Why Muslims in Anchorage will fast 9 hours more than Muslims in Cape Town

Source: Religion News Service

By  | June 16, 2015 | 3 Comments

When the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan begins later this week, some Muslims around the world will face bigger challenges than others. The Quran is clear that the fast should last from before dawn to after dusk, but says nothing about how many hours that might be.

Since Islam has spread from its Arabian heartland to the far corners of the earth, Muslims who live in further north must fast several hours longer than those in Mecca. On the year’s longest day, June 21, some could end up fasting for as long as 20 hours per day.


Usama Hasan, a British Islamic scholar, thinks this makes Ramadan fasting unbearable for many Muslims living in northern Europe and Canada, especially the old and children just beginning to observe the practice. It also prompts many Muslims to give up fasting altogether during the summer, he said, or sneak a secret snack to help them get through the long days.


Anchorage skyline

The former imam thinks this should change and has issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling for “moderate timings” to be accepted for those who need them.

“In mid-summer, the fasts are too long,” Hasan said on BBC television on Sunday, just days before Ramadan is expected to start there on Thursday (June 18).

“We are closer to the North Pole than to the Equator,” he added. “Muslim jurists for centuries have argued that you can reduce the fasting hours to something like you have in Mecca, 12 to 14, 15 to 16 hours maybe, but no longer. I think that’s very sensible, it’s a balanced approach which British Muslims should adopt.”


Additional Reading

How long a Muslim should fast?

Categories: Africa, Americas, Fasting, Highlight, Islam, Ramadan, Religion

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7 replies

  1. Every one will agree that fasting cannot be zero hours or 24 hours. So I believe we can interpret other durations also. Fasting is supposed to be a discipline but not a hardship.

    The Holy Prophet said that religion should be made easy and not difficult and the same is implied in the verses of the Holy Quran about fasting:

    The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful. (Al Quran 2:186)

    I would like to see easy choices in as regards the duration of fasting mentioned in this article. I suggest two:

    1. Where there is no sunset the duration should be set as 12 hours or as long as in Saudi Arabia.

    2. Those who find the duration to be very long in other neighboring areas should be offered the option number 1 as a possibility.

  2. The Holy Qur’an prescribes alternative for those who finds difficulty in fasting. The Holy Qur’an says:

    The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation — the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew. [2:185

  3. This leads on to some other interesting questions. I’ve always wondered which way Muslims in Alaska would face when they pray? Obviously towards Mecca, but which way is that? The shortest route to Mecca from Alaska takes a Great Circle which would pass somewhere near the North Pole. Would you then face North?

    One day there will be devout Muslims in Space, firstly in orbit around the Earth, later living on the Moon or even Mars. How will these future faithful decide when their Ramadan, or the individual fasting times are to begin and end? It may even be that future generations of moon dwellers become too weak – because of the Moon’s lower gravity, to which they have become adapted – to visit Earth at all, making the Hajj impossible.

    I hope I’m not being disrespectful – I’m genuinely interested and these are real issues that your future fellow believers will have to decide upon one day.

  4. You make interesting and thought provoking points, Peter.

    Re direction of prayer from Anchorage would be the shortest route towards Mecca, I think.

    And about being in outer space, it’d be the same as if you were praying while travelling e.g. in a plane. Ahmadi Muslims just pray sitting in their seats. Since, a vehicle (plane, train, car, etc.), is always changing direction, one can’t always be facing Mecca and then since God is everywhere, we pray facing where we are seated.

    Of course, where possible, without disturbing others on a journey, we should try as much as possible to face Mecca.

  5. Muslims fasting on the moon is no brainer. No Muslim country has any active moon program, nor will there ever be. Until the Muslims settle their differences (in some cases matter of interpretation) on earth, they will not go to moon. we have yet to define who is a Muslim? We don’t need to have 73 sects there. However by chance Muslims do start living on the moon, they can decide salat hours and fasting hours by looking at Earthrise and Earthset.

  6. A fatwa costs $2.00 in India and in UK, probably around $200. Some actually settle with the fame alone that comes with issuing a fatwa. How unfortunate it is that this new fitnah (abusing Fatwa powers) is spearheading majority of the efforts to turn Islam into another form of Christianity. Let’s just wait for the same Fatwa-issuing greedy scholars to launch their own NEW TESTAMENT on Quran, abrogating everything mentioned therein (Astaghfirullah). May Allah (swt) keep us all safe from such hideous and deceitful scholars. Ameen!

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