What does the name Ramadan mean?

Amira Noshokaty , Sunday 26 Mar 2023

Ahram Online delves into the names of the Islamic Months and their significance.

A man carries a traditional lantern in Sayyeda Zeinab market ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. AP


According to Professor Anis Feriha in his book titled “The Names of Months in Arabic and their Meaning,” (Beirut, 1957), Ramadan is the only month mentioned in the Quran and is known as the month of fasting. The name itself means "the earth became hot," denoting hot weather.

The Islamic calendar was established in the year of Hijra (Emigration) of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to El-Madina in 622 AD

Prior to Islam, the Arabs built their calendars around major events, such as the Year of the Elephant. Arabs used a lunar calendar, but also relied on the Sun to fix seasons, known as Al-Nase.

However, during the Farewell Hajj, the Prophet Muhammad prohibited this practice of adding leap months to align the lunar calendar with the solar calendar. From that day onwards, the original order of lunar months was set. The Islamic calendar includes Moharram, Safar, Rabi Al-Awal, Rabi Al-Akhar, Gamadi Al-Awal, Gamadi Al-Akhar, Ragab, Shaaban, Ramadan, Shawaal, Zul qeada, and Zul Hegga.

Each month has a unique meaning and significance:

  • Moharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and means "prohibited." During this month, any killing or raids were prohibited. It is said that it coincides with the harvest season, hence the prohibition.
  • Safar is the second month and means "yellowish and empty," likely referring to the status of homes when tribes leave to raid others. Some also referred to it as the emptiness of the houses of the tribes they raid. Others believe it was named after a town in Yemen called Safaria, which was part of their traditional trade route.
  • Rabi Al-Awal is the third month and means "Rabi the first," referring to the season of green pastures.
  • Rabi Al-Akhar is the fourth month and means "Rabi the last," also referring to the season of green pastures.
  • Gamadi Al-Awal is the fifth month and means "Gamadi the first," derived from the word "gamad" meaning frozen, denoting the cold season.
  • Gamadi Al-Akhar is the sixth month and means "Gamadi the last," also derived from the word "gamad" meaning frozen, denoting the cold season.
  • Ragab is the seventh month and means "the holy month." It was greatly honoured pre-Islam and affiliated with pagan offerings. It was associated with the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of a new cycle of life.
  • Shaaban is the eighth month and means "branched out," like a tree. Pre-Islamic fasting was often done in this month. Prophet Muhammad also fasted during that month. According to the religious tale, it is during that month that God comes down to the first layer of the sky and calls on people to forgive their sins.
  • Ramadan is the ninth month and is the only month mentioned in the Quran. It is known as the month of fasting and means "the earth became hot," denoting hot weather.
  • Shawaal is the tenth month and means "hot season" and could also mean the season where the goats do not have enough milk.
  • Zul qeada is the eleventh month and is the month before Hajj. It was the market season and literally means "settling down" or "staying in one's place."
  • Zul Hegga is the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar and literally means "the Hajj month," meaning pilgrimage.
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