One-way trip to Mars prohibited in Islam

Ahmed Shaaban / 19 February 2014
Khaleej Times

Fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE says such a journey poses a real risk to life.

Promoting or being involved in a one-way trip to the Red Planet is prohibited in Islam, a fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE has ruled.

“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said.  “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”

Whoever opts for this “hazardous trip”, the committee said, is likely to perish for no “righteous reason”, and thus will be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”.

The committee, presided by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said: “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”

Late in April 2013, Mars One, a Dutch company, invited volunteers to fly and live on the Red Planet, but there is no technology so far that would enable a return trip from Mars to Earth.  The company is planning the first such trip to Mars in 2023 and another crew every two years afterwards with the goal of establishing a permanent human colony.

The applicants must be aged between 18 and 40 years and in good physical condition.  They have to pay only $38 for the trip. Thousands of volunteers, including some 500 Saudis and other Arabs, have reportedly applied for the mission which costs $6 billion. The committee indicated that some may be interested in travelling to Mars for escaping punishment or standing before Almighty Allah for judgment.

“This is an absolutely baseless and unacceptable belief because not even an atom falls outside the purview of Allah, the Creator of everything.  This has also been clearly underscored in verse 19&20/93 of the Holy Quran in which Allah says: There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant. (Indeed) He has enumerated them and counted them a (full) counting.”

Echoing the same, Islamic researcher Dr Shaikh Mohammed Al Ashmawy said there is no debate in this issue. “Almighty Allah said in verse 2/195 in the Holy Quran: Do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction.”

Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, Imam of the Amena mosque, said: “Man’s life is not his or her own property; it is God’s creation, and therefore suicide is prohibited in all religions, and of course by law.”

Malaysia considers Islam in space

By Jonathan Kent BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's choice of astronaut will blast off with a Russian team in 2007 A two-day conference on Islam and life in space is under way in Malaysia, in a bid to answer questions faced by would-be Muslim astronauts.

Malaysia is due to send an astronaut into space with the Russians next year. The country's first spaceman is almost certain to be a Muslim, which raises a number of practical issues. For instance, Muslims wash before they pray but not only is water a precious commodity in space, but it is also impractical in weightlessness. Likewise, the faithful face Mecca. However, that will mean pin-pointing a moving location while in zero gravity. And Muslim prayer times are linked to those of the sunrise and sunset, but in orbit the sun appears to rise and set more than a dozen times a day.

Serious discussion
Malaysia's science ministry has called together a group of experts to thrash out these and other questions.
It is being billed as the first-ever serious discussion of the issues. It is in keeping with the Malaysian government's mission to promote what it calls Islam Hadhari, or civilisational Islam, which encourages Muslims to embrace education, science and technology. It will doubtless be hoping that a conference of Muslim scientists and scholars debating such cutting edge issues will not go unnoticed in the rest of the Islamic world.


How does an Islamic astronaut face Mecca in orbit?

Decisions by a conference of Muslim leaders and scientists will help a Malaysian doctor stay observant in outer space.

By Bettina Gartner

Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

from the October 10, 2007 edition

Allah is watching – even in outer space. And that poses a problem for a devout Muslim astronaut who is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian rocket this week.

Imagine trying to pray five times a day in zero gravity while having to face an ever-shifting Mecca hundreds of miles below. How do you ritually wash yourself without water? And, now that it's Ramadan, how do you fast from sunrise to sunset when you see a sunrise and a sunset every 90 minutes? Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Malaysian astronaut, must decide before the Oct. 10 launch.

"I am Islamic," Sheikh Shukor told a press conference in Moscow, according to the Associated Press, "but my main priority is more of conducting experiments."

The young orthopedic surgeon is not the first Muslim to fly into space. In 1985, Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a Saudi Arabian prince, flew aboard the shuttle Discovery. Last September, Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari paid the Russians an undisclosed sum (reportedly $20 million) to visit the ISS as a "space tourist." But up to now, there have been no guidelines for Muslim religious practice in space.

And so the Malaysian National Space Agency (MNSA) and its Department of Islamic Development held a two-day conference in April last year. They invited 150 scholars, scientists, and astronauts to discuss "Islam and Life in Space." The result is a recently published booklet of guidelines for the faithful Muslim astronaut.

Five times a day (before sunrise, at midday, in late afternoon, after sunset, and at night), earth-bound muezzins call Muslims to prayer. A spaceship traveling 17,400 miles per hour orbits the earth 16 times in a day. Does that mean praying 80 times in 24 hours?

The guidelines are much more reasonable: Daily prayer in space is not linked to sunrises and sunsets, but to a 24-hour cycle based on the "home" time zone of Baikonur, the Russian-leased launch site in Kazakhstan. Five meditations every 24 hours will suffice.

If interrupting work to pray is not possible, the astronaut may practice a shorter version of the prayer or combine midday and afternoon prayer times, or the evening and night ones.

The next problem: Where is Mecca?

Muslims on Earth face Mecca, in central Saudi Arabia, when they pray. The MNSA suggests that the astronaut pray toward Mecca as much as possible, or at the Earth in general. But if it becomes necessary, the astronaut may simply face any direction.

The attitude while at prayer is also an issue. In zero gravity, the sequence of the praying postures – standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating oneself – is difficult at best. Malaysian Islamic authorities say the astronaut should stand, preferably. If he can't stand, he should sit. If he can't sit, he should lie down. And if he can't do any of those, he's allowed to symbolically indicate the postures "with his eyelids" or to simply imagine them, according to the MNSA booklet.

Before worship, a Muslim must perform ritual washing – cleaning face, hands, arms, feet, and hair. The problem: Water on the ISS is so precious that even sweat and urine are recycled. And so the Muslim astronaut is permitted "dry ablution." In desert areas on earth, Muslims use dirt and sand to clean the hands. The astronaut will strike his palms on a wall or mirror – though this is not likely to raise any dust.

Then there's diet. Pork and alcohol are forbidden. Animals to be consumed for food must be slaughtered in a particular way. All food must be halal (allowed by Islamic law). But how can the astronaut know if the food aboard the ISS is halal? If he has any doubts, says the MNSA booklet, he should eat just enough to ward off hunger.

Meals raise another complication. Ramadan – the holy month during which Muslims abstain from all earthly indulgences (including eating) during daylight hours – doesn't end until Oct. 13.

Shukor said he hopes to be able to fast in space. The decision will be his. If he does fast, the 16-times-every-24-hours problem will be solved in the same way as the prayer question. And if he chooses not to fast in space? That's OK. But he will be required to make up for Ramadan when – after 11 days in space – he's back on Earth.

Muslim leaders advise on faith in space

Irene Klotz

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

ABC News

Oh, the worries of rookie astronauts. Will microgravity make me sick? Just how does that space potty really work? And, if you're an observant Muslim flying during the holy month of Ramadan, which of the 16 daily orbital dawns and dusks should be prayer time and how do you find Mecca in space, let alone kneel in its direction?

Malaysia's first astronaut, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a practicing Muslim, is scheduled for launch later this week on board a Russian Soyuz rocket for an eight-day stay on the International Space Station.

He won't be the first Muslim in orbit. That distinction falls to Prince Sultan bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, a nephew of King Abdullah who flew with a US crew during a 1985 mission on the space shuttle.

Tourists were banned from the shuttle following the Challenger accident a year later.

Shukor is not even the second Muslim to fly in space. Iranian-born entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, of Plano, Texas, paid about US$20 million for a Soyuz ride and week-long stay on the station last year.

But the 35-year-old orthopaedic physician and part-time model is the first to publicly address practical issues of Islamic practices during spaceflight, and now he has a field guide to help him find his way.

Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development prepared a 12-page booklet on Ibadah, or worship, in space.

The booklet, A Guideline of Performing Ibadah at the International Space Station, addresses such delicate issues as the Ramadan fast, which it advises astronauts postpone until they return to earth, and cleansing rituals, for which it recommends astronauts use a wet towel.

"Islam is very lenient. If I can't fast in space I can always come back and do later," Shukor said during a preflight interview.

On a practical note, the booklet suggests Muslims hunch down if they cannot stand up straight in space, sit if standing is not possible and lie down if sitting is impractical.

It even specifies that in the event of death in orbit, a Muslim's body is to be brought back to earth, or if that is not possible, 'buried' in space after a simple funeral.

Facing Mecca

The guidelines are the result of a workshop Malaysia's National Space Agency held in April 2006 to discuss problems Muslims may encounter in orbit, such as facing the Saudi holy city of Mecca during prayer.

The guidelines advise determining the direction "according to the capability" of the astronaut.

Though Shukor is flying as a tourist, he is not paying the bill. The mission was an add-on to Malaysia's U$1-billion purchase of 18 Russian fighter jets in 2003. The doctor plans to study cancer cells in space.

Shukor will be flying with his commander, US astronaut Dr Peggy Whitson and Russian flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko.