CAIRO - Two months before the holy fasting month, expatriate Filipino Muslims in the United Arab Emirates are stocking up food to ship to poor families in the Philippines for Ramadan.
"During the holy month, they are focused on fasting and we don't want them worrying about their food for iftar," Roy Tamano, 38, an adviser to the Maranao Community group (Marcom), told the Emarati newspaper The National on Tuesday, May 22.
The group is collecting donations to send dates, prayer mats and copies of the Noble Qur'an for poor Filipinos in southern Philippines.
"Many of our compatriots can't afford to buy dates, which are rare in the southern Philippines," Tamano said.
Another group, the Muslim Overseas Filipino Workers, is also collecting packages of dates and prayer mats to be sent back home.
"We've started asking for help from our Emirati friends who have date farms in Dhaid and the other emirates," the group's president, Abulcair Capatagan, said.
"Many of them want to keep a low profile. They told me, 'This is for God and there's no need to mention my name'."
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, is set to start in mid-July.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
Fast-breaking with dates is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Tamano says that Islam teaches followers to help poor people.
"What is more important is the intention of giving Zakat [almsgiving], which is one of the five pillars of Islam," he said.
Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is obligatory upon every (capable) Muslim.
According to Islamic Shari`ah, a capable Muslim pays 2.5 percent mandatory payment and spend it to help the poor and the needy.
There are between 600 to 800 Muslims from southern Philippines in the United Arab Emirates.
Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in the largely Catholic Philippines.
The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao, Islam's birthplace in the Philippines, is home to 5 million Muslims.Islam reached the Philippines in the 13th century, about 200 years before Christianity.