Malaysian Astronaut Performed Salat in Space
By: MOHAMMAD YACOOB
“When I was in space, I felt I found my soul in space,’ Muszaphar Shukor said. “Every time you see Earth, you get Goosebumps and you think of Allah’s creation.” Astronaut Muszaphar Shukor was the keynote speaker at the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California banquet on May 11, 2008, in Los Angeles, California.
The Islamic Shura Council is the umbrella organisation of more than 50 Mosques and Islamic Centres located in various cities in Southern California. The Board of Directors of the Shura Council invited Muszaphar Shukor to come to California to meet the Muslim community and talk to the Muslim Youth of America. Astronaut Shukor met three groups of Muslim youth in three different cities in Southern California, talked to them about his experiences and urged them to work hard to achieve their desired goals.
Astronaut Shukor, an orthopaedic surgeon and a youthful man, was selected from a group of 11, 500 Malaysians who applied to become an astronaut. It was a very excruciating selection process involving health history, physical stamina, mental alertness and the ability to conduct scientific experiments, collect and analyse scientific and medical data. One of the stringent requirements was that there should not be even a scratch or a previous wound mark anywhere on the body of the person selected to be trained as an astronaut.
Astronaut Shukor conducted scientific experiments in space and he hopes to find a cure for cancer. While in the spaceship he performed his Salat and read at least 20 pages a day from the Qur’an.
After Muszaphar Shukor was selected as an astronaut, he was trained in Russia in survival techniques involving wild fires areas and extreme cold and snowy weather. Muszaphar Shukor and other astronauts were parachuted into the isolated and selected area in Siberia that was extremely cold. They were left there for three days and had to survive on their own.
He knew that the spaceship goes around the earth every one hour and a half. He consulted a team of Ulema and explained his predicament about performing the Salat in a spaceship in outer space. The team of Ulema , he said, came up with a fatwa that said that he should perform his five times Salat at the same time as they are being performed in the Holy city of Makkah. His direction towards the Qibla would be his direction towards the earth while in space. The International Space Station used to relay the adhaan for the prayer. Because of the weightlessness the astronauts float inside the spaceship, and to perform the Salat, Astronaut Muszaphar Shukor would strap his feet to the floor to perform his salat including making rukus, sujud and staying in qaida. He would end his Salat and return to his work and conduct scientific experiments. May Allah give him more strength to inspire the coming generation of Muslims to emulate his example and combine the mundane and the spiritual to do good in this world and prepare for the afterlife.