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Religion In Space

An interesting story surfaced this week about Malaysia's National Space Agency, which had held a nationwide competition to determine which of its citizens would go into space. The competition came down to picking two astronauts from four candidates. Of the four, three are Muslims. So the question arises: How do Muslims pray in space?

Some of the practical matters:

  • Prayer should begin with ablutions - water rationing in space makes this difficult as well as time-consuming.
  • How will astronauts know how to face Mecca?
  • Since their destination is the International Space Station, which circles the Earth sixteen times per day, how will Muslims know when to pray five times per day?

A two-day Islam and Life in Space seminar starts on April 25th; according to an offical from the Malaysian Astronomy and Islamic Law Association, this would be the first time the Islamic world had addressed this issue.

I can think of a few references in science fiction about religion in space. Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune addressed the collective pain of a people who were forcibly relocated to another planet, and thus denied their right to the Hajj. This religious pilgrimage to Mecca is required at least once of each able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

In the same novel, Herbert addresses the needs of religious space travelers who need to carry their holy book, despite drastic weight restrictions. The filament paper book is presented as a technology that allows holy books on spacecraft.

In his 1959 novel A Case of Conscience, science fiction author James Blish examines the case of how it is possible that the creatures of a distant planet obey every precept of Christian values, yet are without religion.

Read more at Malaysia Conference Considers How To Practice Islam In Space.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/23/2006)

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