Writing Tips: A Ramadan Vocabulary List
  • 3-minute read
  • 12th April 2021

Writing Tips: A Ramadan Vocabulary List

For Muslims around the world, this month sees the beginning of Ramadan. But what does the word “Ramadan” mean? In this post, we’ll take a brief look at some of the vocabulary you might need if you discuss Ramadan in your writing.

What Does “Ramadan” Mean?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. For Muslims, it is a time of spiritual reflection, fasting during daylight hours, prayer, and reciting the Qur’an.

The word “Ramadan” originally meant “the hot month” because it initially took place during hottest month of the year. The Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon, though, so the start of Ramadan changes by eleven days every year.

Ramadan Mubarak, meanwhile, is a greeting meaning “have a blessed Ramadan.”

Sawm (Fasting)

The Five Pillars of Islam are acts of faith that all Muslims are expected to carry out in their lives. One of these pillars is sawm, the ritual fasting observed from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan. Other words relating to sawm include:

  • Imsak – The start of the daily fast at the first light of dawn.
  • Suhoor – The pre-dawn meal taken before imsak starts.
  • Iftar – Meaning “break the fast,” iftar is the meal taken after sunset when the day’s fasting is over, typically shared with friends and family.

On the latter of these, the Prophet Muhammad once said, “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates.” Dates have thus become an important part of Ramadan, with many Muslims serving dates (tmar) at their iftar meals.

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A table laden with food for an iftar meal.
A tasty iftar spread. (Photo: raasiel)

Taraweeh (Special Congregational Prayers)

Each evening during Ramadan, mosques hold special congregational prayers known as taraweeh after the last daily prayer. This involves reading portions of the Qur’an and performing rakahs (i.e., cycles of movement involved in Islamic prayer).

The term “taraweeh” itself comes from an Arabic word meaning “rest and relax,” which reflects the meditative quality of the prayers.

Zakat al-Fitr and Eid al-Fitr

Zakat (almsgiving) is the Third Pillar of Islam, and the Zakat al-Fitr is a donation paid toward the end of Ramadan. This helps less wealthy Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast that occurs at the end of Ramadan.

This is an important time for Muslims, allowing families and communities to celebrate together after a month of fasting and spiritual reflection. The typical greeting at this time is Eid Mubarak, meaning “blessed celebration.”

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