Observing Ramadan in the Arctic Circle

I just love it when religions create all these hoops for their followers to jump through and then, whenever one of those rules become inconvenient for whatever reason, struggle to find ways to break the rules while trying to maintain façade of coherence. Jews are clearly the winners in providing the most source of fun because their kosher and Sabbath rules are unbelievably complex while their Talmudic scholars are ingenious about finding loopholes for them, as was the case with telephones, ovens, elevators, and escalators.

But Muslims are no slouches at this kind of thing either and this week saw them wrestling with a knotty problem. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to fast during the daytime and eat and drink only from sundown to sunrise. But the period of Ramadan is not fixed in the calendar, moving about 10 days forward each year and this year it runs from July 9 to August 7. When it falls during the summer months when the days are really long, it makes it harder for Muslims but they are expected to suck it up and show their great devotion by sticking with it.

But what if you live within the Arctic Circle where the sun never sets during the summer? Some Swedish Muslims are confronting this problem this year, and Islamic theologians are trying to find ways for them to be observant without, you know, dying.

This would never have happened if Mohammad had been an Inuit because then he would have realized that this is a silly practice. You would think, though, that their god, being all knowing and all, would have taken geography and the calendar into account before promulgating such a rule.


  1. says

    They should just do what my Muslim wife does, drink margaritas and get another tattoo(don’t worry Muslims, not seriously suggesting you should do that).

  2. tuibguy says

    I think it is a good idea that some choose to base it on sunrise and sundown in Mecca.

  3. CaitieCat says

    I think in my timezone (EDT), using Mecca time would make the fasting period run from 2145 to 1100, give or take a bit. That doesn’t sound like too bad a fast at all, given you’d expect several of those hours to be sleeping. Nice mid-morning nosh. Of course, they’d probably also have to use the Mecca prayer times, which would mean they’d pretty much have to be sleeping from 1100 to 2130 or so, because they’d be squishing five prayer times (some of them elongated for Ramadan) into the other 13.5 hours overnight.

    Maybe there’s a Saudi satellite they could use instead.

  4. grumpyoldfart says

    Muslims can send a proxy on the pilgrimage Mecca, why not use an equatorial Muslim proxy to take on Ramadan for those in the north?

  5. eigenperson says

    I think the really “orthodox” answer is clear: If you can’t complete the fast, you had better move to a different latitude. Trying to find loopholes in Allah’s perfect and eternal laws is probably not the greatest idea.

  6. Corvus illustris says

    Trying to find loopholes in Allah’s perfect and eternal laws is probably not the greatest idea.

    When the last and perfect prophet was plagiarizing from the Jews, he neglected this fine art.

    NB from the brown shirts of orthography: it’s Arctic, from Gk Arktos = “bear”.

  7. sathyalacey says

    Scariest part of article was:

    “I did check if I could follow the sun times in a nearby Swedish town like Luleå or Umeå, but even fasting for 23 hours a day is a bit difficult,” father-of-three Melhem said.

    Oh please tell me this guy isn’t being a dickbag and making his kids eat according to some bullshit 1-hour-a-day-for-food-each-day-for-a-month rule.

    I wanna keep thinking I have a pretty shitty childhood and thinking about his kids puts me a serious risk of losing my high horse.

  8. CaitieCat says

    My understanding is that children are not canonically expected to take part until they hit puberty. What the reality on the ground about that is, is of course not as easily known.

  9. steve oberski says

    Sort of like a Muslim equivalent to the Catholic system of indulgences.

    Followed by an Islamic reformation.

  10. says

    Oh please tell me this guy isn’t being a dickbag and making his kids eat according to some bullshit 1-hour-a-day-for-food-each-day-for-a-month rule.

    And remember what happens if they grow up to be atheists! They’re apostates.

  11. richardrobinson says

    They could transpose the sunrise and sunset times from Mecca to their own timezone. This actually strikes me as perfectly reasonable, all thing considered.

  12. CaitieCat says

    That makes sense. Also reminds me I wanted to pose the other question: I notice we’re not hearing anything from any Muslims at the South Pole, who should be in their endless night now, right? So does that mean they don’t have to fast this year, or they have to fast later, like someone who’s travelling or ill does?

    Basically, what do you do if the egg is even more symmetrical, and has no big end/little end?

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