Friday, October 12, 2007

Out of this world

A Malaysian Muslim will be visiting the International Space Station, and the country's religious officials have prepared a list of guidelines for Islamic practice in space. I found the correspondence between this list and Jewish law to be striking.

Praying five times a day can be calculated in a 24-hour duration according to the time zone from where the astronaut was launched — in this case, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The time of fasting, usually performed from dawn to dusk on Earth, is according to the time zone of the location from where the astronaut was launched.

I believe the prevailing opinion is that Shabbat and holidays, and presumably fast days and prayer too, are calculated based on the point of liftoff.

Ritual cleansing before prayer can be performed through "dry ablution" — striking both palms of one's hands on a clean surface such as a wall or mirror, with or without clean sand or dust.

In certain situations where there is no water for netilat yadayim, we allow you to rub your hands on a surface or else "wash" them with dirt or sand. (A pre-space-age halacha)

If there is any doubt whether food served is halal, or permissible under Islamic dietary laws, the astronaut can still eat it in order not to starve.

You can eat non-kosher food to prevent starvation. Of course, you should try to avoid such a situation. It's not clear if the Muslims would let you go on the space flight, knowing that the only food available will be non-halal. For Jews that would be prohibited.

A Muslim astronaut should "maintain the relationship with Allah ... observe peace with other beings and maintain sustainability of the space environment."
Facing Mecca to pray is encouraged, but facing the Earth or any direction will still do.
For physical postures during prayer, any standing posture will suffice if upright standing is impossible. If not, the astronaut can sit, lie flat or simply imagine the prayer sequence.
IN CASE OF DEATH: The deceased should be brought back to Earth for a Muslim funeral. If that is impossible, the deceased should be buried in space with "a simple funeral process."

Can't argue with what appears to be common sense.

DRESS CODE: A male Muslim astronaut should be clothed from the navel to the knee, while a female should cover her entire body except for her face and hands below the wrist.

The female dress code sounds about right... for Meah Shearim.

FASTING: The astronaut can choose to postpone fasting until after returning to Earth.

I wonder if we have some comparable possibility - regarding the minor fast days, it may perhaps be the case. If a fast is scheduled for Shabbat, we move it to a neighboring day...

No comments: