New Ramadan rules to help Nordic Muslims with fasting

Muslims living in the Arctic Circle, who would usually be expected to fast from dawn until sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, may be following new guidelines this year in an attempt to combat the issue of the region's long daylight hours.

This year's holy month of Ramadan begins on 18 June, three days before the longest day of the year on 21 June when, in some parts of the region receive 24-hours of sunlight, raising a significant problem for observant Muslims who are fasting.

Due to the long daylight hours, Muslims living in countries in the Nordic regions, which include Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, have requested some religious guidance and clarification on when is appropriate to break their fast in the evening time and resume it in the mornings.

Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, told Agence France-Presse: "We've got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting."

He wen onto explain: "You're supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm."

In previous years when Ramadan fell during months of long sunshine, Muslims living in northern regions were advised to break and resume their fasts at the same time as those in the south dids. However, during a meeting between Swedish and European imams this week there were calls for new recommendations to be drawn up.

The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) are now in the process of completing the new comprehensive guidelines ready for 18 June. The new rules, Kharraki says, suggest Muslims "should [end the fast] by the last time the sun clearly set and rose". The guidelines may also involve breaking the fast earlier in the evening, similar to the rest of the world.

The new guidelines are expected to be followed across all Nordic Muslim communities. The ECFR also offer suggestions on what conditions are justifiable for Muslims to break the fast, such as extreme exhaustion or if someone is suffering from dehydration.

In 2014, around 80,000 Muslims from the Middle East and Africa claimed asylum in Sweden, meaning that the country's Muslim population has increased rapidly in the last year. According to estimates from the Gatestone Institute, Iceland has the smallest population of Muslims of all nordic countries, with only 1,200 estimated to be living there.