I was recently asked some questions by a fellow American who is non-muslim but presently living and working in Saudi Arabia. Among the various Ramadan questions posed, one in particular stood out for me as I realized I did not know how to respond. It may sound simple enough but for those of us not as familar with Islam and Ramadan, it can make you sit back and really think.
The question was this – how does a Saudi (or any muslim for that matter) fast during Ramadan in places where the sun does not set? For example at certain times of the year the US state of Alaska will have constant daylight. The same applies to Northern Europe such as Sweden and Finland. Maybe because Alaska is Sarah Palin’s home state it may not have many muslims living there but Northern Europe certainly does.
Fasting is to take place from sunrise to sunset. The islamic definition of fasting is to not partake of any food or water duing this period of time. Muslims will break their fast after sunset. But if the sun does not set or if the sun is only set for a few hours at most, would a muslim be expected to fast continuously or to fast for periods exceeding 20 hours per day?
I asked my Saudi husband and he said there were islamic rulings on this issue. So I next went to the internet to see what information I could find.
According to Islam Q&A the guidelines are as follows:
“Whoever lives in a land in which the sun does not set during the summer and does not rise during the winter, or who lives in a land in which the day lasts for six months and the night lasts for six months, for example, has to perform the five daily prayers in each twenty-four hour period. They should estimate their times based on the nearest country in which the times of the five daily prayers can be distinguished from one another…”