Have you ever wondered how do Muslims living in Norway and other northern countries fast during the holy month of Ramadan?
Norway experiences very long nights during the winter and very long days during the summer. From May to July, the sun barely descends below the horizon for 20 hours and from November to January the daylight hours are very short in most parts of the country. During Ramadan, a Muslim usually breaks his fast when the sun sets, and therefore, Muslims in most countries around the world usually fast for an average of 8 hours a day. So how do Muslims in Norway fast and for how long? If Ramadan happens to be in winter, do they fast for as many as 20 hours or as little as 2 hours if it is summer?
How long should a Muslim fast for during Ramadan?
In 1982, the Egyptian embassy in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, received a letter from the Iftar House of the Ministry of Justice in Cairo stating that Muslims should fast for a maximum of 16 hours and a half and along similar hours as those Islamic countries of close proximity. This statement called for a celebration by Muslims in Norway and northern countries since they were relieved from a”sticky” situation.
However, not all Muslims in Norway believed in this Fatwa. The minority who did, stuck with the same hours for suhur and during summer and winter without adding or subtracting a minute. As a result, they no longer exhausted themselves with lengthy fasts or confused themselves with a 3 or 4 hour fast.
Islam for every place and time
Those who refused to follow thisfatwa believe that there’s Islam for every place and time. The majority of Muslims in Norway break their fast a few hours before suhur and sit with their families till midnight, hit by fatigue and waiting for the iftar. It’s common in these cases for children to cry and complain as their calls for a sip of water may go unanswered by a strict father. Wives can feel extreme nausea while preparing food for their families when it’s past their usual bedtime and they should be in a deep sleep getting ready for a new day with a fresh mind, body, and soul. On the other hand when Ramadan falls in the middle of winter, they enjoy the “luxury” of only having to fast for only 3 to 5 hours.
Many try to find a solution for this issue by themselves, by using the same fasting times as those of the closest Islamic country.
In the end there are only more questions…
What’s interesting about the situation for these Norwegian Muslims is that it raises puzzling questions not just for them but for many Muslims, such as: “Is there an Islamic country or an Islamic nation? Is Albania an Islamic country, or Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is an Islamic country that which is ruled by Muslims or that of a Muslim majority?”
Some red lines cannot be simply crossed by Muslims or they will be involved with the world of sin or takfeer. What if there was a unified time for every Muslim in Europe to break their fast? I would imagine that such a fatwa calls for courage, and courage calls for faith that can move mountains.
Yet one question remains unanswered for me, and I welcome your thoughts on this one: Wouldn’t you feel peace, wellness and security if you could sit at the iftar table knowing that every fasting Muslim from Ankara, Geneva, Toulouse, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Budapest is doing the same thing?