This month, there are millions of French-speakers around the globe who are observing the holy month of Ramadan. This is a very important month within the Muslim community. It is one of prayer and peace, involving fasting, charity, and reflection, and ending in a celebration of their community. ARound the world today, roughly 1.6 billion Muslims will be observing Ramadan. Let’s take a look at what Ramadan is, how it’s observed, and the way we can discuss Ramadan in French. What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, as mentioned, is a time of fasting and reflection. It is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and as such depends upon the moon. Adults abstain from impurities during the hours of daylight - food, drink, anger, and impure thoughts. The hours of daylight are from sunrise to sunset. The morning meal is suhur, eaten before the sun rises. Iftar is the meal which completes the daily fast after Maghrib.
‘Muslim Hands’ explains that ‘fasting allows the individual to understand the pain and suffering of millions around the world who live their lives in poverty and famine, leaving the participant feeling more grounded and grateful for all that Allah (SWT) has given them.’ Fasting throughout Ramadan, called Sawm, is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam as outlined in the Qur’an.
Of course, this does not apply to adults who, due to health reasons, are not able to fast. However, even those who cannot fast can observe Ramadan in charitable actions, good deeds, and in prayer.
Additionally, the Third Pillar of Islam is charity, or Zakat, and it is a crucial aspect of Ramadan. This perhaps should be expected, as Ramadan is about connecting with Allah, reflecting, and community. There is a specific calculation for Zakat. Exactly 2.5% of a household’s wealth and assets over a specified threshold, called the nisab. A household must have held these assets and wealth for a full lunar year in order to be required to pay Zakat. This means that those below the threshold, or who may have only just risen above it, are exempt.
Ramadan this year began on 1 April and will end on 1 May. After the time of fasting is complete, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated. This is, according to ‘Muslim Hands’, ‘a great time of feasting and celebration for Muslims, with gifts exchanged between loved ones’. This celebration lasts for two or three days.
French Muslim Vocabulary
Just as English-speaking Muslim (Fr. un musulman, une musulmane) communities have English equivalents for Arabic Islamic (Fr. islamique) vocabulary, so too do French-speaking communities. Here are just a few.
Let’s start with the big one for this month - Ramadan! In French, this translates to le mois de Ramadan. To wish a friend Happy Ramadan, you may say Ramadan Mubarak in Arabic. To say the equivalent in French, you might say “que ton/votre Ramadan soit béni et heureux”. In French, to simply say Happy Ramadan, “bon mois de Ramadan”. You may also wish peace be unto you - “que la paix soit sur vous”, or “as-salamu-alaykum” in Arabic.
Similarly, you may wish someone luck with their fasting - “bon courage pour le jeûne”, le jeûne meaning fasting. This takes place from sunrise - la lever du soleil - to sunset - le coucher du soleil. At the end of Ramadan, we may say that Eid al-Fitr is celebrated, but those in French-speaking communities would say la fête de la rupture takes place.
The second major holiday in Islam, or L’Islam, is Eid al-Adha, or la fête du sacrifice. This is also known as Eid al-Kabir, or la grande fête. This takes place during the twelfth and final month of the Islamic lunar calendar, or un calendrier lunaire.
Allah remains Allah in French, and God translates to Dieu, to whom the faithful pray (Fr. to pray = prier). The prophet (Fr. un prophète) Muhammad is called Mahomet. Those in the islamique faith (Fr. la foi) read the Qur’an, or le Coran. The fifth pillar of Islam is a pilgrimage (Fr. un pèlerinage) to the birthplace of the prophet Mahomet, Mecca, called La Mecque. During Ramadan, communities engage in prayer (Fr. une prière) at their mosque (une mosquée).
Ramadan Around the World
The two most well-known French-speaking Islamic countries are Morocco and Algeria. However, French is also commonly spoken in Lebanon, Chad, and Tunisia. Of course, Islamic populations inhabit every French-speaking nation around the globe. Canada, being a proud multicultural country, is home to many Islamic communities. In fact, the largest Islamic population resides in Quebec.
Observant Muslims are called to prayer five times a day. These are Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (after midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (after sunset), and Isha (nighttime). With the different time zones around the world, every Muslim across the world is called to prayer at a different time to their global neighbours. This means that at any given time throughout the day, somewhere in the world a faithful Muslim individual could be observing their call to prayer. What a wonderful thought!
Ramadan Mubarak, bon mois de Ramadan, to everyone observing the holy month around the globe!