How does a Saudi Fast during Ramadan Where the Sun does not set?

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…”

 

More information is also given and can be viewed at this link.

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39 Responses

  1. I am a Navy chaplain and was stationed in Keflavik, Iceland for three years. Fortunately this never came up either because we had a very small to non-existent Muslim population on base but to be honest I would have been stumped with this. Thanks for the insight. I will share it with my peers.

  2. I had that picture in storage for Eid!!!!
    Sun is up for 13 hours here!

  3. or 14 hours

  4. Emilio – thank you for your comment!

    Wow Aafke…I guess I didn’t realize the day was that long at this time in the Netherlands!!

  5. 2:184[Observing Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskîn (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.

    I think it is important to look at the part that mentions the fasting with difficulty bit which I am sure we are referring to here.

    2:185 The month of Ramadân in which was revealed the Qur’ân, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadân i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Saum (fasts) must be made up] from other days. Allâh intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allâh [i.e. to say Takbîr (Allâhu-Akbar; Allâh is the Most Great) on seeing the crescent of the months of Ramadân and Shawwâl] for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.

    In this verse, I think it is important to keep in mind that Allah intends for you ease and not to make things difficult for you.

    I will not pretend to be able to interpret these verses but I cite them to raise the question and leave the rest up to you.

  6. Isn’t it more accurate to say that we fast from dawn to sunset? Dawn to sunrise is the window of time for fajr, and we have to stop eating before fajr. Before I became a Muslim I didn’t really understand that there’s a difference between dawn and sunrise.

  7. I love the little jab you took at Sarah Palin – that maybe Muslims don’t live in Alaska because it’s her home state! Good one!
    I have wondered the same thing myself about places where the sun never sets during Ramadan. Thanks for the explanation.

  8. I heard somewhere that in Canada the local Islamic Council will set times that Muslims can break their fasts at. Maybe its different in each country on this matter on how it is decided.

  9. Here in Norway there was some disagreement aboutthe Islamic holidays until 2000, Then the Islamic counsil made an commitee, and reached an agreement, the “Hijri calendar agreement”. They set dates that most of the mosques here follow.

    Currently it seems to more or less follow the Saudi times. The times for ramadan, id al-fitr and id al-adha are then made public in the mosques, you can also get the info on the net and by textmessage.

  10. Appreciate everyone’s comments.

    I remember when we were in the States and although I forget where I got it from, I printed out the fasting times for the month of Ramadan. What I appreciated is that even in the Washington, DC area the timings were broken down by cities and towns since there were variants of several minutes in timing depending on where one even lived in the metro area.

  11. Thank you for your good article

  12. You’re welcome, Mohamed. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Then again…we do tend to “technical” it up quite alot…whatever happened to fasting and using your best judgement based on the basic average day and being sure that your intentions (niya) is to fast properly and within the correct timings? Fasting is all about understanding and developing empathy for others less fortunate…for bringing ourselves nearer to God and our religion etc…timings are important up to a certain point in my small opinion..but hardly worth commitees and controversy…bu tthats just me.

  14. how bugger how?

  15. (sigh) I know coolred…. seems like everything gets more complicated each day ….

  16. Good point. I lived in Alaska for a couple of years. Ramadan was later in the year at that point. The issue was the sun rising late and setting early.

    When I was there for the last Ramadan the sun didnt rise until about 11am and set about 3pm. What I did was to fast what could be considered “normal hours” somewhere else.

    At that time I went with 7.00 to 6.00pm, which was in line with other places.

    I think I was the only Muslim for some 300 miles around me.

  17. Thanks for sharing. It does make one curious about the muslim population in Alaska….I’m guessing it is probably one of the smallest in the United States.

  18. My husband had a conversation about this very thing at his workplace. Interestingly, there were a number of Saudis he works with that said that it was impossible, there was no place on earth where the days were so long, and refused to believe that there were, indeed, places where the sun never sets at all. Someone with slightly more education and experience said that he had heard that in places with ridiculously long days such as north of the Artic Circle took their fasting times from a large mosque at a similar longitude but further south, where the days were more normal. Its an interesting thought though! I’m sure Mohammad never had a clue what his Ramadan fasting rules would lead to.

  19. Most Saudis I have spoken to have been aware of the procedures but then again, they are also individuals who have been well traveled too.

  20. Interesting. I guess the qaran only applies to the middle east, where it was written… I guess god and mohamad didn’t know about these regions’ sun issues, LOL

  21. Dear Readers, Muslims are forbidden by holy Prophet
    Mohammed(MSAS) to abuse any person but rather come in to terms as a fellow human being.
    10.61 Holy Quran”. Not an atom or smaller particle hidden from ALLAH for HE is the Best of All Creators
    Nothing can be compared with HIM.”
    About the sun where it is not Set” ALLAH referring to
    Dulqarnain, mentioned ,he reached there : Holy Quran Verse:
    18:90″ He found (SUN) rising on people for whom
    We had provided no shade (Protection aginst” under the sun.(thats applies to countries have midnight sun)
    Norway, Sweden,Finland,Part of Russia,iceland,Northern Region of Canada,Greenland,Lapland,Alaska.,
    Most of us ignorent ,liars & Sinful commit huge sins
    against ALMIGHTY ALLAH SWT,agaist Noble Quran
    against Holy Prophets & against Holy Prophet Mohammed.
    ALMIGHTY ALLAH made us best of all Creations with acumen ,wit to KNOW HIM ,& GLORIFY HIM ALONE
    By the signs & Science as a result ,Iblish the leader of Angels became furious & revolted against ALMIGHTY GOD & impell humanbeign to think & act against ALMIGHTY GOD for he was declared outcast Satan.
    In every age ALMIGHTY GOD sent Holy Prophets to guide us to truth” There is none but ONE ALMIGHTY GOD,WE must Glorify HIM alone & Prostrate none but HIM & Be honest & kind to fellow human being”
    That is message from HOLY Adam( called Islam)
    through Holy Prophets Enoch, Noah, Abraham.Moses.
    Jesus & lastly Holy Prophet Mohammed(May ALMIGHTY shower HIS blessing on all of them).
    Holy Jesus came with the message of a forthcoming comforter : Who is none but Holy Prophet Mohammed.
    It is now confirmed by Hindu Vedh & “Hindus Book of
    prediction “Kalki Avatar”.Many learned Hindu Pundits
    including Pundit Vadaprakash Upaghya of Alahabad University openly confirmed that HOLY Prophet Mohammed is the predicted Avatar( Prophet of mankind).
    IF Holy Jesus were SON of GOD, 124000 Holy Prophets could have earlier confirmed it. But our Christian brothers donot believe it.
    PLS read ,think & Justify Can Satan ask the son of ALMIGHTY GOD to worship him or appear before him under veil?
    “Matthew 4:1,8-10 .”the devil appeared in disguise,
    took Holy Jesus with him to an unusually high mountain, showed him all the kingdom of the world & their glory,and said “Jesus I will give you all these things ,if you jesus fall down & do an act of worship to me,Only then Holy Jesus realised it was satan & said go away ya Satan”
    Do you think Satan can go near son of GOD under viel.
    Satan was able to entice him because He was a Human being a Prophet of ALMIGHTY GOD.
    Holy Jesus forbade his disciple even to call him as a lord,but brother! He will be an witness against those who call him God in the day of Judgement.
    HOLY Jesus had propagated by name that HOLY Prophet Mohammed is the Comforter , world was waiting for, This is written in the Gospel of Barnabas which High priests had rejected. A copy of hand written Gospel of St Barnabas kept hidden & found in the Library of Pope V
    & later discovered by Muslims as ST Barnabas came in to dream of a number of Holy people after the advent of HOLY Prophet Mohammed.
    How could the Gospel of Barnabas be written by Muslims when Muslims knew nothing of it & it kept in the libray of Pope long before the birth of Holy Prophet Mohammed.
    Please think & come to the light of Islam.
    Anything that even miraculously happen, Non Muslims say its by Muslim.
    in 2008 ,in Christmas time, Dolls were programmed to say merry Christmas or things like that But it miraculously started saying clearly” Islam is the Light,
    But they blamed Muslims for propagating Islam through Dolls when Muslims had no reach of the doll manufacturer who was an American.
    Readers think & belive if you want to & believe in one ALMIGHTY GOD alone.
    Read & discover what ALLAH said in the HOLY Quran 1400 years ago & why Scientists are converting to Islam.
    Thank You
    An independent researcher. B.Ahmed

  22. I am in Alaska the first 3 weeks of Ramadan this year and I thought “Now how on earth can I fast so long?” The sunset tonight was around 11:10pm and sunset is 5am. An American muslima thanks you. :)

  23. You are very welcome, Ann! Thank you too for visiting and commenting on the blog.

  24. [...] basic layman’s terms, Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims around the world during which time they will fast from sunrise to sunset.  During the fasting period, Muslims are [...]

  25. Salaam Alaykum,

    I am visiting Fairbanks, Alaska and will be here for the beginning of Ramadhan. I was wondering how Alaskan Muslims fast during Ramadan. I am currently just following Mecca for my prayer times, but I feel this may be incorrect for the fasting. I am reluctant to follow Mecca or a closer state like California, because the justification on how to pray/fast in the north where the sun does not set or at extreme times should not rely on modern technology (ie Internet) to find the prayer times of another city.

    I would be greatly appreciative on some information on what your masjid does.

    Jazakallah

  26. Salam Alaikum,

    Dear Fatima, I suggest you contact the Islamic Society of Fairbanks:

    http://islamicvalley.com/prod/entityView.php/t/09L/i/09LAJD

    Best Regards, Carol

  27. If it can be changed for Alaska and a time table can be agreed. why don’t we do that in UK where we have to fast nearly 19 hrs a day in august which is very difficult for those who are working early in the morning?

  28. Greetings,

    I am a MUSLIM in the FAR NORTH! ALASKA! What you do when you have extremely long days or no distinguishable nights, the local community gets together and agrees upon set times.

    This can be done equally throughout the day, or follow another city with distinguishable hours. There is also another ruling about the city being on a 45 degree line… I am not sure about the specifics of that.

    So if your community (community could be 1 person – hundreds) has no means possible to get the hours of prayer of another city like (Mecca) then the community just sets their own times, by Any means possible which could be walking, dog-mushing, internet, etc. The point is, Allah does not make it impossible or cause major discomfort. To be LOGICAL, and have the right INTENTION.

    Do not over think the subject, it is not that complicated, the point is to have regular prayer throughout the day, and not to be extreme. If the majority of the community agrees, then it is a fatwa for their city, their circumstance, their time.

    Jazakallah,
    F

  29. I think Allah was clearly not aware of the fact that in other latitudes the days and nights change.
    Major fails like this make it clear that religions are invented by men with limited knowledge, not by imaginary deities.

    I usually think that the insistence of women being inferior to men is enough to prove the Abrahamic religions, (and most other religions) are Man-made, not divine and simply wrong. But this is also an obvious fail, the fact that prayer times and fasting become impossible when you get closer to the poles.

  30. It is the spiritual aspect of fasting that is important. Common sense ought to prevail. When the first Muslim space flight takes place they will need to find some more common sense.

  31. Isn’t it proof that Islam is not for whole of humanity ? Did God not know that there are places where sun never sets for months before giving out fasting order ?

  32. I truly believe that the Prohet Mohammed and God left it to our common sense to sort out sensible fasting times in countries with very long sunlight hours once Islam spread there.Islam was never meant to be difficult and Muslims were always encouraged to use their own common sense. How can a 12-18 year old go to school from 8 am until 4 pm and be expected to fast from 3 am until 9.30 pm in the uk whilst at same time be studying possibly for GCSEs and A levels. God would not have meant this to happen.

  33. Quote in regards to what ExMuslim wrote:

    “We said: Allah’s Apostle(Muhammad pbuh) will one day’s prayer suffice for the prayers of the day equal to one year?

    Thereupon he said: No, but you must make an estimate of the time (and then observe prayer).

    Dividing days into 24 hour periods and a hour into 60 minutes is a relative recent phenomenon in the history of the world. How in the ancient world would you have deduced dividing a day which lasted one year and subdiving that day so as to perform 5 daily prayers. Without technology their is only the sun, moon and stars to rely on. Perpetual sun would have been a complex problem for them but easy for you because of modern technology. Yet the Prophet (pbuh) still provided a solution to daylight which lasts more than one day.

  34. Excellent answer Derek mashallah. Even i learnt something subhanallah!

  35. Derek, your comment is convoluted and illogical.

    It does not answer to the argument raised by ExMuslim ( “Isn’t it proof that Islam is not for whole of humanity? Did God not know that there are places where sun never sets for months before giving out fasting order?”).

    Your response suggests two points:

    (1) Division of a day by the hours and minutes is a modern day phenomenon since the concept of a 24-hour day did not exist 1400 years ago.

    (2) Mohammad, nor God, suggested to say prayers in accordance with the exact location of the sun in the horizon but recommended to simply say a prayer according to one’s own estimation of a time frame.

    And, thus, gives rise to the following concern:

    Why should a muslim must be insisted upon (by other muslims) to follow daily salats (prayers) five times a day according to a preset solar calendar for each new season and year per the astronomical phenomena (that is, in accordanc with a man-made chart of hours & minutes calculated via modern day scientific tools to keep track of the sun’s exact relative position at any given day in a local horizon) – or – face the music! – ???

  36. Orders by Allah will never have any dispute or ambiguity at all. The namaz, roza, (prayer, fasting) prevalent are not ordained by Allah but are manmade. The ritual of praying 5 times a day had been under practice even before the Holy Prophet was born, thanks to customs of the Saabieen sect. Zorastorians also have 5 times prayers at same times as muslims have. Zakat (2.5%) and Haj (if you can bear the expenses) also are not ordained by Allah but were added after the Prophet and his companions passed away. After Persia and other foreign lands were taken over by muslims, malicious Jewish and Christians fabricated Hadith books and filled them with bogus reports to soil the Prophet’s Islam. One only needs common sense to understand all this; think about it, will God ever tie His worship with the amount of wealth one has, like he does in the case of Haj? Similarly, 2.5% Zakat was introduced to save money of Rulers / Capitalists.
    The Islam of Allah, Mohammad and Quran says that all money after meeting our and our family expenses, is for others. For this purpose a system is to be evolved which is called SALAT. Allah is never willing of his worship. Worship concept is taken from other religions like Hindu,
    Jews, zorastarians etc. According to the imagination of God which I have in my mind for my God, this worship is against his greatness. Allah will never be happy to keep us hungry (fasting) as it neither increases his status nor effects our character. Allah never says for worship but orders to carry out his orders in this world for a succesful life here and hereafter. These orders and laws are conveyed by quran. This message is not for Muslims only but is for each and every human being. Quran is not the book for Muslim only as is believed commonly but is a book for each and every human being and every nation without regard religion, sect, race or complexion.

  37. I knew it…mystery solved. The Christians and Jews screwed up Islam. Whew….I might have to admit all my research into islam was faulty and become muslim again…and get back to hating Christians and Jews for the problems Muslims created. I will get right on it. Not.

  38. I have a question. Based on what are we to believe no water allowed during fasting Ramadan? I can’t seem to find any foundational source that claims this- however I am not necessarily the super sleuth either. I would appreciate if anyone has a reference for this.

  39. You know, I always wondered about that, the no water rule seems to me to be rather unhealthy in a desert environment. If not outright stupid. With temperatures running over 100”F in the summer, dry air, no air conditioning, and work to be done and life stock having to be tended, people must have been dropping dead like flies. Dehydration is no joke.

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