Ramadan Mubarak! (which means “have a blessed month of Ramadan”). Ramadan just started today and to me, it is a strange feeling. It is only my second Ramadan as a Muslim, so fasting is still new for me. Last year I was surrounded by Muslim friends in the United States, this year I am with my family in Northern Norway. My family is not Muslims, so that may bring a few challenges, but I am optimistic. I woke up today at 3:30 am in order to eat before the fasting begins. That was a strange feeling, as everyone else was sleeping.
It was also bright outside, as we live above the Arctic Circle, and the sun does not set for about two months of the summer. We are supposed to fast from a little before sunrise until sunset, but due to the extraordinary circumstances here we cannot possibly follow the sunrise and sunset of my town. This is an issue for all the places above the Arctic Circle, so one of the Islamic Centers in Northern Norway has studied this and found that when there is no sunset or sunrise, we can follow the prayer times in Makkah. It makes it a lot easier for us. Though I found it a little strange at first to pray isha (the night prayer) while it is still light outside, I am glad we have this option. Instead of having to fast 24 hours, we only fast about 15 hours.
Fasting means no eating, no drinking (not even water), no sex, no lying or backbiting etc., during the fasting hours. There are more things one should stay away from too, but these basics give you an idea. Ramadan is meant to be a month of contemplation and to find a way to get closer to Allah, by doing good deeds and staying away from the bad. The fasting is a reminder that every human being is equal in the eyes of God, and it is also meant to let you feel the pain of hunger to better understand how it is to not have access to food and water.
I wish every Muslim in the world gets a blessed and generous Ramadan.
I also hope that everyone else who is curious about Ramadan, Islam, or Muslims at all, does not hesitate to ask a Muslim. We are humans and we don’t have all the answers, but we are happy to find out and let you know the answer later if we need to.