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.Like MWJ on Facebook Follow MWJ on Twitter
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:
- Face the Kaaba on the land (which will move relative to the ISS)
- Face the projection of the Kaaba in the sky
- Face the Earth
- 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.
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.