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Home Articles Articles Ramadan - what is it?

Ramadan - what is it?

 Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root word ramida or arramad - intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground.  From the same root there is ramdaa, sunbaked sand, and the famous proverb: "Kal Mustajeer minar Ramadaa binnar" - to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

And in a hadith the Messenger of Allah (saws) said:

"The prayer of repenters is due when the young camel can feel the sun's heat early in the morning." (Muslim).

Thus, Ramadan is so called to indicate the heating sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst. Others say it is so called because Ramadan scorches out the sins just as the sun scorches the ground. Some say  it is so called because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah during Ramadan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun's heat. The framers of this beautiful language may have been inspired by Allah (SWT) in naming this month Ramadan. Otherwise, the relation between the heat and its properties is miraculously similar to that of Ramadan. While the heat represents the matter that helps shape, form, and mould virtually every matter, from metal and plastics, to plants and living cells, Ramadan undoubtedly helps a serious believer remould, reshape, reform, and renew his physical and spiritual disposition and behaviour.


Fasting, siyamm, has two meanings. Generally, siyaam or sawm, is derived from the root sama, to restrain from normal things, such as eating, drinking, and talking. If an individual refrains from these things, he is considered saaim, the observer of fast. Al-Qur'an uses the word generally when it revealed the conversation between the angel and Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the angel instructed her "And if you do see any man say, "I have vowed to remain silent for Allah".  (Al-Qur'an 19:26)

The phrase "to remain silent" is the interpretation of the Arabic word "sawm".  The reason for this interpretation is that "sawm" cannot mean fast, i.e. restraint from food, because Mary had just been told to eat from the palm tree. This general meaning is common in the Arabic language.

In the Shari'ah (Islamic law) the "sawm" means and implies a specific act , which is, "to worship Allah, abstaining, with intention to please Him from fast breakers, such as physical nourishment, food, drink, and sexual intercourse for the period between the break of dawn until sundown."

Although the definition indicated restrains the stomach and private parts, the tongue, eyes, ears and other limbs are equally obliged to be restrained if the faster wants to gain the total rewards of fasting. This is why the Messenger of Allah (saas) has been reported as saying in hadith by Abu Hurairah:

"He who does not desist from obscene language and acting obscenely (during the period of fasting), Allah has no need that he didn't eat or drink." (Bukhari, Muslim).

In another hadith by Abu Harairah (raa), the Prophet (saas) said:

"Fasting is not only from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene (acts)".

If someone verbally abuses you or acts ignorantly toward you, say  (to them) 'I am fasting; I am fasting.' (Ibn Zhuzaoinah).

Indeed, these two reports imply fasting will not be complete until one observes three elements:

 Restraining the stomach and the private parts from breaking the fast.

  1. Restraining the jawarih, the other body parts, which may render the fast worthless despite the main factor of hunger and thirst; so the tongue, for instance, must avoid backbiting, slander, and lies; the eyes should avoid looking into things considered by the Lawgiver as unlawful; the ears must stop from listening to conversation, words, songs, and lyrics that spoil the spirit of fasting; and,
  2. Restraining of the heart and mind from indulging themselves in other things besides dhikr Allah (remembrance of Allah).

As'Salaam News; December / January 97

P.O Box 711

Baltimore , MD 21203


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