The Ramadan Pole Paradox

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The Geographic South Pole

This set of questions and answers explores Ramadan's relation to the North and South Poles. According to Islamic laws set out in the Qur'an, the keeping and breaking of a fast is related to times of sunrise and sunset which do not occur near the Poles as they would on other places on the Earth.

"How long is the day and night in countries near the North and South Poles?"
As we get closer to the North or South Pole, the day or night might extend for up to several months each. At the North Pole itself, daylight and darkness lasts for more than 6 months at a time.

"Why can't a Muslim fast during Ramadan near the Poles?"
A Muslim will start the fast at daybreak and end it at sunset. Considering the Sun will be up in the sky for days and weeks and months, Muslims will have to starve to death. Our bodies can survive for multiple days without food but we will die without water.

"What solution did Islamic scholars offer for this problem?"
Islamic scholars offered the only solution they could offer. The scholars issued a fatwa instructing Muslims to follow the schedule of their original country or the schedule of the closest country with a distinguishable day and night. One Islamic scholar declared that a Muslim must fast for 20 hours.[1]

"How long does a Muslim need to fast in theses countries which are close to the pole?"
See the following list. Fasting begins at Dawn and ends at Sunset.

Oslo, Norway Jun 28, 2014 2:27 AM 10:43 PM 20h 16m
Juneau, Alaska Jun 28, 2014 2:25 AM 10:07 PM 19h 42m
Reykjavik, Iceland Jun 30, 2014 1:34 AM 12:02 AM 22h 28m

So if a Muslim was fasting in Iceland, they would have to fast for nearly the entire day.

"Why is it not a valid solution to follow the schedule of our original country?"
What if the Muslim was born near the Poles? And why should anyone have to follow the schedule of another country?

"Why is it not a valid solution to follow the schedule of the closest country where day and night can be distinguished?"
Again, why should anyone have to follow the schedule of another country? And what does the 'Closest Country' mean? The closest country will still have a day or a night that will extend for 23 hours.

The North Pole.

"What if a Muslim astronaut (e.g. Anousheh Ansari[2]) goes in space and wants to pray salat or keep a fast?"
A Muslim astronaut would not be able to face Mecca if they were in orbit or at the moon, so scholars have taken matters into their own hands by creating a handbook called Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites (Ibadah) at the International Space Station. It must be mentioned that if a Muslim astronaut would spend time praying to Allah and keeping the fast on the moon, he/she would most likely be putting the mission in danger. Additionally, there is no compulsion to fast when traveling, and space missions clearly qualify as travel.

"Why do you think Islam did not take into consideration Muslim astronauts and Muslims living near the Poles?"
We can understand some 7th century desert dwellers not knowing about the poles or believing that Muslims would someday end up in space, but an omniscient being should have known better. Whoever made these rules either believed that the Earth is flat, or the Earth is in a perfect perpendicular tilt relative to the Sun.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Science which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also

  • Fasting - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Fasting
  • Cosmology - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Cosmology

External Links


  1. "Indeed, the fasts may be twenty hours long, but this is something one will have to adhere to." Fasting in extreme latitudes - Q&A
  2. Behrouz Saba - First Female Muslim Astronaut Could Help Bridge U.S.-Iran Gap - New America Media, September 20, 2006