Question # 198: Salaam Alaikum I have a question pertaining to Ramadan. I just accepted a job offer in Alaska. I have been here a week. I am excited that Ramadan is approaching so I actively decided to look at the calendar and i noticed that fajir comes in about 2am and Magrib comes in after 11pm. My question, Is there a ruling pertaining to a land that have no night and how do you survive in a summer month for 18 hours with no water. Please help.
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: In terms of fasting, wherever the day and night may be distinguished, and there is a sufficient time interval between them to eat, which would satisfy a person’s hunger and give him the strength to continue fasting, he is required to fast irrespective of the extreme length of the day. However, if, based on medical opinion, he fears death or serious illness because of the extreme length of the fast, he would be allowed to break his fast and make up the days missed after the excuse which allowed him to break his fast is over. It is not a universal concession for Muslims in that region but depends on the health condition of every individual.
Conversely, for situations, where the interval is too short that it is not possible to break the fast, there is a fatwa on this situation that allows for estimating the fast according to the fast of the people of Makkah or Medina or the temperate country nearest to them, and thereby, starting the fast according to the fajr in these countries and at night, not waiting until the sun sets.
Long Answer: With regard to fasting in the regions where the days are extremely long and nights are short, AMJA (Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America) issued the following opinion:
Case #1: When night and day may be distinguished from one another
In terms of fasting, wherever day and night may be distinguished, the basic rule on how to fast – when to start and when to stop – is what has come in the Book of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى): “…and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your fast until nightfall.” (Soorah Al-Baqarah, 2: 187)
No matter how long this day becomes, as long as the night has been distinguished from the day and the interval between them is sufficient to eat what would satisfy a person’s hunger and give him the strength to continue fasting. That is unless this fasting would harm the person and he fears from the length of the fast that he will die, that he will become seriously ill, that a pre-existing condition will worsen, or that his recuperation will be delayed; under such circumstances, he would be allowed to break his fast. This should not be considered, however, by mere fantasy and illusion; rather, what would be considered is when there is overwhelming belief through signs, experience, or notification of an expert physician that fasting would lead to death, severe illness, increased illness, or slow recovery, and this differs from person to person; each person has his own special case. Then, everyone who breaks his fast in each of these situations must make up the days he missed after the excuse which allowed him to break his fast is over.
That said, the Egyptian Fatwa Council has a fatwa on this situation that allows for estimation. They permitted the Muslims of Norway and other regions in the same situation where the day is long during the month of Ramadan to estimate their fast according to the fast of the people of Makkah or Medina, or the temperate country nearest to them; to start the fast according to the fajr in these countries and at night, not waiting until the sun sets. Shaikh Shaltout said, “Fasting twenty-three hours out of twenty-four hours is an undue burden, rejected by the wisdom of the Most-Wise and the mercy of the Most Merciful (Allah).”
We see that this estimation would be acceptable in the second scenario in which the interval is so short that it is not possible to break the fast, but opening the door to ijtihad in relation to time schedules for acts of worship must be dealt with using the utmost caution, for acts of worship are the final fortress of Shari`ah and it is necessary to take precautions for them which are not taken for other matters.
Case #2: When day and night are indistinguishable, or the interval between them is negligible
If there is no distinction or the interval is so short that the fasting person does not have time to break his fast, he may begin to estimate in the way previously mentioned for the prayer. He should estimate his fast according to the closest location or according to the fast of the Holy City of Makkah as detailed above. There is no harm in him breaking his fast before the night, for that is a time of exigent need (daroorah), and it is like the situation of residents of the polar regions fasting at night [in the winter], for example.
That said, estimating their night according to that in which the fasting person would be able to eat whatever would give him the strength to resume the fast and negate the difficulty of perpetual fasting would be an opinion to be taken into consideration, if only for the fact that it cannot be applied precisely due to the differences in practice and custom in that respect, which leaves estimation according to the closest location to be the opinion that achieves precision similar to that on which all rules of Shari`ah are based.
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.