It’s a sad testimony to the age that we live in that islam has spread even to the outer reaches of Lappland.
It is 8 PM when Nafisa Yeasmin, a native of Bangladesh and now a resident of Rovaniemi, begins preparing her family’s first meal of the day.
Living in the far north, under the light of a sun that doesn’t set during the summer months means that as a Muslim, she has had to adjust the sunrise to sunset rule of fasting during Ramadan to local conditions.
“One way is to observe Mecca time. I also know Muslims who fast on local time. That is hard. Then one can fast on the time of the closest Muslim country, Turkey,” Nafisa explains.
Nafisa, who has lived in Rovaniemi for nine years, follows Mecca time for beginning and breaking each day’s fast.
“Sixteen hours of fasting are now over. As the end of Ramadan approaches, it gets easier.”
Those who observe Turkish time have fasted a bit longer, 18 hours. Muslims who hold to the local time refrain from food and drink for 21 hours out of the day’s 24.
Nafisa’s 11 and 14 year-old children also observe the month of daily fasts. Enjoying their summer school holidays means that they can stay up late.
“Before dawn we eat again. We wake up sometime around two or three o’clock and then have a really big meal and drink a lot of water,” says 14 year-old Shrabon Hasnat.
A festive table
“Just like special Christmas foods are eaten in Finland, we eat Ramadan foods during Ramadan. Otherwise it wouldn’t feel like Ramadan,” Nafisa Yeasmin adds.
Even though it is a weekend evening, the table is spread with a variety of dishes. Ramadan foods are often energy-packed and fatty.
“Black beans, fried chicken, breaded eggplant, banana-yogurt drink, and various fruits and desserts,” Nafisa lists as being on the menu for this evening’s meal.
Nafisa mentions that she’s picked up the Finnish habit of drinking cup after cup of coffee during the day, and it’s hard to do without. Usually, the first thing she has when she ends her day’s fast is a big cup of coffee, and only then something to eat.
Muslims most often start their Ramadan evening meal with dates. Besides their traditional association with the period of Ramadan, dates are also a high-energy food.
“One bite gets the blood sugar rising immediately. In addition, there is the history of our Prophet who himself ate more dates than usual during Ramadan,” Nafisa Yeasmin relates.
The month of Ramadan ends this coming Friday.