09/17/2007, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Islamic guidelines for praying in space

Two Malaysians are candidates for a Russian space mission. Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council has come up with new religious guidelines since praying, ablutions and turning towards Makkah are difficult to do in a spaceship circling the Earth 16 times a day. Ramadan fasting can be postponed until return to the Earth.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In space a Muslim will not be required to kneel to pray if the absence of gravity makes it too hard, nor will he or she have to wash with water, a simple wet towel will do, this according to Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council which has approved a new set guidelines for Muslim astronauts.

Two Malaysian candidates, a doctor and an army dentist who are both Muslims, are in fact undergoing training in Russia for an 11-day space mission scheduled to start on October 10 during Ramadan.

Kneeling in zero gravity or turning towards Makkah when the spaceship circles the Earth 16 times a day become difficult religious obligations to fulfill.

But after months of discussion and two international conferences the National Fatwa Council has come up with the answers in a 12-page booklet titled Muslim Obligations in the International Space Station

Other exceptions include praying solely in the mind if performing physical rituals is impossible and keeping track of time based on when the rocket blasted off. Facing Makkah whilst praying will be left to the "best abilities" of the astronaut.

The rules will allow the astronaut to suspend fasting in space and fulfil the requirements immediately after returning to Earth.

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