It is made lawful for you to go in unto your wives on the night of the fast. … And eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then complete the fast till nightfall and do not go in unto them while you remain in the mosques for devotion. These are the limits fixed by Allah, so approach them not. (Al Quran 2:187/188)
Source: The Atlantic
By Marya Hannun
One Norwegian Muslim community’s clever solution to an unusual geographic problem.
The sun shines low in the sky just after midnight over a frozen coastline near the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen on April 26, 2007. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)
This week, with the start of Ramadan, Muslims from Indonesia to Michigan began fasting from sunrise to sunset in observance of one of the religions’ primary holidays. But what happens in places where the sun never sets because the country is too far north? For many, this particular dilemma is a relatively new one, only apparent over the last two years. Since the month of Ramadan is pegged to the lunar calendar, it rotates on a yearly basis. The last time the holiday fell this deep into the summer months was nearly three decades ago in the mid 1980s, a time when few Muslim communities could be found above the Arctic Circle. But with Muslims from Somalia, Iraq, and Pakistan — to name a few places — increasingly immigrating to countries like Sweden, Norway, and Finland, the ethical dilemma posed for them by the endless summer days has become very real.
For an answer to this question, I caught up with Muslim residents of Tromsø, a city located in the heart of Norway’s northernmost region — approximately 350 km (215 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. Between late May and the end of July, the island city, which is surrounded by dramatic snow-covered mountains and fjords, experiences the phenomenon of “midnight sun.” This year, for the first time in the growing Muslim community’s history, the sun will not cease shining for the majority of the Ramadan month.
In 1986, the last time Ramadan and the midnight sun overlapped so closely, the city of Tromsø barely had a Muslim population to speak of. The establishment of a refugee center that same year encouraged the first Muslims to begin arriving, primarily from Iran. Today, Tromsø’s Muslim population numbers roughly 1,000 and consists largely of refugees from Somalia, but it also includes immigrants from elsewhere around the globe and a handful of local converts.