Sondos Kholaki, an 18-year-old Muslim freshman at the University of California, Irvine, is celebrating the month of Ramadan and sharing her journal -- which she calls 'Babbers' -- with Beliefnet. Check out her earlier entries (to the right), in which she writes about what Ramadan is and what it means to her, and shares her resolutions. If you have a question or comment for Sondos, feel free to e-mail us at feedback@staff.beliefnet.com.

Dear Babbers,

I can't believe the halfway point of Ramadan is already here! I'm finally on winter break for the next few weeks, so I'm extremely relieved. I can actually sleep in until noon again. Everyone in my family is jealous that I get to sit around the house all day without any worries, especially while fasting. Sometimes I wonder how my parents do it -- going to work for eight or more hours a day, managing four children, surrounded by other people's food all day, and not collapsing! I barely get through a couple of lectures and practically die back in my dormitory.

Anyway, I've had two pre-dawn meals at home so far (pre-dawn meals are suggested as a really early breakfast so no one actually collapses during the day), and they're just as I remember. One big difference between college and home is that here we actually have food in the refrigerator that hasn't already expired. To top it off, we've been going out to eat every night either at friends' houses or at restaurants. I love Ramadan! Even though you go without food all day long, you truly make up for it when the sun sets because everywhere you go, great food surrounds you, not to mention good friends.

I also don't have to pray by myself in my dorm room. After Iftar (breaking fast), my father, siblings, and I drive down to the mosque for prayer and extra Qur'anic reflections. The power of some of the imams' (leaders of the prayer) voices is extraordinary and strong enough to bring tears to your eyes.
Let's take a little pretend trip down to the mosque. I really want to paint this picture, so close your eyes, take a deep breath, and take in the experience. OK, you have just parked the car in the parking lot, and you and your family climb out and walk inside the mosque. As soon as you walk in, the air changes, your mind is totally cleared and you feel at peace with yourself. Your brothers and father walk over to the men's section while you enter the women's. Immediately, you see five or six of your friends sitting together waving at you, so you remove your shoes, grab a Qur'an, and make your way over to them. After the greetings and hugs, you take a deep breath and open the Qur'an to the page that the imam is reciting from.

The imam's voice brings a beauty to the Arabic words that you didn't notice before. Somehow you manage to sit on the hard floor quiet and attentive for a full 45 minutes without moving a muscle. As you sneak a look at the room, you find everyone following along in their own Qur'ans, some with tears streaming down their cheeks, and others with looks of intense concentration and respect. After several chapters, the call for prayer is made, and everyone lines up shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to submit himself or herself to God. The imam says "Allahuakbar," or "God is great," and the prayer begins, and everyone makes their own personal intentions and has personal conversations with God.

After prayer, more reflection time, and then some special Ramadan prayers. These special prayers are called tarawih prayers, and are recommended during the holy month. After prayer, you put your shoes back on and greet everyone in the mosque, making small talk with people you may or may not have seen for a while.

By the time you get back to your car, it is almost 10 at night, but you feel this peace and serenity in your heart that you didn't have when you parked the car earlier that day. This feeling lasts until the next day, when you repeat the cycle to re-energize that spiritual battery. I hope that gives you a little taste of the beauty that makes up every night in Ramadan. I only wish I had the time to worship that way every night for every day of the year, but I guess I'll just have to stock up on it now. `Till next week, Journal!

Salam (Peace), Sondos

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