Islamic Fasting for Ramadan

Definition: sawm
(Arabic, "fasting," also spelled siyam). Religious fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

In Islam, fasting (sawm or siyam) commemorates the revelation of the Quran to humanity during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. During Ramadan, all adult Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse during daylight hours. Exceptions are made for travelers, soldiers, menstruating women, and the ill, although such persons are expected to fast later when they become able.

In addition to being a time of fasting, Ramadan is an opportunity for increased prayer and devotion. During the last 10 nights of Ramadan, some Muslims retreat to a mosque for even more intensive study and contemplation.

One of these nights, usually the 27th of Ramadan, is the "Night of Power," the holiest day of the year. The observance of Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr (Festival of the Breaking of the Fast), a major Islamic holiday.


  • "Islam." Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. 2005. Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Premium Service <>.
  • "Sawm." John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford UP, 2000), p. 518.