Ramadan 2023

Ramadan in space: How Al Neyadi will pray and fast on ISS? 

Sultan Al Neyadi, the astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, will be spending Ramadan and Eid on the International Space Station (ISS) for the next six months

Sultan Al Neyadi, the astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, will be spending Ramadan and Eid on the International Space Station (ISS) for the next six months, which raises the question of how he will observe Ramadan fast while in space. Dr Ismail Mufti Menk, an Islamic scholar, explained that fasting is not mandatory while travelling, but if an astronaut wishes to observe Ramadan fast, he can calculate the fasting hours as 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night since the ISS orbits the earth 16 times in 24 hours. The astronaut can break his fast after the end of the 12th hour and repeat the cycle if he wants to continue fasting.

Sheikh Ayaz Housee, an Imam, mentioned that the astronaut should combine and shorten his prayers as per the instructions of the Holy Quran. Regarding the Qibla, Dr Menk explained that the astronaut should face towards the earth, but if that is not possible due to lack of gravity, the prayers will still be valid. If the astronaut is unable to maintain the prayer position, he can substitute it with the next possible position.

Dr Menk explained that fasting on Earth is from dawn to dusk in areas where there is a sunset or sunrise every 24 hours. However, when a person is in an area with no sunrise or sunset in 24 hours, they must calculate their fast. This calculated fast involves dividing the 24 hours into 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. The fasting period would last for 12 hours, beginning with the first hour and ending with the iftar and maghrib prayer time at the end of the 12th hour. After the 12th hour, the astronaut can eat, but the 12-hour cycle can be repeated if they want to continue fasting.

Dr Menk emphasized that fasting during travel is not mandatory, and the astronaut can make up for the missed fasts after returning to Earth. Sheikh Ayaz Housee, Imam of NGS & Khateeb at Al Manar Islamic Centre, with reference to a verse from the Quran stated that during travel, a person is not required to fast but can instead make up for missed fasts on other days.

According to Sheikh Housee, during travel, the astronaut is allowed to shorten and combine his prayers as much as possible. To determine the prayer timings and Qibla direction in space, Dr Menk suggests following a calculated 12-hour day and night cycle. Fajr prayer can be offered at the beginning of the 12-hour cycle, Zuhr prayer after six hours, Asr after nine hours, Maghrib after 12 hours, and Isha prayer after two hours. If an astronaut is unable to prostrate, he can substitute with the next possible position such as sitting or lying down. As for the Qibla direction, facing towards the earth is recommended, but if that is not possible due to lack of gravity, it will be excused, and the astronaut’s prayers will still be considered valid as Islam is simple. said Dr Menk.

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