Imad Enchassi said he was 17 the last time Ramadan started in the month of July.
Thirty years later, Enchassi said he finds himself preparing his congregation for the challenges that come with the midsummer beginning of the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Enchassi, 47, is imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. He said Ramadan begins Friday and the people who attend the society's mosque, 3815 N St. Clair, are ready.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam. Observant Muslims abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month, which commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
In majority-Muslim countries, people often scale back their business activities, and life flows at a slower pace during the days of Ramadan. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, which is shorter than the sun-based Gregorian calendar, so Ramadan moves up 11 days every year. Ramadan can last 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle.
Last year, Ramadan started at the beginning of August.
Enchassi said he and other mosque leaders began working on the July Ramadan activities as early as last year. He said American Muslims formerly relied on naked-eye moon sightings to determine the start of the holy month. In 2006, the telescopes were put away when a fatwa or religious policy issued by the Figh Council of North America meant that Ramadan's start would be determined by astronomical calculations.
Enchassi said the policy has helped U.S. Muslims plan better.
He said local Muslims have become accustomed to dealing with Ramadan during Oklahoma's summer heat waves, particularly with the holiday's August and September starts of recent years.