The ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It would seem that in the ancient Arabian calendar this month fell in the summer; with the introduction by Islam of a purely lunar calendar, however, it may fall at any season of the year. It was in this month, traditionally on one of the last ten days, that the qur’Ān was revealed to muḤammad (cf. Qur’ān 2.181). Beginning from the year a.h. 2 (see hijra), with the suppression of the ’āšūrā ' fast (on the 10th of al-Muḥarram, the first month of the year), Muslims have been obliged to fast during Ramaḍān (cf. Qur’ān 2.181–183). The fast (ṣawm, probably borrowed in this sense from Jewish Aramaic) is obligatory to all adults who are physically capable of it; but it is relaxed for the aged and infirm, pregnant and nursing women, and travelers; the last are expected later to make up the days that they have omitted. The fast is binding only during the daylight hours, during which the person who is fasting must abstain from all food and drink and from sexual intercourse; menstruation and post-partum bleeding are also considered to break the fast. The nights of Ramaḍān are often spent in various forms of social activity. The feast of the breaking of the fast (’īd al-fiṭr ) is celebrated with the sighting of the new moon of the next month, Shawwāl.
[r. m. frank]