More Science Vs. Religion

 Posted by on 23 April 2006 at 11:30 am  Uncategorized
Apr 232006

The Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) will be sending either one or two Muslims into outer space aboard a Russian spacecraft, and they’ve convened a conference to help figure out how the astronauts should practice their Islamic rituals while in orbit.

Performing ablutions for Muslim prayers with water rationing in space and preparing food according to Islamic standards will be among issues discussed, said Angkasa’s director-general, Mazlan Othman.

…The astronaut will also visit the International Space Station, which circles the earth 16 times in 24 hours, so another thorny question is how to pray five times a day as required by Islam, she said.

Muslims also have to turn towards Mecca to pray and working out which direction that will be while hovering above the earth might also be challenging.

Being naturally curious, I decided to check with “Ask The Imam“. On November 17, 2002, one reader asked:

Q) What are the Islamic laws (salah, fasting,etc) when living in space? Is Islam only for the Earth? As you now people live in space stations for months on end (even >1 year). How does Islamic rules apply i.e. Prayer Times, Fasting times, sighting of the moon for eid, etc? Does this mean that Islam is only for the Earth as many sunnats not possible, e.g. no tayamum even though water in very short supply, etc. Some people would say Islam is outdated as it cannot meet these challenges. How do I answer them?

However, the Imam’s brief reply did not provide much in the way of detail, merely stating:

A) Islam can be well practised in Space as well. Which specific aspect of Islam in space do you wish to know about?

and Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

This Q&A from the Fatwa Center at Islam Web (dated May 2004 or “30 Rabi’ Awwal 1425“) provides a little bit more guidance:

Q) If man starts to live on other planetary bodies e.g. Mars or from far away where the Earth will only be viewed like a star then,

1. As a muslim, where will one face if he is to pray and at what time will he pray if the daylight or night-time is constant.

2. Assuming a man has left earth to settle on another favourable planet which will take him say 50 yrs to reach, how will he be able to perform hajj, will a child be sent to Mecca to perform hajj and not be able to come to his new home or what?

3. The Holy month of Ramadan is decided on the lunar calendar. Now if a muslim is on another planet (eg Mars), which the day and night and the revolution of the planet differs from that of earth, how will he be able to know that it is the month of ramadan and if daylight is constant, how will he be able to distinguish dusk and dawn?

A) Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.

Your question is hypothetical, and a person should not be preoccupied with hypothetical issues which are far from becoming reality.

However, if we suppose that a person is living in such a planet, he still has to face the Earth where the Ka’ba is. If he could not do so, then he can pray in any direction.

Allah Says: {…so wherever you turn yourselves or your faces there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne)…}[2:115]. That is of course when it is not possible to determine the direction of Kiblah.

As regards the timing for the prayers, he has to estimate it. In this era, the means of estimation had become available, Praise be to Allah.

The evidence about this is the Hadith in which it is mentioned that the first day of the days of Dajjal is like a year, and the second day is like a month, and the third day is like a week. The companions asked the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam): ‘Is it possible for them to pray only one prayer.’ The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) replied: “No, you have to estimate for it.”

With regard to Hajj, he has to come down to the planet Earth, if it is possible for him to do so. However, if he is unable to come on Earth, then it will not be obligatory on him. In this case, he will be considered like a person who leaves in a remote country which is far away from Makkah, and cannot come to it.

Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {…And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence);….}[3:97].

Therefore, if the life of this person is in danger when descending from that planet to Earth in order to perform Hajj, then it is not obligatory on him to perform Hajj.

In relation to the month of Ramadan, if it is not permissible to define it, (then in this case) he has to fast one month in every 12 months and this will suffice him.

Allah knows best.

However this still doesn’t cover all of the relevant issues.

For instance, what if a Muslim physician were to commit malpractice while in outer space? How can he pay the 100 camel penalty? Does he get a grace period until he returns to Earth? Inquiring minds want to know!

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