Fasting during Ramadan is an important pillar of Islam, and for Muslims living abroad, the experience of fasting can be different from that in their home country. Mohd Fadzil Mohd Tahir, a 35-year-old Malaysian man living in Norway, shared his experience of fasting while living overseas.
Fasting in Norway is easier?
Fasting during Ramadan while living overseas can be a challenging experience due to the differences in climate and daylight hours. Fadzil shared that the number of hours he fasts differs depending on the latitude and the time of year.
"In Trondheim, Norway, where I currently reside, the longest hours between sunrise and sunset can be up to 22 hours during mid-summer in July, while the shortest can be only 8 hours during mid-winter in December," he shared.
Fadzil also took the chance to fast every day during winter as sahur (pre-dawn meal) is before sunrise and iftar (breaking the fast) is during lunchtime.
Despite fasting for about 15 to 16 hours a day, he noted that fasting in Norway is easier as the cold weather is perfect. "The hot weather in Malaysia makes us sweat and thirsty," he quipped.
As Ramadan is a month of increased and improved Ibadah (worship), regardless of location, Muslims need to mentally prepare themselves. Mohd Fadzil emphasised that Ramadan is a period to recalibrate one’s Salah (prayer), improve Quran recitation, and give more charity.
No Ramadan bazaars in Norway
For Muslims residing abroad, the food during Ramadan can be different from that in their home country. In Norway, there are no Ramadan bazaars, which is common in Malaysia. However, Mohd Fadzil’s wife, Asyikin Al-Hadad, who is a full-time housewife, cooks Malaysian dishes for Iftar every day.
"She'd prepare one main meal and one dessert every day and we try to avoid food waste by cooking enough for two people only," he said.
There is no worry about finding halal meat in Norway. In fact, they have found it easy to find halal food in Norway, with more than five shops selling halal-slaughtered chicken and meat, as well as a few kebab restaurants.
Daily routine changes during Ramadan
Fadzil agreed that his daily routine has changed during Ramadan. It was quite challenging for the dad of three (including a newborn!) as Iftar is usually around 8-9 pm, which is bedtime for the children.
"They often stayed up late because they are curious why we are eating so late," he shared.
During this transition season, the evening is quite short. Tarawih prayers start at 10.30 pm, and he wakes up for sahur at 4 am.
"It is quite tiring but my work schedule is quite flexible, so it's not very stressful," said Fadzil
Fasting during Ramadan can be a challenging experience for Muslims living abroad. However, Fadzil’s experience in Norway shows that with preparation, it is possible to manage the differences in climate, food, and daily routine. Ramadan is an opportunity to recalibrate one’s worship and improve one’s relationship with Allah regardless of location.