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Computer will tell Muslim astronaut how to pray in space
From the Telegraph
Malaysian scientists and religious scholars are trying to determine how Muslims should behave in space, as the predominantly Islamic country prepares to dispatch its first astronaut next year.
More than 150 delegates attended a seminar to consider how to pray in space given the difficulties of locating Mecca and holding the prayer position in zero gravity; as well as other questions such as halal food and washing.
"It's as important as sending the astronaut," said Mustafa Din bin Subari, deputy director of Angkasa, Malaysia's space agency. "We want to stress that being a Muslim does not restrict you from doing anything."
The application of a religion founded in the 7th century Arabian desert to space travel in the 21st century is complex. The International Space Station (ISS) moves at almost 17,000 mph, so the relative position of Mecca is constantly shifting. With 16 orbits a day, and the timing of five daily prayers determined in relation to sunrise and sunset, devout Muslim astronauts could find themselves intoning their chants 80 times in 24 hours.
"This is not possible," said Mohamad Sa'ari Mohamad Isa, of the National Technical University College of Malaysia at the meeting in Bangi, near Kuala Lumpur. The electronics lecturer has helped to develop a computer programme called Muslims in Space (* see my note below) to determine when prayers should be made......
......Delegates to the conference, which ended on Tuesday, were also reminded that scientific progress used to be most advanced in the Islamic world, which gave the West algebra, the zero and Arabic numerals. It was a failure of individuals and leaders, rather than the religion, according to Syed Kamarulzaman Syed Kabeer, vice-president of the Islamic Astronomers' Association of Malaysia, that led to Islamic peoples giving up their lead.
We will leave aside that old chestnut about Islamic innovations, as we all know well that the Zero and the numerals were appropriated from Hindu scholars, and that the other innovations were developed by dhimmi Jewish and Christian scholars.
The bit, to me, which shows how incompatible with the rest of the world this ideology is, is the purely mechanical attitude to communication with the Almighty. Prayer is communication with the Lord, a constant awareness of his presence, thankfulness for His grace, and listening for His word. There are times when formal liturgy is a good discipline and focus for prayer, especially within community worship, there are other times when spontaneity and joy are a gift. What better place to be aware of such than space, within the vastness of His creation, looking down on the full beauty of His gift to us, our world? How tragic that such an opportunity should be spent fretting on the correct timing and position of prayer instead of giving thanks to our maker for this, His creation?
There is a Muslim rumour, widely believed that Neil Armstrong heard the Islamic call to prayer after touchdown. What actually happened can be read of here, how Buzz Aldrin partook of Holy Communion on the surface of the moon.
* And my footnote? The spoof trailer for Mel Brookes History of the World: Part II which appeared at the end of the 1981 film History of the World: Part I of course. You can google for that yourself, and then rent it on video, I'm not spoiling the joke here!
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31