Fasting with 18 hours of sunlight: Ramadan begins in the land of the midnight sun

In the North, fasting from dawn until sundown can be difficult at this time of year.

'We do have sun for most of the day,' says Kazim Qadir of the Yukon Muslims Society

'You ... tend to become more generous, you tend to give more to the needy and poor,' says Kazim Qadir of the Yukon Muslims Society, about Ramadan. (Sandi Coleman/CBC)

Muslims around the world are ready for Ramadan, including in the North, where fasting from dawn until sundown can be extra difficult as the sunlight stretches close to 20 hours a day.

Ramadan, which marks the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, began this week. For Muslims, it's a month of prayer and intense fasting during daylight hours.

"We do have sun for most of the day," says Kazim Qadir, a member of the Yukon Muslims Society.

He said some people choose to follow Whitehorse's actual sunrise and sunset times, even when that means not eating or drinking for about 18 hours each day. Others choose to follow the times of nearby cities with slightly less hours of daylight, such as Vancouver.

"There is no right or wrong [way]," Qadir said. "I think it's just a personal preference. Whoever can follow the Whitehorse time, they are doing it happily."

He said no matter how many hours are spent fasting, the purpose of Ramadan remains the same.

"You become more thankful and grateful to your God for the blessings that he has given you ... and you also tend to become more generous, you tend to give more to the needy and poor. Because now you are experiencing it yourself."

In Yellowknife, the sun rose at about 4:30 a.m and did not set until about 10:30 p.m. this week.

Most of the people who fasted did so during sunlight in Edmonton, where the sunrise is at about 5:30 a.m. and sunset is at 9:30 p.m., explained Mohamad Ali, a board member at the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife.

He echoed what Qadir said about the spirit of giving and renewal that Muslims feel during Ramadan. 

When Ali was a newcomer to Yellowknife, the mosque was one of the first places he went to build his support network, he said. He expects the mosque to continue playing that role for others who need help.

"They expect to get the help there, they may see someone that they know from before," he said. "It's the starting place, the first place people usually seek is to go to the Islamic Centre."

"The mosque, it plays a key role in our life," he said.  

Raising dollars for Yukon's 1st mosque 

The society is still raising money to build the territory's first mosque. The group bought a warehouse in Whitehorse last year.

A former trucking warehouse in Whitehorse will become the first mosque in Yukon. The Yukon Muslims Society hopes to finish renovations by August or September. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

"Everything from the floors, to the ceilings, to the doors — everything in between needs to be replaced or fixed, and that is what is happening at the moment," said Qadir.

The Yukon Muslims Society has raised some money within their community to pay for renovations, and members have also reached out to other Muslim communities.

One member of the society is currently in Ontario, talking about the project and hoping to raise extra money during this time of generosity.

The society hopes to have the mosque complete by August or September.

With files from Sandi Coleman, John Last