Arctic Ramadan: How do you break fast if sun does not set?

In this file photo, four youths walk along a mountain ledge, as the sun sets in Iqaluit.

In this file photo, four youths walk along a mountain ledge, as the sun sets in Iqaluit.

In the Canadian city of Iqaluit, laborers are working long hours to finish the region’s first mosque before winter. And they’re doing so while fasting for almost 22 hours.

Summertime means longer across the Northern Hemisphere. But it is particularly challenging for the thousands who live near the Arctic Circle, where the sun barely sets.

In Iqaluit, one of Canada’s northernmost cities, dusk begins around 11 p.m. By about 2 a.m., the sun is up again. In St. Petersburg, daylight lasts at least 21 hours. In Stockholm, the sun sets at 1 a.m. and rises just 2 1/2 hours later. The land of the midnight sun does not offer much time for repast.

About 600,000 Muslims live in the Nordic countries. Canada’s Muslim population numbers around 1 million. Some decide to adhere to the sunrise and sunset hours of nearby, more southern cities, says Hussain Guisti, general manager and chief financial officer of the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, a Canadian charity. In Iqaluit, that would mean fasting between about 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., as Muslims do in Ottawa. But other members of the community prefer to keep to the long hours of their locale, set by the religious leaders. “I think it’s a sign of being more serious,” Guisti says.

In Iqaluit, residents have begun to nap after work because the window for fast breaking is so small and so late at night. Other Muslim communities have come up with a different solution. In Inuvik, Canada, home to the northernmost mosque in the Western Hemisphere, there is currently daylight 24 hours a day.

Abdullah Mohammed, a member of the mosque who immigrated to Canada from Sudan in 1991, says his community has adopted the fasting and prayer hours of Makkah.

The members of the mosque fast for the same number of hours and pray at the same intervals as worshipers in Makkah, resulting in a more traditional 13-hour day.

Mohammed says members of the mosque community determined the hours they would keep for Ramadan together, after a debate. Getting everyone on the same page was important, he explained, so that all at the aptly named Midnight Sun Mosque could eat and pray together.


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