Mumbai: About 02 billion Muslims in as many as 195 countries of the world are observing Ramadan fast refraining themselves from food, water, and also sex, dawn to dusk. The majority of Muslims around the world greeted Ramadan on Thursday May 17, though the Holy Month of Fasting began in some countries a day later on May 18.
Based on the location they are experience of Muslims is different. Those located in India and other countries in the subcontinent are fasting for more than 15 hours under intense heat. The mercury level in many parts of the Indian Subcontinent has crossed 45 degree Celsius. In Pakistan's Karachi 65 people have been died due to scorching heat.
Likewise, in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries fasting hours are longer but the weather condition here is not as extreme as in the Indian subcontinent. Summer season is hottest in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh normally in the months of April and May. On the other hand temperature soars, sometimes even crosses 50 degree Celsius, in Saudi Arabian and other Middle East countries in the months of July and August.
Simultaneously, there are countries where Muslims are not only fasting for shorter duration but also having much cooler ambient. Like in Australia and New Zealand fasting hours is as an average 11 hours 43 minutes and in Argentina where Muslims fasting for 11 hours. While Wellington, New Zealand recorded a maximum temperature of 13 degrees on Friday, Sydney in Australia saw a maximum temperature of 20 degree Celsius.
Also Read | Ten hottest cities in India during this Ramadan
Everywhere in the world Muslims have interesting tales to share about their Ramadan experience. However the case with Iceland, where sun sets in midnight and only for two hours, is different. Here Muslims are fasting for longest hours – as many as 21 hours 51 minutes.
But, the long fasting hours here are compensated with cooler and pleasant weather condition, and Muslims in Iceland feel that fasting in the cold is easier than doing so in Asia and the Middle East, where temperatures can soar during the day.
"It's more difficult to fast in the heat. People can end up feeling angry without eating or drinking, whereas in the cool, it's easier to go through the day”, Karim Askari, Executive Director of the Islamic Foundation of Iceland, said while talking to CNBC.
Muslims in Iceland have option to cut short the long fasting hours and follow Saudi Arabia or a nearby country for Suhoor and Iftar – the start and end time of a Ramadan fast. However, most of the Muslims adhere to long fasting hours of their own country.
"I'll be going by the local time in Reykjavik. Going 21 hours without eating is a long time. But God willing, the majority of Muslims here in Reykjavik are doing it too”, Askari told CNBC.
Like Askari two mosques in Iceland's capital city have agreed to follow local dawn and dusk times to decide when they should break their fast. Other mosques and organizations have chosen to follow the times of other European countries. Askari said that one mosque in Reykjavik is following the times of a city in France.
"They can choose what they want. We have space in our community relations here," Askari said. "Some people cannot accept that they'll be eating when the sun is up, even if it's near midnight, because they are used to waiting in their home country — so they will go by local time. Others can accept that they'll have to eat even when the sun is partially up."
Slightly further down in latitude, a Norwegian Muslim living towards the north of the country can expect to fast for up to 20 hours and 20 minutes this year, while those in Oslo will observe between 18 and 19 hours of fasting.
Statistics Norway estimates that 200,000 Muslims currently live in the country — a diverse group consisting of native Norwegians alongside migrants from Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco and Turkey. While they will all break their fast in the same traditional way, with a handful of dates and a glass of water, there is no monolithic standard for Muslims in the most extreme corners of the world. For observers, that is the beauty in Islam.
"There is flexibility for Muslims," said Askari to CNBC. "Each person does what they want. We can only offer what we feel in our hearts. Muslims have this flexibility inside them wherever they are."
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