Sunset in Iceland. Credit: Flickr.
What words or phrases spring to mind when you hear the term ‘British Summer’. If you’re anything like us, you probably think ‘rain’, ‘thunder’, ‘disappointing’, ‘shirtless men who shouldn’t be shirtless’ or something.
If we aren’t currently on the same page, then we can hopefully all agree on this fact about the season: ‘very long days’. In some ways this is great. Is there anything better to lift the mood than British summer’s warm, 8 pm light? With Ramadan almost here, however, these long days don’t always seem so great.
During June in the UK, days can last in the region of 18 hours. That’s a long time to go without food and water. However, that’s nothing compared to some parts of the world. Here’s how long the Ramadan fast lasts for Muslims in different corners of the globe.
The Islamic Cultural Center in Reykjavík, Iceland. Credit: YouTube
Spare a thought for the (approximately) 500-800 Muslims in Iceland. With the sun gracing the country’s skies for upwards of 22 hours a day in summer, some Icelandic Muslims have to break the fast prior to the sun setting. This is particularly true when Ramadan falls in a month like June, when the sun hardly sets at all.
In a video from 2015, Ahmad Seddeeq, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center in Iceland, described how the lengthy fast actually benefits Reykjavík’s Muslim population. The tiny community has neither the time or the need to cook separate meals, so they all meet at the Center for one big – albeit very quick – Iftar, creating a real sense of togetherness.
Eid prayer at Lakemba Mosque, one of Australia’s largest mosques, 2014. Credit: Wikipedia.
Ramadan down under sits at the other extreme. For the approximately 500,000 Muslims in Australia, the fast lasts in the region of 12 hours when Ramadan falls in June. The months we Brits associate with summer are, of course, the dead of winter for our antipodean friends. Even if winter in Sydney still means shorts and trips to the beach.
Seeing as 12 hour days mean 12 hour nights, Muslims in Australia can afford to have some pretty lengthy Iftar meals.
The holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Credit: Flickr.
Like much of the Middle East, the holy city in Saudi Arabia lies just north of the Equator, meaning the length of days is less susceptible to seasonal fluctuations. During this year’s Ramadan, the sun will be up for around 14-15 hours a day in Mecca.
In the past, Islamic scholars from countries with long summer days – including the UK – have argued the case for observing Ramadan in accordance with Mecca’s daylight hours. While not always a popular idea, Muslims in places like Sweden have adopted it in the past.
In 2014, around 700 Muslim asylum seekers were sent to the Swedish town of Kiruna, in the far north of the country, while their claims were processed. Between May and July, the sun doesn’t set in Kiruna. Speaking to Al Jazeera at the time, one man said he was sticking to Mecca hours ‘because it’s the birthplace of Islam’.
While the fast can often be tough, it’s important to remember why we do it. Ramadan is a time to reflect on how blessed we are, while helping those who are less fortunate than we are. We’re sure you’ll agree that the benefits of this far outweigh the hardship of any fast – even if you’re observing Ramadan in Iceland.