Question of observing Ramadan in Iceland
By: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Iceland is a country the size of the American state, Kentucky, or about 40,000 sq. miles and considered one of the least populated countries of the world. Its capital, Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. And even though Iceland is volcanically and geologically active with very small population, Iceland is famous for its achievements in social and political systems and for its advanced infrastructure. Every time I meet a lady from Iceland, she would tell me that Iceland became famous around the world when it became the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women. But when I met a man from Iceland he told me that Iceland became famous because of the (Icesave) dispute in which Iceland instituted capital control that made it impossible for any foreign investor to take money out of Iceland. This ruled had changed in the past years. This is Iceland but what about the Icelandic midnight summer sun and the few Muslims in Iceland during this holy month of Ramadan?
First, let me start by saying that since I started fasting during the holy month of Ramadan at an early age (at around 11), I have asked myself, why don’t I get hungry in Ramadan during the day when I don’t eat my regular breakfast meal or lunch? But, if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch during other months, my stomach starts making many funny noises and I loses the ability to think or do anything while my stomach craves for food. As a matter of fact, I even used to play basketball or football in the morning or late afternoon during Ramadan.
The length of fasting hours in Ramadan varies according to the time between early morning and the sunset. And it varies between summer and winter. In this case, during the summer some Muslims observe fast for 10 hours in some countries and some fast 22 hours. If Ramadan falls during the winter months, then some Muslims might only fast for two hours. The month of Ramadan is a lunar month, which means that the start and finish of Ramadan shifts by an average of 9 days each year in regard to the Gregorian or any other calendar.
Few days ago, I read in a report in Arab News about Muslims in Iceland who fast 22 hours. These are very long hours of fasting. What is more, what about some areas near the polar circle in which they experience a strange phenomenon called midnight sun. The sun sets and rises at the same time. I experienced this phenomenon when I was touring the northern parts of Alaska and the Rovaniemi in Finland. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always urged his followers to take the easier way and Muslims are ordered to stop eating when they start differentiating between the white and black thread with the naked eye (seeing the signs of daylight). But this is impossible when you are close to the polar circle. So fasting for more than 18 hours is some time very dangerous to the health of people who are diabetic or people who have to work for long hours. Islam is a religion, which orders Muslims not to harm themselves and Islam wants Muslims to follow its teaching according to their abilities. So there is a need for Muslim scholars to look into matters like this one and issue an edict (fatwa) that clarifies fasting in countries like Iceland.