Ramadan begins on June 18th this year — three days before the longest day of the year — when the sun blazes around the clock above the Arctic Circle and only sets for a few hours in Denmark, presenting a problem for Muslims who are meant to fast until sunset.
“We’ve got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting,” Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, told AFP on Thursday.
In previous years Muslims in the Nordics were advised to break their fast at the same time as people further south but a meeting of Swedish and European imams in northern Sweden this week recommended a new approach.
“Now you should go by the last time the sun clearly set and rose,” said Kharraki, adding that detailed guidelines were still being worked out and could also involve breaking the fast in the early evening to be more in line with the rest of the world.
The new rules being drawn up by a pan-European association — the European Council for Fatwa and Research — are expected to apply across the continent and will include advice on situations where Muslims can break the fast to avoid collapsing from lack of food and water.
“People can try to fast for 19 hours but not handle it. That’s not the idea… If you don’t manage to do your work or stay on your feet, then it’s time to break the fast,” said Kharraki.
While Denmark’s summer days are not quite as long as its more northern neighbours, parts of the country will have up to 18 hours of sunlight at the summer solstice. The national average for daylight on June 21st is 17 hours, 32 minutes and 21 seconds.
There is no official number on how many Muslims live in Denmark, but a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies has made an estimate that according to Politiken is universally viewed as the best guess at an offical number.
Working off of figures from Statistics Denmark, professor Brian Arly Jacobsen concluded that there are around 263,800 Muslims in Denmark, or 4.7 percent of the population.