Ramadan in Sweden with no Dusk, no Dawn
Kiruna, Sweden: During this year’s holy month of Ramadan, when consumption of food and water is prohibited between dawn and dusk, how do Muslims observing the fast manage in the far north of Scandinavia, where the sun never sets?
An estimated 700 Muslims spent Ramadan in the mining town of Kiruna, located 145km north of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by snowcapped mountains throughout the summer. Many of them are recent asylum seekers, sent to Kiruna while their claims are processed. The sun stays up around the clock from May 28-July 16, which constitutes half of the fasting period this year.
“I started Ramadan by having suhoor with the sun shining in my eyes at 3:30 in the morning,” said Ghassan Alankar from Syria, referring to the meal just before dawn. “I put double curtains in my room and still, there’s light when I’m going to sleep.” Since there is no central authority in Islam that could issue a definite religious ruling, or fatwa, Muslims in the north used at least four different timetables to break the fast.
Alankar sticks to Makkah time, “because it’s the birthplace of Islam”. But he is worried about whether his fast will be accepted by God. “I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing,” said Alankar, who arrived in Kiruna seven months ago after a hazardous journey via Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. A majority of those who fast in Kiruna follow the timings of the capital Stockholm, 1,240km further south, after being advised by the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a Dublin-based private foundation composed of Islamic clerics. In Stockholm, there’s day and night,” Hussein Halawa, secretary-general of the council, told Al Jazeera, explaining the decision. He was personally invited to northern Sweden from Dublin this year to experience the lengthy daylight and give advice. Idris Abdulwhab, from Eritrea, follows the ECFR fatwa, which means his longest period of fasting will be 20 hours.