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Fasting in the Extreme North and South


The video above shows you the calendar dates in which fasting is possible and the dates in which fasting is not possible for all geographical latitudes, one after another. Fasting is not possible in certain Extreme Norther and Extreme Southern Regions, which happens only at certain times of the year in locations above 49 degrees in Latitude, because of lack of beginning of astronomical dawn or lack of sunset. Both sunset and beginning of astronomical dawn are necessary for fasting, because fasting starts at the beginning of astronomical dawn and ends at sunset. And when one of them is missing, fasting is not possible.

We find instructions about what to do in this situation in the Quran. It says:

“…those of you who witness the month of Ramadan shall fast in it, and those who are ill or IN BRIGHTNESS (safar),fast the same number of other days…” (2:185).

The word “brightness (safar)” is also used in other verses, where it refers to ‘bright faces’ (80:38), and in verse 74:34 where it refers to ‘brightness of the dawn’. In other words, situations when the night is bright,  when it does not get completely dark, or continuous twilight (74:34), or as the Nordics call them “white nights”.

The exact astronomical definition of this is “nights in which the sun does not go more than 18° under horizon.”

So, when Ramadan comes, and it is not possible to fast (due to safar – brightness of the dawn), then we simply can not fast. We compensate those missed days after Ramadan, at the earliest possible time of the year, when fasting becomes possible again.

By the way, all kinds of fasting are acceptable to God, even if you are just dieting, losing weight, but here I am talking about fasting like Muhammad, and Abraham, the perfect form of obligatory fasting. So, at certain times of the year in the extreme north and south, you will not be able to fast like Abraham and Muhammad. I am not saying, “Do not do it.” I am saying “It’s not possible to do it”, and God orders us to do it properly, even if it has to be outside the month of Ramadan (2:184-185, 187).

The Quran instructs us that fasting should be done from the beginning of dawn (when the sun is 18° below horizon), until sunset. (2:187).

Another rare situation, which happens only in polar circles, is when sunset is also missing. In those rare cases, you do not even need to compensate the fasting, because those are not full days. You can not have a Quranic day without sunset. I show these dates with dark red in the calendar.

The Quran informs us that fasting is obligatory only on specific days which are specifically prepared for fasting (2:184).

It says, “Prepared days (are designated for fasting)…” (2:184)

Just to drive the point home, let me inform you that the pillars of Submission or Islam or religious rituals include Contact Prayers, Obligatory Charity, Hajj, and Fasting. We do not find Ramadan as pillar of submission anywhere in the Quran. But fasting is obligatory for believers (2:183). It is obligatory during Ramadan when it is possible to fast during Ramadan, and it is obligatory outside of Ramadan when it is only possible to fast outside of Ramadan (2:185).

By the way, the previous prophets also fasted (2:183), but not necessarily during Ramadan. Ramadan only became a mandatory month of fasting when the Quran was revealed (2:185), so that the believers can organize easier (2:185) (i.e. preparing food together, easier spousal relations; I mean, it can be frustrating for a spouse not to know when the other spouse is fasting and out of reach). So, Ramadan is a timetable to help with easier coordination of fasting between people (2:185). However, it is fasting which brings you closer to God (2:183, 33:35), not Ramadan. So, as long as you fast about thirty days per year (inside or outside of Ramadan), you are fulfilling one of the main pillars of submission to God: Fasting.