How do muslims in the far north handle Ramadan when it's in June?

I believe this to be a factual question, so I put it in GQ. However, I’ll understand the need to move it if there’s more speculation than fact to the answer.

In 2015, Ramadan will begin June 18th. Devout muslims who are not exempt from the requirement fast from sunrise to sunset, for an entire lunar month.

This is certainly workable at lower latitudes, where the length of the days generally don’t vary all that much. In Kabul, Afghanistan for example, summer days last about 14.5 hours, and winter days about 10 hours.

However, go to the higher latitudes, and things get a little more problematic: Fairbanks, Alaska for example. While days last only a bit over 3.5 hours there in December, days last about 21 hours there in June. 21 hour fasts followed by a large meal are not particularly good practices for pregnant women and for a lot of other folks who are not normally considered particularly ill.

What do practicing muslims living in Fairbanks, or Murmansk, or Trondheim. or Ushuaia do? Can they fast from sunrise to sunset, Mecca time? Or are other rules applied?

It’s up to the individual Muslim, of course, but a lot of Muslims in the Arctic just look at the hours of sunrise and sunset in Mecca and use that as the “official” times.

And pregnant women are exempt from the fast.

I’ll get a link later, but I read an article by a Muslim scholar on this subject and he said that even with midnight sun there is a sunrise/sunset, calculated by the moment the sun is the lowest/highest in the sky and counting the necessary hours.

Here’s a long, involved answerfrom a Saudi sheikh. Not everyone is going to agree with him, mind you.

Yes, but the sunrise and sunset will by that interpretation be simultaneous and there will be no time between them to break the fast.

Back in 1999 I think it was, Remadan spanned McGill’s final exam period and the Muslim students negotiated some sort of accommodation, even though in Mid December in Montreal, fasting from sunrise to sunset amounted to skipping lunch. The sun rises in mid-December around 7:15 and sets around 4:15.

On a somewhat related topic, the first Malaysian astronaut was on the ISS for Ramadan a few years ago. The local clerics excused him from fasting, but he said he was going to observe it anyways-- I’m not sure exactly how or if that worked.

There were also some issues with the daily prayers since Mecca is a bit of a moving target in orbit, so exceptions were made for that as well.

In my experience, Muslims observing the fast just work through it and don’t usually negotiate accommodations. That’s just part of the deal. When I was studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (which has a *lot *of Muslim students) finals fell during Ramadan, and they held them anyway. It’s not like Yom Kippur, when Jews are not only forbidden from eating, but from doing…pretty much everything except apologizing. Muslims are expected to go to work and school and everything during Ramadan.

What I want to know is how Muslims deal when Ramadan falls in the middle of the summer in a really hot place. It seems unsafe to not drink water all day if you’re in, say, Phoenix in July.

I think it’s kind of cool (and perhaps unexpected when the rules were created) that due to the earth’s tilt, on average the amount of daylight every location on the planet is the same, and the fact that Ramadan moves with a lunar cycle means that no one place always has very long daylight hours year after year.

An interesting counter question would be “is Ramadan fair” if the earth had no tilt - those at the equator would always have the longest days. So is the tilt of the earth a coincidental benefit to Ramadan, or would it be impractical without the tilt?

If the earth had no tilt. That is if the sun was always exactly overhead of someplace on the equator, then essentially all places on the earth would have exactly 12 hours of daylight and night every day. There would be small differences do diffraction at sunrise and sunset making daylight a bit longer then 12 hours everywhere. And there might be slight variations due to the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit.

Stop to think about it, why the day be longer or shorter than the night anywhere? Consider the spot in the night sky that is directly opposite to the sun. If there were no tilt in the axis of spin, why would that spot in the sky be any different than the spot held by the sun.

Muslims, as far as I know, follow the sun rise/sun set times of their local area unless there is no sun rise and sun set. I know Jews in St. Petersburg follow the local sun rise and sun set times for their fasts and for Shabbat which can start pretty early in St. Petersburg, Russia.

When a religious Jew I knew went to the Antarctic for research, he used the sun rise/sun set times from his home town for Shabbat.

To the OP,
The fast timings are near to sunrise and sunset but not exactly at those times. Fast begins at time of the morning prayer (“Fajar”) and ends at the time of the next to last eveing prayer (“Maghrib”). So a person in the far north would follow the prayer timings that s/he does normally.

People in the Arctic would be exempted from fasting, they are travelling, as are travelers generally, women who are having their periods, the ill, the elderly, those whose medical condition forbids it and those whose profession requires them to be fully alert and fasting could compromise it, pilots, emergecny room medical staff when on duty, soldiers at the front, sportsmen on the day of a match etc etc. This Ramadan, I had a multi day trial to conduct and I did not fast on the day I would be doing some serious oral advocacy and niether did opposing counsel.

As to other questions, well I have fasted at all times of the year and in all weather and I can say how the fast affects you depends a lot more on the weather conditions that day, then the length of the fast. Whens its cold and snowing, you want to eat, when its hot as hell, you want water.

The above is qualified by the fact that on an average day, you don’t really start feeling the effects until you get to mid to late afternoon, 4 PM say. Work does not stop in Ramadan, I have sat for exams in it, the only difference in the workday is that you work straight through lunch and are let go at least an hour before the end of the fast (“iftar”) so depending on the iftar timing you might get to leave early or (as it was the case this year when iftar was at 7:30 PM) make no impact. Also Iftar tends to move about half an hour during the course of the month.

This year I would leave office at 6, reach home at 6 30, and then sleep till the end of the fast.

Huh. Where I am, sunrise is an hour later and sunset an hour earlier - and that’s not even in Northern England. (But we have much milder temperatures and, as yet, no snow.)

When I lived in Cameroon, it’d regularly be over 100 degrees during Ramadan. Life pretty much came to a standstill and people basically sat under trees all day trying not to move. Non-essential business would grind to a halt and the classrooms would get pretty empty by afternoon.

In my experience, Ramadan is a pretty relaxed thing. It’s more about the spirit than the rules. The idea is to experience the spiritual and community benefits that come from observing it- it’s not just some mindless ritual controlled by nitpickers. If you mess up a day or two, you can make it up later in the year (though it kind of sucks to do it alone without the festivities) and young/sick/old people can choose not to do it or do a semi-fast that includes liquids (though in practice, if Granny is on her way out, chances are Ramadan is when that will happen.)

I wish I lived in Cameroon then. Normal life, at least in Pakistan dose not stop during Ramadan (or as we call it, Ramzan). You work just as bloody hard, if not harder since whoever supervises you is convinced that people use Ramzan as an excuse not to work and drives you even harder. No lunch break, people work through the Lunch hour.

And Granny most likely dose not fast, most old people don’t.

Do people kind of look the other way about drinking water when it’s hot out? It just seems dangerous to dehydrate yourself like that.

thanks for the info!

According to my employer, who is Muslim, the rule is that you may not fast or abstain to the point where it would seriously damage your health. Thus the exemption for the sick, the pregnant, the young and the very old.

He also told me that during his childhood his family lived in the northern U.K., and when Ramadan fell during the summer it was simply very difficult. He also said it was nice when you were part of a Muslim community and everyone was following the same rules, being mutually supportive, etc. When almost everyone else is non-Muslim it is almost the opposite. You feel as if you are separating yourself from everyone else, almost as if you’re being smug and holier-than-thou, which is of course not the point at all.

If you are in a situation where you will dehydrate then you should not fast. Otherwise you take measures to ensure that does not happen. There is a dawn meal called “sehri” during Ramadan where you eat. If its during hot weather, well you try and drink as many fluids as possible. I always try to take a lot of water as well as juices, orange or mango usually. I also try and have fruits which are rich in liquid, watermelon for instance.

And no, drinking water is not allowed or condoned.

We would wake up at four and force ourselves to drink at least a liter and a half of water before sunrise. It was unpleasant.

They get very touchy, espeically the smokers.