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Unknown to many, there have been a handful of Muslim astronauts who've been sent to space all the way back since 1985. Especially with space tourism making commercial space travel a reality, the idea may not seem so far fetched right now. Needless to say, the duties of a Muslim does not become absolved during space travel, so you may be wondering how one might go about with their obligations. "How does an astronaut know which way is Mecca?", "How do Muslims pray in space?" or "How does a Muslim astronaut take wudhu in outer space?". Well, read on as we've gathered some information for you here!
How many times does a Muslim pray in space?
On Earth, Muslims pray five times a day; before sunrise, at midday, in the late afternoon, after sunset and at night. Astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) orbit the Earth every 90 minutes. They witness staggering 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hours. Should a Muslim astronaut pray 80 times a day? Not really. Astronauts still pray five times in 24 hours too, but the timing to perform each of the five prayers depends. Some astronauts, like Malaysian Muslim Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, was given a fatwa by Malaysia's space agency ANGKASA to follow the prayer timings from the location of launch in Kazakhstan.
"The most suitable time" for prayers and fasting for astronauts in space was described in a prayer booklet by the Dubai Islamic Affairs Authority. The booklet mentioned and recommended to astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri to follow the timings of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. As the space shuttle would rotate around Earth in different routes and stay in different coordinates, following the timings of Mecca takes precedent and is recommended to follow.
How does a Muslim astronaut know which way is Mecca?
The Malaysian National Space Agency (MNSA) and its Department of Islamic Development invited 150 Muslim scholars back in 2006 to discuss the Islamic ways to lead a life in space. Out of a two-day conference, a booklet was published for every Muslim astronaut going to space. While we pray facing the Mecca on Earth, it might be a little tricky for the astronauts up in space. The MNSA suggests that astronauts determine the direction to pray based on what is feasible. They should try as much as possible to face the Mecca from space, or at the Earth in general. If necessary, the Muslim may face any direction in general.
How does a Muslim astronaut take wudhu in space?
Water is precious, even more so on the space station, where even sweat is recycled. The ISS provides water among other daily necessities, but the MNSA booklet had advised astronauts to take dry ablution with sand, or stone that can act as a replacement for water.
How does a Muslim astronaut pray in space?
As we know, there is zero gravity in space. This is bound to have an effect on praying postures. Though the MNSA booklet has stated that it's best to stand while performing prayer, sitting would also be permissible. According to Dr. Shukor, he said: "One needed to tie his feet during prayers as there was no gravity. One needed to act very slowly during the whole prayer.”
According to the Saudi Gazette, Dr. Shukor also added that he felt the power of the Creator and realised the need to protect our Earth after seeing just how small it is from space. "When you return back to earth, you want to deal with global problems rather than local ones. You deal with issues such as the hunger of children and wars." Dr. Shukor has now made another mission to let youths in different countries have a vision.
While it may seem like a faraway fantasy, space travel is very much real with obligations and duties as a Muslim that don't just disappear while we're up there. Thanks to Muslim astronauts in the past, the knowledge and information in today's era are very much useful for more aspiring Muslim astronauts out there. Let us not forget the determination of Muslim astronauts who have succeeded and can be an inspiration to many of us! ?