Ramadan in Sweden: 21 Hours of Fasting
For the Muslim, Ramadan is the month where we do Shaum (fasting in English) for 30 days. Not eating nor drinking anything from the sunrise until sunset. Back home in Jakarta, Indonesia, we take do our preparation meal at 4am, then stop eating and drinking for 14hours before we can eat again at 6pm. Well, we all know the days are much longer in Sweden during summer. This is one question asked by many of my foreign friends: How did you do it?
In Stockholm today, we do it between 2.15am to 10.15pm. 20 hours. It will increase a bit longer as we get closer to midsummer (22nd of June). I guess since all the Muslim are used to this situation at least 30 days each year, so it is just a matter of adding few hours to our regular hours of fasting. Not easy, obviously. At first I don’t know if I can do it. Fortunately I did.
What is it actually? And Why?
Shaum or fasting is celebrated every year. It is more than just not eating nor drinking. It is a practice to be a better person. We also have to try to control ourselves harder than before. Like not getting angry easily, not swearing. The hope is that we can stay to be that better person even after Ramadan.
The other important meaning of the Shaum is to feel empathy for the unfortunate. With the hunger and the thirst, we will learn a bit about the feeling of the poor people. We know that there are many people still struggling just to have a small portion of meal. Maybe not in Sweden, but place like Africa, even in many parts of Indonesia, there are a lot of them. By feeling what they feel, the hope is to become more grateful of our life, what we get to eat and complain less about it, also to encourage in helping the poor.
Oh and did I say that the food and drink taste way more delicious after 20 hours without any water and food?
Sunrise to sunset, right? So what about north of Sweden?
That is right, it is almost impossible to do Shaum in the north where the sun doesn’t goes down. Yep, they don’t call it Midnight Sun for no reason. So in this case, what we can do is to follow other city’s time that we can handle. For instance, if I study in Kiruna by now and I think it is too difficult for me to do with Kiruna’s time, I can follow Stockholm fasting time. Even if I get sick because of Stockholm time of Shaum, I can do Indonesia’s time. Whatever suit your limit, but don’t make you suffer.
I thought I can’t really handle 21 hours of fasting, but….
I did even more. Two years ago I stay in Stockholm for work and happen to spend the whole Ramadan in Stockholm for the first time. Since the first two weeks of fasting went well, I try to challenge my limit with travelling to Bergen, Norway while doing this Shaum. I hike to two hills in Bergen for 8 hours. Prepared a mineral water and some bread in my backpack in case I get too weak. Luckily I can stand it.
Since Bergen and one day of 8 hours hike went fine, I add a little more difficulty again during the last week of Ramadan. Don’t ask me why, I just like the idea of went a bit over the limit. Went to Fulufjället National Park, in Dalarna (Central Sweden) for a weekend. I hike for two days, with 9 hours of walk on each. Like before, the water and bread in my backpack remain intact until the time to break the Shaum. I guess beautiful scenery help a lot. Because I enjoy it, the time move faster and I didn’t really realize it.
I did not mean to brag. Just want to share, that we probably capable of doing something a bit more. We probably underestimating ourselves.
Tips for fasting during the Swedish Summer
The most important thing is don’t think about It too much. I mean, to take it lightly, it is just an additional few hours. Sweden and Stockholm is very beautiful during summer. Enjoy the city or nature and watch time fly by. Nutrition wise, take some honey when you do the preparation meal. Lot of water and fruits helped me not feeling sleepy all the time.
Expect everyone to not knowing about you doing the Shaum. Take your time to explain it to your friends. Tell them it is totally fine to eat in front of you. Do not feel shy to tell people that you will be one hour late for the farewell party because you can’t join the dinner but can join the game after the dinner. You can always take the food from restaurant with your lunch box, so you can enjoy it later when it is time to break the Shaum.
Have a nice Ramadan and summer !