I fail to see Br Dawood’s point! A laudable example in the US, despite rampant N2I’ism, you will find many mosques and organizations are now following the guidance in the Quran, in following the Central Authority, Fiqh Council of America (FCNA) for moon sighting. Thereby, following an “agreed upon” approach on moon sighting that FCNA announces. The Result? Collective Saum training across these communities and a step towards the noble objective of unity.
4:59 O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! Obey God and obey the Messenger, the Central Authority of the Divine System, and those in charge among you (whom the System has appointed as office-bearers). If you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to the Central Authority. IF YOU TRULY BELIEVE IN GOD AND THE LAST DAY, THIS IS THE BEST APPROACH FOR YOU, AND MORE SEEMLY IN THE END.
//Another point that comes to mind is the verse that says those who can do it [but with hardship] may instead feed the poor as a compensation. Would the situation in areas near North Pole not apply where the sun never sets for months at end?//
No! The ‘hardship’ mentioned in 2:184 is referring to sickness in the same verse. For those of you who are sick or on a journey during Ramadan may make up later. Out of those people who still find observing ‘Saum‘ a hardship, may feed the indigent.
2:184 Just for a fixed number of days. But if any of you is sick or is on a journey, he may make up the same number of days later. For those who can go through 'Saum' only with hardship, there is an alternative: the feeding of an indigent. But the one who gives more on his own volition, it will be good for him. However, going through the training program of 'Saum' is good for you if you knew better.
North Pole or outer space (some day), believers will still face these challenges of sunrise and sunset timings, together with the enticements of common vices - impatience, anger, unfair criticism, envy, etc. till the Final Day. ‘Saum’ is the only collective exercise of self-restraint prescribed by the Qur’an to empower against these evils. And to conduct it successfully, Quranic guidance of mutual consultation/‘agreeing upon’ is the only solution.