When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

When Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor of Malaysia flew to the International Space Station ten years ago, the question was asked. In orbit, which direction should one face in order to pray to Mecca, the qibla, the location of the Ka'aba, the holiest place in Islam.

"Turn then thy face towards the Sacred Mosque: wherever ye are, turn your faces towards it …. " The Quran, Al-Baqarah, 2:149

But on the International Space Station,  for a nine-day visit during the holy month of Ramadan, this became an issue.

Especially with a satellite moving at speed, the qibla can move from one side of the station to the other during prayer time.

And so Malaysia's space agency, Angkasa, convened a conference of 150 Islamic scientists and scholars to answer the question, resulting in the guideline that the qibla should be "based on what is possible", prioritised as 1) the Ka'aba, 2) the projection of Ka'aba, 3) the Earth, 4) wherever.

As to movement, cartographer Dr. Kamal Abdali says "prayer is not supposed to be a gymnastic exercise. One is supposed to concentrate on the prayer rather the exact orientation" and that in a train or plane, it's customary to start in the qibla direction but then continue the prayer without worrying about possible changes in position.

There are issues regarding physical orientation, when facing the ground to pray without gravity, and where one is instructed not to pristrate oneself to the sun of the moon, when praying directly towards Mecca might mean also facing either body.


However Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University, stated "In space," Mohammed points out, "the ritual prayer might be offset for more of a prayer that is allowed when on jihad … for the lack of gravity and directional accuracy makes it legitimate to do as one sees fit. God does not take a person to task for that which is beyond his/her ability to work with."

And there's always

And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. [Surah Baqarah; Verse 115]

Which, considering other matter included dozens of sunrises and sunsets every 2 hours, and all manner of religions tied into the monthly cycles of sun and moon, there are more issues to take into account.

But why is that question coming up now? Because today's Justice League #34 by Christopher Priest and Pete Woods has Simon Baz, the Green Lantern, praying….


When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

… on a foreign soil…When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

A very foreign soil indeed.When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

Something that Simon Baz has appeared to return to recently, as four months ago, he was expressing a very different view in Justice League #25.

When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

And stating his own prayer.When You Pray On Another Planet, Which Way Is Mecca?

It appears that Simon Baz has undergone bt of a life change. Away from Earth, on another planet. Maybe something has happened, maybe he wants something to happen. As for praying in the direction of Mecca, maybe he asked his ring…

(W) Christopher Preist (A/CA) Pete Woods
"LOST" part one! When the Justice League is confronted by three concurrent threats, a sleep-deprived Batman makes a crucial error that causes an unthinkable-and potentially unforgivable-tragedy. Legendary Eisner Award-nominated writer Christopher Priest (Deathstroke) is joined by artist Pete Woods for a brand-new must-read Justice League story like you've never seen before!
RATED TIn Shops: Dec 06, 2017
SRP: $2.99

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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