Muslims around the world are in the midst of marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk while focusing on prayers, charity and personal accountability. In the days before Ramadan, thousands of Muslims were in a suburb of Chicago, in the Midwestern state of Illinois for the Islamic Society of North America's, (I.S.N.A.) annual convention. One of the main attractions was the Bazaar where hundreds of merchants cater to the modern Muslims' every need. For producers Ade Astuti and Susy Tekunan, VOA's Jim Bertel takes us inside the Bazaar's festive atmosphere.
"People during Ramadan want to always wear new clothes and at the end of Ramadan we have a holiday Eid, so usually people buy new clothes, fancy clothes to wear during Ramadan and at the end of the month" says Meliha Suleman, who is both buying and selling merchandise..
For many other Muslims in the United States, the place to buy those clothes is the annual I.S.N.A. Bazaar. The Islamic marketplace is an important part of the organization's annual convention.
"The annual convention, which is relatively large, Muslims from all over the nation, they gather here. We do want to come up and attend the convention and also to have our fashion exhibition," she adds.
With more than 35,000 Muslims on hand for the convention, the bazaar attracts several hundred exhibitors selling a variety of products.
Abdul Kareem Pavlicek sells perfumes which, in accordance with Islamic teachings, do not contain any alcohol. "That's right, no alcohol, it's oil based, which basically last much longer than typical spray colognes you find them at department stores," he explains.
Many shoppers visit the bazaar to shop for Islamic books. One bazaar merchant says, "Because of the largest collection of Islamic books, usually if you go to the bookstore that aren't too many they offer, also it is much easier than buying on line."
Another shopper says it’s a great place to build a personal library. "Well, reading Islamic books is not just limited on the month of Ramadan, because Islam says gaining knowledge is an obligation from cradle to the grave, but Ramadan is a very special month, is a month of fasting, a month of contemplation about our existence in this world, so we have to be much more, [we must] spiritually elevate ourselves."
From literature to music to incredible delicacies, the I.S.N.A. Bazaar has become an important event for many American Muslims as they prepare for Ramadan.