Key Islamic dates include Ramadan, Eid-al-Adha, Islamic New Year, and Ashura. Because the Islamic calendar, called the Hijri calendar, follows a lunar cycle, the corresponding dates on the Gregorian calendar vary from year to year.
In 2016, Ramadan occurs on June 7 and ends with the Eid-al-Fitr on July 7. The Eid-al-Adha, known as the Festival of Sacrifice, falls on September 13 and lasts for four days. October 3 marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year. Ashura takes place a few days later on October 12.
Muslims fast every day from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijri. According to Islamic belief, God presented the Quran to Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan in 610 A.D. Eid-al-Adha refers to the sacrifice the Prophet Ibrahim was to make of his son, Ismail. A lamb replaced Ismail as the sacrifice, so Muslims traditionally sacrifice a lamb, goat or cow on Eid-al-Adha.
The Islamic New Year honors the Hijrah (“migration” in Arabic), the exodus made in 622 A.D. by Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina. The 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Hijri, marks Ashura. Sunni Muslims believe this to be the day the Prophet Musa escaped Egypt with his followers, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. Shia Muslims commemorate Ashura as the anniversary of the murder of Muhammad's grandson Husain, memorializing the day with reenactments of the event.