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Lush Puppy
09-18-2007, 10:26 AM
A friend sent me an article about the first Malaysian astronaut and his doubts about how he will practice Ramadan and pray in the direction of Mecca.

Here it is, in Spanish (http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/09/18/ciencia/1190110446.html). I couldn't find an article in English, sorry. But you can translate the page at Babel Fish (http://babelfish.altavista.com/).

I suppose in zero gravity, he could point in the general direction of Earth, and still be pointing towards Mecca so that may not be a real issue.

But if you don't know sunup and sundown, how do you get up before dawn to have your meal, fast and then break your fast at sunset?

Assuming (greatly) that there is a place for organized religion in this world, is there a place for it in space?

JKellyMap
09-18-2007, 10:39 AM
Religious people have adapted and adjusted their practices to new circumstances (changes in everyday technologies, migrating to new regions, oppression by new people im charge, etc.) since religion began. On an individual level, as well, religious people are taught to do and think certain things, and as they go through life they figure out which of these things fit in well with everything else in their lives, and which don't. It has been pointed out in other threads (such as those about, say, Senator Lieberman walking to work on Saturdays), that many of these practices are most satisfying precisely because they force the practitioner to do something inconvenient, and thus to make him/her stop and think about something important but often forgotten in the rush of daily life.

So, I'm sure that a Muslim astronaut would find a way to perform enough of his/her rituals to obtain the benefits of them, and could find a knowledgable spiritual guide (say, an imam) who could offer their thoughtful approval of the compromises that would be necessary -- the departures from the usual practice.

Nava
09-18-2007, 10:40 AM
Well, in space and unless they're on geosynchronous orbit they don't have one sunrise and one sunset per each 24-h period... and even with that kind of orbit, they may be using the clock of the timezone at Control, rather than the "local" timezone.

So the dawn-and-dusk issue is solved with an old-fashioned farmer's calendar, listing dawn and dusk hours at whichever location he wishes to use as reference.

The article itself indicates that there has been an international meeting regarding the problem and that, among other possible solutions, the clerics involved have listed:
don't try to perform the physical part of the prayer, do the genuflexions mentally; look more-or-less in the right direction but don't sweat it too much; don't worry about the fast and do it when you come back.

In a longer-term situation, "postponing the fast" wouldn't work, of course.

Skammer
09-18-2007, 10:51 AM
Religion is highly adaptable. 1st century Jews survived the destruction of the Temple; 2nd century Christians came to terms with the fact that Jesus had not yet returned as expected; I'm pretty sure the Muslims will adapt to the geography of space.

KneadToKnow
09-18-2007, 10:55 AM
2nd century Christians came to terms with the fact that Jesus had not yet returned as expected
and 3rd, and 4th, and 5th, and 6th ... :)

Exapno Mapcase
09-18-2007, 11:26 AM
Similar earlier thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=171597).

Quartz
09-18-2007, 12:10 PM
In another thread I believe it was mentioned that you can use Mecca time.

Little Nemo
09-18-2007, 12:21 PM
The rules for fasting during Ramadan are relatively flexible. Some groups are exempt including, if I recall correctly, travelers. As long as a faithful Muslim is attempting to follow his faith to the best of his ability, Allah will overlook any difficulties cause by his circumstances.

jjimm
09-18-2007, 12:24 PM
I'd say they'd also need to watch out for the PIGS IN SPAAAAACE!

Encinitas
09-18-2007, 12:31 PM
I'd say they'd also need to watch out for the PIGS IN SPAAAAACE!
I did a spit-take when I read that. Thanks! :)

Paul in Qatar
09-18-2007, 12:46 PM
These are not new problems. How do Muslims in the far north or south fast for Ramadan, or for that matter determine when to pray? The "Day" last six months. Smart People have decided that the correct procedure is to estimate.

When the problem becomes more widespread, we will have more rulings. But for now, wing it.

RickJay
09-18-2007, 01:16 PM
In another thread I believe it was mentioned that you can use Mecca time.
I would imagine astronauts aboard the ISS generally go by Zulu time (e.g. GMT) and so that'd be a logical choice too.

My admittedly limited understanding of Islam, which I've gotten mostly from Muslim co-workers, is that as long as Dr. Shukor makes an honest and logical attempt to abide by these basic tenets of his faith, God will understand his rather unusual situation.

Elendil's Heir
09-18-2007, 03:06 PM
In the preface to one of Alan Dean Foster's Star Trek Logs (novelizations of the animated series episodes), while the Enterprise was being built in Earth orbit, the construction foreman periodically turns to face Mecca for prayers, as the city swept past below.

Then there's the old New Yorker cartoon in which a fat guy in a big sports car stops to ask a Moslem man, prostrated on a prayer rug by the side of the road, "Hey, buddy, which way to Mecca?"

KneadToKnow
09-18-2007, 03:14 PM
But for now, wing it.
Islam doesn't really have a big rep for being prone to wing it, though, and I think that's sort of the problem.

Skammer
09-18-2007, 03:29 PM
and 3rd, and 4th, and 5th, and 6th ... :) Well, sure, but expectations are lower :)

rocking chair
09-18-2007, 05:35 PM
due to odd sun times in russia, scandinavia, and alaska; the orthodox church came up with 6pm to 6pm as one full church day. anywhere else it was the regular sundown to sundown full day.

islam could possibly go with 6am to 6pm for sun-up and sun down for places that are sun challenged.

zelie zelerton
09-18-2007, 07:36 PM
As others have said Islam is a very practical religion. I'm sure any inconveniences will be overcome easily.

Santos L Halper
09-18-2007, 09:22 PM
FWIW, this isn't the first Muslim in space. Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultan_bin_Salman_bin_Abdulaziz_Al_Saud) flew as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.

Also, last year Anousheh_Ansari (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anousheh_Ansari) flew on a Russian Soyuz to the International Space Station.

sqweels
09-18-2007, 09:30 PM
As others have said Islam is a very practical religion. I'm sure any inconveniences will be overcome easily.

Well knock me over with a feather. :dubious:

I'd say a practical religion is one that lets you skip it once in awhile.

HMS Irruncible
09-18-2007, 10:16 PM
Assuming (greatly) that there is a place for organized religion in this world, is there a place for it in space?
There's no reason organized religion can't do what it has always done, namely make up new rules or exceptions in reaction to convenience or unforeseen events. If muslims can get around the prohibition against premarital sex by getting the imam to issue a temporary "marriage" valid for a couple of hours, I'm sure they can easily concoct some sort of way to resolve their customs with space travel. The only interesting question how they'll choose to fudge the existing doctrine.

As others have said Islam is a very practical religion. I'm sure any inconveniences will be overcome easily.
If by "practical" you mean "easily changed because it is a set of arbitrary rules invented by humans", then yes, you're spot-on.

Not that I'm knocking on Islam specifically, mind you, had we been talking about strictures of any other relgion, my comments would be the same. For example, how would an orthodox Jew observe sabbath in space? Just change the rules to suit the situation so that the letter of the rule can be observed, as they've always done. You can substitute whatever silly religion requires you to do something special at sunrise/sunset with the threat of eternal damnation.

zelie zelerton
09-19-2007, 01:09 AM
Well knock me over with a feather. :dubious:

I'd say a practical religion is one that lets you skip it once in awhile.
Pretty much you can. My Muslim colleagues can't just stop their train and pray at the right time so they don't. They also have the issue of not knowing in which direction Mecca is because they are underground and the tunnels are mighty twisty. But the reality is that it is impractical to do so.

I see some of the guys praying around the office buildings when it's time but obviously it's much easier to stop work for five minutes in that environment. I must ask somebody if they skip it outright when they have to or if they make it up later. I suspect it's the former (like medicine really).

Angua
09-19-2007, 01:29 AM
As far as fasting and not fasting during Ramadhan goes, there are certain conditions under which one is exempt from keeping the fast (at least in my branch of Islam):

1. Travellers
2. Pregnant women
3. Mensturating women
4. Those with a recognised medical condition where fasting would be hazardous to one's health (e.g. if one is a diabetic).

Categories 1 and 3 must make up their missed fasts after Ramadhan, whilst 1 and 4, although completely exempt from the physical abstenaince from food, must adhere to the other restrictions of Ramadhan. However, this does vary from sect to sect.

As regards missed prayers, if you're in a position where praying at the prescribed time is not feasible, you should make up the relevant prayers later.

flodnak
09-19-2007, 01:50 AM
These are not new problems. How do Muslims in the far north or south fast for Ramadan, or for that matter determine when to pray? The "Day" last six months. Smart People have decided that the correct procedure is to estimate..Exactly. Muslims living here in the Oslo area, for instance, would have a very short fast when Ramadan falls in the winter months - and would not physically survive when Ramadan falls in the summer and it doesn't get dark for weeks. In general, the imam in each mosque will suggest reasonable fast times for the community he leads, as well as reasonable times for daily prayers. They're often meant to be close to the times in Mecca, I'm told, not only because of the religious aspect but because it lies at a much more practical latitude for such things.

Similarly, the small Jewish communities in Oslo and Trondheim have figured out ways to work around the challenge of sunset falling very very late during the summer and inconveniently early during the winter. It's an old problem.

Cervaise
09-19-2007, 01:44 PM
Okay, prayers are easy. How about the hajj? Imagine a Muslim astronaut on Mars, with a 2-3 year transit time. That's got to put a major wrench into the pilgrimage.

KneadToKnow
09-19-2007, 01:47 PM
Crescent wrench, I'm guessing?

alphaboi867
09-19-2007, 02:10 PM
Okay, prayers are easy. How about the hajj? Imagine a Muslim astronaut on Mars, with a 2-3 year transit time. That's got to put a major wrench into the pilgrimage.

AKAIK the hajj is only actually required once in one's lifetime and only if one is able to make the journey in the first place. I once read a sci-fi story set on a colonized Mars where this problem was solved by Muslims transporting a piece of the Black Stone to Mars and founding a "New Mecca".

Gala Matrix Fire
09-19-2007, 05:13 PM
By the way, the Malaysian astronaut who inspired the article in the OP is extremely good-looking. I recommend checking him out: Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.spacefacts.de/bios/portraits/international/muszaphar_sheik.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.spacefacts.de/bios/international/english/muszaphar_sheikh.htm&h=332&w=221&sz=23&hl=en&start=1&um=1&tbnid=vlH9Rt2BalD3xM:&tbnh=119&tbnw=79&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsheikh%2Bmuszaphar%2Bshukor%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3DTSHA,TSHA:2005-19,TSHA:en%26sa%3DX). He's a doctor, an astronaut, and a model, and he's single, ladies.

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