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How Muslim Astronauts Pray in Space

Written by Shoaib

In the Quran, Allah asks people to wonder and reflect regarding the stars, the sun, the moon and space. He gives examples of them and encourages mankind to study and wonder at the marvels of His dominion. So what happens when a Muslim does this and travels to space where he wishes to pray five times a day, facing the Kaaba in Makkah?

Before the prayer a Muslim will wash their hands, feet and face to then stand, bow and prostrate before God. So, as you can imagine, doing this in space could prove challenging. So what does a Muslim do when faced with this problem?

Despite the Quran having being revealed over 1400 years ago, Islamic Jurists are well equipped to deal with modern challenges. As the world made technological advances, Muslim scholars used existing examples from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his companions as well as analogies of those examples to tackle modern problems. So a Muslim knows how to behave online, when watching TV, on smart phone or when travelling by air. So in the grand scheme of things, space exploration is just another one of these problems which Muslim jurists can deal with. In fact, they already have.

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When the Astronaut and devout Muslim Sheikh Muszaphar Shukoor travelled to space he asked Muslim scholars how to pray in space. What resulted was a historical conference in which Angkasa (the Malaysian space agency) invited 150 Muslim scientists and scholars to answer these questions. When they agreed on what should be done, the verdict was passed and approved by the National Fatwa Council.

The report which you can read here (A Guideline to Ibadah on the ISS) details that a Muslim does not have to wash his hands, feet and face but can do ‘dry ablution’ which was done when there was a lack of water during the time of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.

Regarding facing Makkah they said there are four options:

  1. Face the Kaaba on the land (which will move relative to the ISS)
  2. Face the projection of the Kaaba in the sky
  3. Face the Earth
  4. Face anywhere

Finally with regards to standing, bowing and prostrating, they simplified the matter saying that he can do whatever is possible in a space suit, even if that means praying without any movements or lying down – something very helpful to know at zero gravity! The focus, of course, being the worship as opposed to trying to achieve what may be extremely difficult or dangerous.

But what about Fasting?

Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which on the ISS would be sporadic. So they concluded that just as the times of the prayer should be determined from where they launched, then fasting should be followed by the timing of the place of launch.

So when Sheikh Muszaphar Shukoor made it to space, he did pray and keep his religious duties. Below you can find a video of him praying in space

It should be noted that he was not the first Muslim in space, nor was he the first Muslim to pray in space.

The Future?

It will be interesting in the future to see Muslim scholars tackle problems such as praying from the moon, the possibility of alien life and if after landing on Mars rulings would change. One thing is certain, Islam will adapt to modern challenges. Muslims were at the forefront of scientific and technological exploration for nearly a thousand years and the time is more right now than ever to return there.

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About the author

Shoaib

Writing is my passion. Pharmacy is my career. The truth is my resolve. My kids are my life. You can catch me on Facebook and Twitter!

4 Comments

  • Assalamualaikum,
    Dear Sir,
    I personally feel that no human has a need to visit space, staking their own life. Its quite dangerous thing to do. I have observed our civilization has gone too far to see our world perish very slowly. Today we see global warming, famines, natural disasters, polluted air, polluted water, diseases like cancer and the new ones, is all over the Green Earth. Instead we are not focusing onto it, we have given up. There were some right steps taken and there were some wrong. We cannot turn back the time. But hope somethings will change. Just like a few days ago I saw an invention of a car that will run on water. Wow, that a great thing to see in amid of world conflicts over Oil. Now they will be diverted to water. Atleast we will be safe now. Anyways, future is what only Allaw Swt knows the best. We have to follow what Quran says and safeguard ourselves from evil. We all will return to Allah in Judgement day, and there will be our book of deeds.

    Thanks you for reading,
    Jazak Allah khairan

    • I agree with your sentiment totally. No doubt we need to learn to walk on Earth before we try to walk on the moon. So many people die on Earth because of the lack of water reaching them and what is the point of travelling to Space to find water if we can’t provide water here? So I agree, but only partly.

      But if we stopped funding so many wars across the world we could feed everyone on Earth and explore space.

      I do believe that when Allah asks Muslims to wonder at his creation that this means space exploration.

  • I loved the article but I disagree with you guys in regards to whether we should go to space or not. Yes, we are facing too many problems here on earth to try to do something that is way more advanced, and should do all we can to fix earth and help the people that live in it. But the thing is, the ISS is a huge laboratory where thousands and thousands of experiments have been conducted that completely changed how scientists view things on earth and helped them advance in all types of fields quicker than they would if they waited on earth.

    Experimenting on things on a totally different environment, gives scientists new perspectives and new ways on how to look at things, ways that cannot be found here on earth or are too difficult to achieve in order to fully understand something or enhence our understanding of it.

    Sure NASA is using the ISS to also test its capabilities and advance its technology for its journey to Mars, but each result of those experiements, undeniebly, helped our civilization here on earth, so it is not a waste.

    • I regret that’s the conclusion you took from my article, I genuinely believe space-travel is needed and vital. The only thing is finances should be allocated with consideration to problems on Earth, which is a general statement.

      Personally I would love to travel to space and set up colonies on Mars 🙂

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