Why Ramadan fasting is a challenge in northern Sweden

Why Ramadan fasting is a challenge in northern Sweden
Summer days are long in Sweden's northern cities. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is now under way, and for Muslims in some parts of Sweden, fasting can be a particularly tough task.

The standard fast time observed during the month is from dawn until dusk. In Sweden's northernmost cities like Kiruna however, where the sun doesn’t really set during the summer, there is the potential for confusion. Not to mention discomfort.

In an effort to help, Sweden’s Islamic Association (Islamiska Förbundet) is pointing concerned Muslims in the direction of special rules.

“There are many questions about this every day,” Islamic Association spokesperson Mahmoud Khalfi told The Local.

“Today I’ve already had at least eight calls about it. Muslims from all over Sweden are calling us, and we can help them with it.”

The association points to guidance advice from the European Council for Fatwa and Research, which details adjustments for fasting Muslims in the northernmost parts of the world.

“Experts have looked at the issue and settled on a way to work it out. The fast is adjusted to the time that there was last properly dusk and dawn in the area. So in Kiruna for example, the fast is adjusted to late March. Around the 20th of that month.”

For Muslims in Kiruna that would mean the fast time is the equivalent of those in Stockholm. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, however.

“Muslims in Kiruna can fast as if they lived in mid-Sweden, around Stockholm or Örebro,” Khalfi explained. “It’s quite a long day in any case: the fast still lasts for around 18 hours. But one can cope.”