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Muslims face dilemma of when to observe Ramadan in areas with no dawn or dusk

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 7:27 p.m. MDT

Afghan girls read the Quran during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the city of Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 22, 2011. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are experiencing the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year.  (Rahmat Gul, Associated Press) Afghan girls read the Quran during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the city of Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 22, 2011. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are experiencing the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year. (Rahmat Gul, Associated Press)

Our take: The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a time for fasting and prayer, when adherents must fast from food and water between dawn and dusk. However, for Muslims living at the northern tip of Europe, such observance could mean going without food or water for up to 20 hours. Although there is no religious mandate on how to observe the fast when the hours in countries like Finland don't line up with the scriptures, some have decided to follow the clock of the nearest Muslim country or those of Mecca, the Muslim religion's holiest city.

How do you observe dawn-to-dusk fasting when there is neither dawn nor dusk?

It's a question facing a small but growing number of Muslims celebrating the holy month of Ramadan on the northern tip of Europe, where the the sun barely dips below the horizon at this time of year.

In Rovaniemi, a northern Finland town that straddles the Arctic Circle, the sun rises around 3:20 a.m. and sets about 11:20pm. That means Muslims who observe Ramadan could be required to go without food or drink for 20 hours.

Afghani Muslims shop on the first day of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, July 20, 2012. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year.  (Ahmad Jamshid, Associated Press) Afghani Muslims shop on the first day of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, July 20, 2012. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year. (Ahmad Jamshid, Associated Press)

In a few years, Ramadan will begin even closer to the summer solstice in late June, when the sun doesn't set at all.

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