Prayer in space: an unusual flight of a Muslim cosmonaut

Prayer in space: an unusual flight of a Muslim cosmonaut

Cosmos is a very inhospitable place, so in order to survive, you have to adhere to a number of rules. But what if they do not conform to the religious beliefs of a person? Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muzafar Shukor experienced this in 2007.

Astronaut from Malaysia

Shukor was lucky to be the first Malaysian in space. More specifically, it is angkasavan. So in Malaysia called astronauts. But we use the word familiar to us. So, Sheikh Muzafar was among the 11000 candidates for the flight from his native country.

Recall that the launch was the result of the signing of the agreement between Russia and Malaysia, so the tests were conducted in Star City and in 2006 he became the main candidate for the flight to the International Space Station.

Flight on ISS

Prayer in space: an unusual flight of a Muslim cosmonaut

The Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft was launched on October 10, 2007. Together with Shukor, Peggy Whitson and Yuri Malenchenko went to the orbital station. The Malaysian cosmonaut conducted on the ISS for 9 days, performing all the planned ESA (European Space Agency) experiments. In addition, passed various tests. Checked how microgravity affects the coordination of head and eye movement, how the vestibular system adapts, how proteins crystallize in space, etc.

October 21 the capsule landed in Kazakhstan and Shukor’s flight ended. However, before the start there was a serious problem.

Rules of prayer in space

Recall that Sheikh Muzafar became the third Muslim in space. This is a deeply religious person, and Islam has rather strict rules. It is not surprising that many obstacles arose on this basis.

For example, Muslims pray 5 times a day, kneeling and turning in the direction of Mecca. How to find Mecca from the ISS (its location changes every second) and in zero gravity it is extremely difficult to kneel down. And what to do with sunset and sunrise, which change at the orbital station every 90 minutes? This is confusing when counting the number of prayers.

In addition, let's not forget about the need for ritual ablution, and after all on the ISS there is a regulated supply of water. And the flight itself coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, when all Muslims should fast. And how to be a believer in space, where food is clearly spelled out?

Religious meeting

Prayer in space: an unusual flight of a Muslim cosmonaut

Do not think that this is a comic problem or a trifle. For the decision, a meeting was organized, where 150 Islamic scholars were invited, who reviewed each item and created certain prayer rules. In fact, it is about creating the first religious guide for a space flight. Moreover, this list was approved by the National Council of Islam in Malaysia.

As a result, Shukor received answers. He was told that during prayer it was not necessary to look for Mecca, but rather just to think about it. The change of sunset and east had to be determined according to the local time of the ISS. The number of prayers was reduced to 3 and allowed not to kneel. As an ablution is allowed to use a slightly damp towel.


All these rules apply only to Muslims on the ISS. And what happens when we go to conquer other planets? How to deal with the moon and mars? There is no answer yet, but even this case shows that the future of space exploration will face many problems concerning both religion and the cultural characteristics of each nation. What do you think?

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