What you need to know about Ramadan 2016, one of the hardest in decades

Ramadan is coming this Monday, June 6th, 2016. For those who want a Ramadan primer, we're presenting you with the basics. And for those of you who are Ramadan experts, we have six pieces of Ramadan trivia that may surprise you!

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from just before dawn until sunset. It is also considered a time of increased holy reflection, worship, and charity.

When is Ramadan in 2016?

Ramadan in 2016 is estimated to begin around Monday, June 6th, 2016, and estimated to end around Tuesday, July 5th, 2016.

Why do the dates for Ramadan change every year?

The Muslim calendar, like many others in the world, is based on lunar cycles as opposed to the solar-based calendar we're more familiar with in North America. This means that Ramadan moves back approximately 11 days every year on the Gregorian/Western calendar, and its start and end dates can be conditional on the moon's sightability.

What can Muslims eat or drink while fasting?


Not even water?

No, not even water.


Seriously. "Can you drink water" is the most common question Muslims get about fasting, since many other faiths allow water during their fasting periods.

Does everyone have to fast? Are there any exemptions?

There are plenty of exemptions. The general rule is if fasting would be dangerous to your health - if you're pregnant or have a medical condition such as diabetes, for example - you're exempt. Pre-pubescent children, women who are nursing, and even travelers (who are on trips under five days) are exempt. These are just a few examples - there are a number of situations where a person might be exempt from fasting, but in general, most healthy, able-bodied people have to fast for the entire month.

Other than fasting, is there anything else Muslims do during Ramadan?

Definitely! There are a variety of cultural practices that different Muslims engage in during the month of Ramadan. Some will put up festive, colourful lanterns (known as Fanous Ramadan), similar to how people here put up Christmas lights. Some will participate in extra nightly prayers at the mosque (called Tarawih). Many will use Ramadan as an opportunity to do more charitable work. Paramount Fine Foods, for example, will be baking and selling festive moon (hilal) and star cookies for $1.00 each at all Paramount Fine Foods locations (including their Mississauga locations), with proceeds supporting SickKids. Guests who choose to purchase a cookie or make a donation will have the opportunity to write their name and make a wish for someone special on a card to be posted on the “Community Wall” at each restaurant location.

Can you tell me some cool Ramadan trivia to impress my friends?

Sure! Here are six fun Ramadan facts.

  • Because Ramadan moves back approximately 11 days every year, some years (i.e. during the summer) are harder than others (i.e. during the winter).
    This year will be one of the most difficult in decades - the last time Ramadan was mostly in June and mostly in the long days leading up to the Summer Solstice (June 20th, the longest day of the year) was in 1984!
  • Many people believe that fasting during Ramadan happens from sunrise to sunset, but it's actually a little more complicated than that. Without getting into too many technical details (like astronomical twilight, how many degrees below the horizon the sun is, etc.), Muslims actually start their fast at about an hour before dawn.
    That means that this year, Muslims will be fasting from around 4 AM to around 9 PM (depending on the day). That's approximately 17 hours of fasting. Compare that to a theoretical December Ramadan, when the fasting day would only be about 10 hours, with sunset occurring well before 5 PM.
  • Have you ever wondered what Muslims do when living near the Arctic Circle, when Ramadan falls during months where the sun never rises (or never sets)? The answer is simple: they can choose to fast on the schedule of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, or the geographically closest Islamic country.
  • In many Muslim countries, Ramadan can bring dramatic changes to the working day - usually involving a late start (around 10 AM), closing midday (from early afternoon until sunset), and then opening again from sunset until the late evening.
  • Some people (incorrectly) believe that fasting is a great weight loss tool, but did you know that many people actually gain weight during Ramadan? This happens for a variety of reasons: 
    • eating fewer, high-calorie, high-carbohydrate meals slows your metabolism
    • most people are less active than usual while fasting
    • many people develop irregular sleep habits (like waking up extra early or staying up extra late, as well as taking naps during the day), which can affect metabolism and weight
  • In 2030, Ramadan will happen twice in the same (Western) calendar year - starting around January 6th and then again around December 26th.

Ramadan Mubarak! Modern Mississauga wishes everyone a happy and blessed Ramadan.