Ramadan Versus Tromsø, Norway

Note: This was originally posted on my now defunct blog

Ramadan (or Ramzan) is the Islamic month of fasting, in which Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting, according to Islamic theology, is meant to teach the person patience, sacrifice and humility. During Ramzan, Muslims offer more prayer than usual.

This Islamic observance takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; the month in which the Qur’an was “revealed” to the Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar used by Muslims everywhere to determine the proper day on which to celebrate Islamic holy days and festivals such as Ramzan. It is a lunar calendar having 12 lunar months in a year of about 354 days. Because this lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, Islamic holy days, although celebrated on fixed dates on the Islamic calendar, usually shift 11 days earlier each successive solar year.

Another fact. Tromsø is a northern city in Norway with a population of about 70,000 people. At that latitude however, hundreds of thousands of people live across Russia, Canada, Sweden, Alaska and the likes. Norway is popularly known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. Tromsø goes without the sun for two months or 60 days between 21 November and 21 January, and has the midnight sun looming for about two months and eight days, or a total of 68 days.

So the question that arises is, since there are about 60 days of darkness and daylight at times in Tromsø, and Muslims are supposed to fast (including not drinking anything, not even swallowing one’s own saliva) from dawn until sunset, what would a Muslim living in Tromsø do, if Ramzan fell in such a season?

Did the Islamic God really not know that there are places in the world where days last as long as two months? Surely, it would be absurd for someone to fast this long. Did God not know this?

Of course, the reason is simpler. Like any other religion, Islam grew out of the imagination of the human mind. Initially, in light of the prevalent social order, religion have have even been “progressive”. But it was influenced by the material world around them. It was based on the knowledge that existed at that time. Islam originated and evolved into its current form in what is now known as Saudi Arabia and surrounding states. No one really knew that the lengths of days differed across regions then. They did not even know the Earth was not flat, or that the Sun did not revolve around the Earth.

This contradiction is among the many that show the Human angle to the claimed divine and supernatural.

Judaism, like any other religion would, also faced the same problem. All modern religions of the world sprung up in Asia around 0 B.C., give or take a few hundred years (Ancient religions such as Hinduism, the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Norse ones are older and have more diverse beginnings). But Jews were able to tackle this problem when Judaism reached such Northern communities. They gave rise to a body of Jewish law in the Polar Regions, which attempt to deal with the special challenges of adhering to the Mitzvah in such conditions. If and when Islam finally reaches the Polar Regions, I’m sure some Islamic leaders will stand up and create a new set of rules to suit the situation.

But in doing so, they would miss the important point: religion is manmade, and religious knowledge is limited in general to those who thought up of them, and to the time they thought up of them. God is not a divine being whose say we have to follow, “He” is merely a figment of human imagination.