Sondos Kholaki, an 18-year-old Muslim freshman at the University of California, Irvine, is currently celebrating the month of Ramadan and sharing her weekly journals with Beliefnet. Check out her first entry, in which she writes about what Ramadan is and what it means to her. If you have a question or comment for Sondos, feel free to e-mail us at feedback@staff.beliefnet.com.

Dear Journal,

I almost forgot why I love Ramadan so much... I get to eat really good food every single day! It's the first week, and so far, so good. I haven't really been getting hungry until around 4:30 p.m., which is OK because I get to break fast around 5. Tonight, some Muslim Student Union (MSU) members here at UC Irvine went together to Island's (a Hawaiian-style family restaurant) and had a huge dinner. It was a lot of fun. The only thing missing this year is my family and going out to different people's houses every night, even if it's a school night. That's what Ramadan is about, getting together with family and friends to break fast and have a good meal. But since I'm at the dorms, I basically break fast on my own or with some suitemates. It's fun, but it's nothing like sitting down to my mom's home-cooked meals with family.
I also miss waking up before the sun rises for breakfast (so I don't end up fainting during the day). Every Ramadan, family members would come and try waking me up about 5 in the morning. Finally awake, I would roll out of bed, eyes still closed, and somehow find my way down the stairs to the kitchen, squinting and groaning in the bright light. But no matter how I tired I was, the fact that my entire family was downstairs joking around and eating would wake me up. After the predawn meal, my father would gather us all around in the living room and read passages from the Qur'an. My father has a beautiful voice, and I remember tilting my head back, closing my eyes, and letting the Arabic words flow into my head, drowning me in a supernatural stupor. After some pages of Qur'an, we would all get ready for prayer, and then eventually back to bed. Sure, I'd lose about 45 minutes of precious sleep, but you never really notice later in the day. I haven't been approached about my fasting--I think it's too early and my breath isn't that bad yet, so no one really notices. Just kidding! I kept mentioning Ramadan to my suitemates this entire month, so now, when I say that it's here, they know exactly what I'm talking about, which is nice. No one really notices around here because you don't really eat lunch at the same time at the same place every day, like in high school. It's unusual for me to be seen doing anything without some form of food in my mouth, but I guess it's too early to tell. Another thing I absolutely love about Ramadan is that everyone tries very hard to better themselves as a person. At first, the overwhelming feeling is that of welcoming the month...everyone is always approaching you with a hug and smile and a "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Happy Ramadan." Then, as the day unfolds, you notice that everyone is biting their tongue and really thinking before they say anything. It's incredible to sit and observe Muslims restraining themselves during the month of Ramadan. Instead of making New Year's resolutions, many Muslims choose to make Ramadan resolutions. Want to hear mine? So far, I have five. But I guess I can keep adding as I find more weaknesses in myself.

1) No backbiting!
I have this tendency of listening to and participating in gossip, which I really shouldn't. I have to work on that.

2) Get up and pray.
I really want to get up every single morning to pray the first morning prayer. Sometimes I get lazy and never get out of bed.

3) Read the Qur'an.
I want to read at least 10 pages of the Qur'an every day. I barely make time for myself anymore, and this would be a great way to do it.

4) Cut down on my music intake.
At least during the day when I'm fasting. I know that one is going to be difficult because I play the guitar and I always have music on, but I can do it. I'm not saying music is bad or anything, but I can be using that time to do something more constructive with my head.

5) Cut down on flirting!
Let me clarify that--I don't usually flirt! But I'm outgoing and many guys interpret my jokes as flirtatious, so I really have to watch myself.

That's it for this week. And, Journal, I've been thinking of nicknames for you...what about Babbers?


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