PUTRAJAYA: How does a Muslim determine his prayer times in space? Where would be his qiblat (the direction he faces when praying)?
These and others issues are addressed in a five-page guideline to help Malaysia’s first astronaut cope with his religious rituals and routines while in space.
Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general Datuk Mustafa Abdul Rahman said the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry had requested that the department come up with the guideline and Jakim submitted it to the ministry last month.
“We are all excited about the fact that a Malaysian will be going to space and we are pleased to play our part in helping our astronaut, a Muslim, observe his religious duties at the International Space Station.”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will announce Malaysia’s first man in space on Oct 6.
Currently, candidates Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, and Kapt Dr Faiz Khaleed, 26, are undergoing training and preparatory programmes at Star City in Moscow, Russia.
Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is a medical officer attached with the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital while Kapt Dr Faiz is a dentist with the Armed Forces.
About 10,000 people had applied to become Malaysia’s first space hero and the two were chosen after a series of rigorous and painstaking selection process.
The issue of prayers would be a crucial part of the stint in space if either one is chosen to be Malaysia’s first astronaut.
On the ground, Muslims use the Holy City of Mecca as the focal point (the qiblat) of their worship when they are praying.
Mustafa said apart from prayers, the guidelines also provided information on “the proper way and the right tool to use” to clean oneself according to Islam and the issue of halal food.
He added that the experience of Malaysia’s first astronaut would show the world that Islam was not a hindrance to progress and being a Muslim would not deter one to venture into outer space.