Skip to main content

UAE Islamic affairs authority warns Muslims against a mission to Mars

By Leone Lakhani, CNN
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Water-ice clouds, polar ice and other geographic features can be seen in this full-disk image of Mars from 2011. NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover touched down on the planet on August 6, 2012. Take a look at stunning photographs of Mars over the years. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/14/tech/gallery/mars-curiosity-rover/index.html' target='_blank'>Check out images from the Mars rover Curiosity</a>. Water-ice clouds, polar ice and other geographic features can be seen in this full-disk image of Mars from 2011. NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover touched down on the planet on August 6, 2012. Take a look at stunning photographs of Mars over the years. Check out images from the Mars rover Curiosity.
HIDE CAPTION
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
Exploring Mars
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The United Arab Emirates' religious watchdog warns Muslims against a Mars mission
  • It says the journey, which isn't scheduled to return, is like a suicide mission
  • Taking one's life willingly is against Islamic principles
  • Mission organizers issue a statement asking the Islamic authorities to cancel the fatwa

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- The Oscar-nominated film "Gravity" traces the harrowing tale of astronaut Ryan Stone after a mission goes horribly wrong. She's lost in space and struggles to try to make her way back to Earth.

"Gravity" is just a film. Imagine a similar real-life scenario: Would there be any chance of survival?

That's a concern for the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments, or GAIAE, the United Arab Emirates' religious watchdog, for anyone who wishes to travel to Mars. The GAIAE has issued a fatwa, or an official Islamic ruling, to warn Muslims against a Mars mission.

So far, the UAE has supported space travel. Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments teamed up with Richard Branson's Virgin group to create Virgin Galactic to provide spaceflights for tourists, starting this year. But a mission to Mars, it seems, is one step too far.

UAE advises Muslims to avoid Mars
A one-way ticket to Mars
See what it's like to live on Mars
Mars One mission accepting applications

Tourist trips to the Moon by 2043?

The mission is being planned by the Dutch nonprofit foundation Mars One. In April 2013, it announced its ambitions to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet by 2025.

But the GAIAE likens the journey to a suicide mission. On the authority's free 24-hour hotline, the issue was deliberated by the center's specialized muftis, or scholars, who released the following statement: "It is not permissible to travel to Mars and never to return if there is no life on Mars. The chances of dying are higher than living."

Taking one's life willingly is against Islamic principles.

In response, Mars One issued a statement asking the UAE's Islamic authorities to cancel the fatwa, saying every precaution would be taken to reduce the risk to life. "If we may be so bold: the GAIAE should not analyze the risk as they perceive it today," the statement says. "The GAIAE should assess the potential risk for humans as if an unmanned habitable outpost is ready and waiting on Mars. Only when that outpost is established will human lives be risked in Mars One's plan."

The statement includes a verse from the Quran that "encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God's creation in the 'heavens and the earth.' " It goes on to say the first Martian settlers would walk in the footsteps of great Muslim explorers like Ibn Battuta, the 14th century Moroccan journeyman whose travels took him across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Indeed, space travel isn't alien to Muslim culture. There have been Muslim space explorers in the past.

200,000 people apply to live on Mars

The first ever Muslim space tourist was Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, when he joined the crew of American space shuttle Discovery in 1985. In 2006, Anousheh Ansari became the first Iranian-born woman in space. And to help Muslims observe religious obligations in space, the Malaysian government has been instrumental in setting up guidelines.

In 2006, Malaysia's national space agency Angkasa convened a conference of Islamic scientists and scholars to address the religious obligations of Muslim astronauts. The result was a detailed set of rules called "A Guideline of Performing Ibadah (worship) at the International Space Station (ISS)." It tackles a number of issues, like the number of times a Muslim should observe daily prayers, when a day lasts just 90 minutes in orbit.

Mars One says 1,058 candidates have been shortlisted for the mission, from pool of more than 200,000 applicants around the world. It's not clear how many Muslims are among the candidates, but Mars One says applications came from 107 countries.

Since its inception in 2008, the GAIAE has released nearly 2 million fatwas. The fatwa on the Mars mission is now among them.

Opinion: Why I signed up for a one-way trip to Mars

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Rosetta spacecraft arrives at its destination, Comet 67P after a 10-year journey around the solar system.
After a 10-year chase the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting a comet
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
"Here comes the sun" indeed, and it was just barely all right.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
The U.S. Army brainchild "Project Horizon" was born. Its proposal to leap beyond the Soviets opened with the line: "There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon."
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
Back in July 1969, I stood on the talcum-like lunar dust just a few feet from our home away from home, Eagle, the lunar module that transported Neil Armstrong and me to the bleak, crater-pocked moonscape.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
June 29, 2014 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2302 GMT (0702 HKT)
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
May 2, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT