Monday, August 9, 2010

Ramadan Terminology for Dummies*

Get a little deep into the world of Ramadan and other Islamic terms**. Start reading so all of those confusing terms you hear or read during Ramadan will soon become very familiar to you.

AdhanThe Islamic call to prayer.

A.H. (Islamic calendar):  Anno Hegirae" or "After Hijrah." Hijrah means "Emigration". The Islamic calendar starts from the day Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, emigrated (made hijrah) from the city of Mecca to the city of Medina in 622 A.D.

Alhamdulillah:  A phrase that Muslims often use in conversation, meaning "Praise be to Allah. Usually as an answer for the question Kef Al Hal? (How are you?).

Allah:  Literally "The God." There is no plural, masculine or feminine form of this word in Arabic. It denotes the One True God, the Almighty Creator, Who is neither male nor female.

Assalamu alaikum:  A common greeting among Muslims meaning "Peace be with you." Extended forms include "Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah" (May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you) and "Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh" (May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you).

Eid"Festival," of the two Islamic holidays.

Eid Al Fitr:  "Festival of Fast-Breaking", the three-day festive celebrations of ending the month of fasting.  It  falls on the 1st of Shawal, the month that follows Ramadan of the Islamic calendar. People wear their best clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and visit friends and family to celebrate the occasion. The day begins with an early special prayer in the mosques, followed by people greeting each other by saying "Eid Mubarak".  

Eid Mubarak:  Greeting meaning "Have a happy and blessed Eid" expressed among Muslims to congratulate each other at the end of Ramadan, during the Eid celebration. Literally, it means, "Blessed Festival!" The appropriate answer is, "Allah yubarak feek!" (May Allah bless it for you also!).

FajrOne of the five daily Islamic prayers, performed before the break of dawn

Fidya:  Compensation for missing a fast, for those unable to, or wrongly practising it. Fidya usually takes the form of donating money, foodstuffs, or sacrificing an animal. 

HilalThe very slight crescent moon that is first visible after a new moon. Muslims look for the hilal when determining the beginning and end of Islamic months.

Iftar:  Ending of the fast, a meal served at the end of the day, immediately after sunset, to break the day's fast. Literally, "breakfast." Iftar takes place at the Maghrib Adhan (call for prayer). Traditionally the fast is ended with dates and water. It is a time when friends and family come together.

I'tikafA spiritual retreat in the mosque, usually performed during the last ten days of Ramadan. A person "making i'tikaf" will spend the evening and night in the mosque, devoting his or her time to worship and to read the Qur'an.

Lailat al-Qadr"The Night of Power/Decree" - a special night that falls during the last ten days of Ramadan. It commemorates the night when the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad, peace be upon him. Lailat al-Qadr is said to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of the month (21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th of Ramadan). The Qur'an describes it as a night that is more valuable than a thousand months. For this reason, many Muslims spend the entire last ten days in extra worship or retreat in the mosque. 

MaghribOne of the five daily Islamic prayers, performed just after sunset.

MasjedMosque; a Muslim house of worship. Literally means "place of prostration" (in prayer).

Qur'anIslam's holy book, believed to be the word of God or Allah's final revelation. The Qur'an was first revealed by Angel Jibril  (Gabriel) to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) during the last ten days of Ramadan on Lailat al-Qadr (Night of Power/Decree), the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. Muslims consider Qur'an to be a divine guide to life and last word of Allah.

Ramadan:  The ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar, during which Muslims spend the daylight hours in a complete fast.

SadaqahCharitable giving, or the money given in charity.

Sadaqah al-FitrAn amount given in charity to the poor at the end of Ramadan, to ensure that everyone has enough to eat during Eid al-Fitr. This amount is traditionally paid in food goods (rice, barley, flour, dates, etc.), collected locally, and distributed before the morning prayer on the day of Eid.

Sawm:  The Arabic word for fast or fasting. As practiced in Islam, this means a complete fast: no food or drink at all during the daylight hours. Married Muslims refrain from intimacy as well, and all those fasting are to steer away from anger, bad language, and bad deeds. The fasting person's complete attention is to be on worship and devotion to God.

Suhoor:  The pre-fast or the final meal before dawn or the day's fast begins and Fajr (morning call to prayer). It is very important to help the Muslim tolerate fasting hunger.

Taraweeh: Special congregational evening prayers conducted after Isha (night prayer). During each night's prayer, one juz (1/30) of the Qur'an will be recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an will be completely read.

Zakat (or Zakat al-Fitr):  Muslims give away a certain percentage of the total value of all that they own annually and distribute it to charity and the needy. One of the five "pillars" of Islam. Muslims who have wealth remaining over the year must pay a certain percentage to aid those in need. While it can be paid anytime during the year, many people prefer to pay it during or at the end of Ramadan.
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** Sources: Gulf News and