Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (Arabic: sawm), prayer, reflection and community.
The word Ramadan derives from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, translating to English as scorching heat or dryness.
Ramadan lasts 29-30 days — from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next. This year, Ramadan begins on April 23, and ends on May 23, according to the Western (or Gregorian) calendar.
It is a commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation when all sacred scriptures were revealed to the prophet by God (Allah in Arabic): the Muslim holy book, the Quran, the scrolls of Abraham, the Torah, Psalms and the Gospels. Many Muslims believe this revelation occurred during one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan. This revelation is celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan and is called Laylat Al Qadr in Arabic, translated as Night of Power, Night of Decree, Night of Value, etc. It is the holiest day of the month.
In the United States, the vast majority of adult Muslims (~2.15M people) celebrate Ramadan, with 80% fasting during the month. According to polls, more Muslim adults fast during Ramadan than pray five times a day. And far more Muslim women tend to fast during Ramadan than wear a hijab.
Fasting from sunrise to sunset (fard in Arabic) is the main requirement of Ramadan for all adult Muslims who are not chronically sick, elderly, diabetic or traveling. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating are also not obligated to fast. The meal eaten just before sunrise every day during Ramadan is called suhur. The feast that breaks the fast at night is called iftar.
In Middle Eastern countries, iftar usually consists of water, juices, dates, appetizers, one or more main courses and rich sweet desserts such as baklava. Over time iftar has evolved into banquets that may accommodate hundreds or even thousands of diners. Some of the larger mosques in the Middle East are known to accommodate up to 30,000 people in one sitting for iftar.
Here are some popular Arabic expressions that you can use during Ramadan to impress your Muslim friends and colleagues:
- Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak — Have a blessed Ramadan.
- Allahu Akram — God is much more generous.
- Al Salam Alaikum — Peace be upon You.
- Allahu Akbar — God is the Greatest.
- Insha’Allah — God Willing or if God Wills it.
- Sayem? — Are you a person who is fasting?
- Eid Mubarak — Blessed Feast or Festival.
Muslims love Ramadan and regard it as their favorite time of year. It is considered a time to rest, cleanse the body and reinvigorate themselves.
Written by Jon Kuykendall-Barrett, Account Executive