The first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be launched into space Wednesday with a strict set of Islamic guidelines telling him how to practise his faith on the International Space Station.
As a Muslim, Hazza Al Mansouri has to pray five times a day, but the question is how he would do it – due to time and space constraints. Hazza will be orbiting the earth every 90 minutes, which means he will be witnessing 16 sunsets and sunrises a day. Observant Muslims are expected to pray and fast according to the time of day no matter where they are.
“As a professional pilot, I’m used to praying while flying at high speed,” Hazza said at a news conference in Baikonur on Tuesday when asked about praying, Gulf News reports. “Of course in space it will look a little different. I plan to record a prayer as I go down to earth, ” he added.
So how will the 35-year-old meet his religious obligations while onboard the International Space Station?
Dubai Islamic affairs have tackled this dilemma for Hazza with a prayer booklet, and recommended he follow the timings of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
A previous Muslim astronaut, Malaysia’s Sheikh Muszapher Shukor, was advised to follow the time of day in Kazakhstan where his rocket took off, officials said.
But Mecca, as Islam’s holiest city, “takes precedent” as there is “no point in following the timings of the launch country,” the UAE booklet says. They advised him to face Earth while praying – if at all possible.
Dubai officials say Hazza should also do his best to observe the ritual of ablution, or washing oneself before prayer.
However, if water is not readily available, he could use a stone or grain of sand instead, they suggest.
Hazza is set to return to Earth with NASA’s Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on October 3. Skripochka and Meir are set to remain on the ISS until the spring of 2020.