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Alaska Muslims adjust fasting hours during Ramadan

Living so far north presents a unique challenge to those celebrating the holy month
Alaska Muslims adjust fasting hours during Ramadan
Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 7:30 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Practicing Islam in Alaska presents Muslims with unique challenges that are different from those in the Lower 48. This is especially during Ramadan, the holy month of Islam.

During Ramadan, Muslims will fast between dawn and sunset. However in Alaska, with the extended daylight of spring and summer — and the early sunsets during winter — practicing Muslims are presented with an uncommon fasting struggle.

“There is no darkness to know when to begin your fast and really to end it,” said Heather Barbour, a practicing Muslim in Anchorage.

The long stretches of daylight and darkness impact when Muslims can eat and drink during Ramadan. During certain parts of the year when the sun stays out past midnight, that can cause a predicament.

“If you’re telling the community that they have to fast, you know, 20 hours, maybe 22 hours a day for 30 days, not everybody in the community is going to be able to do that,” Barbour said.

Then during the wintertime, Barbour said members of the Muslim community are faced with the opposite issue.

“The day would be so short, you could basically just have a late lunch and still fast between dawn and sunset,” she said.

To be able to properly fast during the day, Muslims will follow the fasting time in Mecca.

“If the fast is 14 hours in Mecca, we fast 14 hours,” Barbour said.

In the early 2010s, the Fiqh Council of North America gave Muslims in Alaska a nonbinding ruling that allowed them to follow Mecca’s fasting hours, giving them more stability in when they can break their fast.

“When Ramadan falls in the summertime, basically ... we’ll be breaking our fast while the sun is still up,” Barbour said. “And then in the wintertime, we’ll be still fasting while it’s still dark.”

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