By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
29 June 2015
Before the advent of Ramadan every year, we
read various reports doing the rounds in the media showing the number of hours
that Muslims around the world would observe fasting in 24 hours.
Muslims are spread all across the world but
the majority is concentrated in the region just above the equator. The length
or duration of a fasting day in Ramadan changes every year but for most of the
Muslims, living in the above-mentioned region, usually doesn’t have to fast for
However, those living near the polar circle
or to be more precise in countries like Sweden, Norway or Canada, the duration
of a fasting day are usually long.
In the next 30 years, Ramadan will fall
during summer and winter in the northern hemisphere and the fasting hours will
greatly vary in the northern latitudes. During such days, Muslims in countries
like Sweden will have to brave long hours of fasting. As a matter of fact, they
will have very little gap between their Iftar meal and Suhoor, which means that
Muslims living in higher latitudes would be fasting for as long as 23 hours and
would have to rely on only one meal during the entire day for the entire month
During this blessed month, Muslims are
supposed to fast, which is the fourth pillar of Islam. Fasting is a way of
worshipping Allah and not a test of human endurance. Contrary to popular
belief, Islam is a very flexible religion. That is why we have the institution
of Ijtihad, an Arabic term meaning “independent reasoning.” Of course,
authentic Muslim scholars do it. I was wondering if there were a fatwa or edict
regarding fasting in regions or countries close to the polar circles.
Islam is a religion, which is not confined
to any geographical area or time. Its teachings encompass time and space and
that is why Allah has declared Qur’an as His final words. Thanks to the
institution of Ijtihad, Muslim scholars have always been able to come up with
Islamic solutions to new problems or issues that emerge with the changing
Now let us talk about this holy month and
what it has in store for us. What is the basic purpose of this month? Are we
able to take advantage of this month to the fullest by understanding the basic
philosophy behind fasting?
Ramadan is not just about abstaining from
food and water during the day. It is a training program for Muslims to help
them prepare for the remaining year. It is a program for Muslims to inculcate
in them basic Islamic qualities like patience in daily matters, tolerance
toward others and kindness. Ramadan also helps us in maintaining our health. We
can develop healthy dietary habits and continue with them beyond Ramadan as
well. This month teaches us how to eat properly and how to use our time wisely.
Unfortunately, we do the exact opposite. We waste huge amounts of food and time
preparing just two meals: Iftar and Suhoor. We prepare lots of it and we waste
most of it. Above all, we waste lots of water doing the dishes. Perhaps this is
the only month of the year during which we waste food without thinking twice,
which indicates that we don’t understand the concept of this month and the idea
We don’t just waste food at home; this
wastage could also be witnessed at communal Iftars like at mosques or at Iftar
dinners or parties.
An Indian expatriate wrote to me the other
day about Iftars arranged at big mosques. According to him, most of the food goes
to the garbage bins. It is true that the good will and good intention is there
but common sense should prevail. There are many things that we can learn from
Ramadan but apparently we don’t. One of the most important lessons that we can
learn from Ramadan is respecting our fellow humans and the sanctity of their
During this year’s Ramadan, the Muslim
world has been jolted by violent incidents. The killings in Kuwait, France and
Tunisia are condemnable and deplorable actions. Unfortunately, all these
killings are taking place in the name of Islam during the holy month.
There is no letup in the violence across
the region, which happens to be Muslim.