weight as one kilo of milk on earth! Which is not possible plus boiling point of milk also can be much lower than 100C.
    That last example we read in Quran that god says to prophet that spend 2/3 or 1/3 of night to pray. Therefore, if prophet lives in Sweden he should pray from 3.30 pm to 4.30am and in the summer only from 11.30 pm to 12…

  • Ali

    12.30am (roughly) which doesn’t make sense. Or god says in many verses in Quran that we put the nighttime for your relaxation or sleep and daytime for work and activity…so, should we work in Sweden or even UK or Germany in the winters only 7-8 hours and start to sleep from 4 or 5 pm to 8.30am! In addition, on summer we should only sleep very short time and then work 20 hours per day!
    So my point is maybe god here talked to people of that area. I think we all know how difficult are those times that we have to pray in hurry and long fasting.
    Again this is not a fatwa but just and justification. Remember god also says in Quran that ( LA IKRAH FE DEEN) there is no hardship in deen.
    Just my point of view
    God knows best