A successful space mission, like the devil, lies in the details. Decades after the first tin can was sent to space, being precise about trajectories and turning on and off knobs still remains an integral part of going up there. With the scheduled launch of the latest Russian Soyuz rocket next month, however, there is another set of details one of the cosmonauts will have to take into account. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor will be the first Malaysian cosmonaut and the first Muslim to venture out of Earth during the holy month of Ramzan. Along with keeping a close look at the on-board monitors, the 35-year-old doctor will have to keep some religious rules in mind.
Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development has made life for a devout Muslim in space easier by providing him with the requisite booklet. Washing before prayers in space, for instance, can be tricky in zero-gravity conditions. Thus, he can “sweep holy dust” on to the face and hands even if such dust is not available on the space station. Also, in case he is unable to stand upright as is necessary during part of the prayer, he is allowed to hunch. If he can’t hunch, then he can sit. And if he can’t sit, he can lie down. Phew!
Just to make Shukor feel more comfortable about his trip, the rulebook also provides him the comforting thought that in the unlikely case of his death in space, his body should be brought back to Earth for burial, failing which it can be ‘interred’ in space after a small ceremony. Just to show how flexible the rules are, Shukor has been told that he can pray only three times and he can postpone fasting during Ramzan till he’s back on Planet Earth. Thank God for bountiful mercies.