Solitude in the Crowd: the Journey into Iftar
Photo Essay by Ushbah Al-Ain
This is a collection of photographs I have taken over the last six years, chronicling moments leading into Iftar during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
Iftar is the opening meal after a dry fast at sunset, upon the call of the fourth obligatory daily prayer of Maghrib. In some parts of the world, a dry fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan can last up to twenty-one hours. By congregating through daily Iftar preparation, shared meals, and prayers, observers are reminded of the ease that can be found in community in the face of adversity.
As I get older, I am more aware of how much my body slows down and the intentionality that goes into preparing food and later consuming it. As such even though fasting is very much a communal act – it can often result in the phenomenon of ‘solitude in the crowd’, as often explored by faith-based practitioners across spiritual disciplines.
Ramadan can also be a time when a lot of Muslims choose to give charity and provide resources to communities in need on a much larger scale. The motivation is to devote oneself through the service of the Creation to please the Creator. As such many donors and organizations around the world facilitate free meal preparation and distribution for those in need of food and/or community, especially at the time of Iftar. These meals often tend to be simple in their presentation but nutritious and filling after a day of hunger and dehydration. Many donors choose to remain anonymous, thus some facilitating free meals have not been mentioned in this essay.
There are many observers who choose not to observe dry fasting due to physical ailments, mental health reasons, and/or lack of a support structure throughout the month. This can also mean observers choosing to dedicate their efforts to abstention from behaviors and practices that are more subtle and not quite communal.
Ultimately the opening of the dry fast at Iftar is only one aspect of the month of Ramadan and it does help to remember that devotion can be as varied as the devotees themselves.