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"Do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction."
February 21, 2014 1:09 PM   Subscribe

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment has issued a fatwa banning Muslims from participating in a Mars colonization effort, citing pervasive risk for no "righteous reason." The Mars One project (previously) has penned a remarkably erudite reply.
posted by BlackLeotardFront (49 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
They are definitely getting themselves in the news, I doubt anyone outside of the UAE had heard of this group before.

Just so people know, there is no Pope of Islam or central leadership. Despite the name, this group has no "General Authority" outside of UAE, as far as I can tell.
posted by cell divide at 1:12 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


metafilter: it leaves you speechless, then it turns you into a storyteller
posted by rebent at 1:16 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


How do you pray towards Mecca when it's straight up, above you? Or straight down? And constantly changing?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:19 PM on February 21


Despite the name, this group has no "General Authority" outside of UAE, as far as I can tell.

Furthermore, despite the name, Mars One isn't actually going to Mars, as far as I can tell.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:20 PM on February 21 [22 favorites]


I think the description above is slightly misleading at first glance, as the fatwa is specifically against projects like Mars One and not Martian colonization as a whole:
“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said. “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”

Whoever opts for this “hazardous trip”, the committee said, is likely to perish for no “righteous reason”, and thus will be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”.
Which, whether you believe in a Hereafter or not, or a specifically Muslim Hereafter or not, makes much more sense theologically.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:20 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I hope I didn't mean to make something more out of this than it is. I just thought it was interesting occurrence. As cell divide says above, these guys aren't like laying down the law, just publishing the opinion of a group of learned Muslims on this issue.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:22 PM on February 21


How do you pray towards Mecca when it's straight up, above you? Or straight down? And constantly changing?

with great dizziness.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:25 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]




Also, for the record, the GAIAE issued 337,000 fatwas last year. So this isn't exactly a momentous occasion. I'm having poster's remorse...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:28 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


How do you pray towards Mecca when it's straight up, above you? Or straight down? And constantly changing?

"Praying Toward Mecca...In Outer Space"
Prince Sultan's historic space flight on the Discovery shuttle in 1985 marked many firsts for the shuttle program. The Saudi prince was the first Arab, Muslim, and member of royalty to travel into space. The mission was also unique because its crew came from three different countries on three different continents. They faced the challenge of carrying out cultural norms while in outer space. But Prince Sultan found a way to do everything, including fasting during Ramadan and praying three times a day. (Travelers often pray three times a day using a condensed version of the usual five sets of prayers.) He is now the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:28 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Just so people know, there is no Pope of Islam or central leadership. Despite the name, this group has no "General Authority" outside of UAE, as far as I can tell.

Like any other group issuing fatwas, the group has authority at three different levels:

1. They have authority over themselves, naturally. (Issue a fatwa, and you must follow it.)

2. The person or persons who requested this fatwa. (If you ask, you are recognizing the issuer's authority, and should obey the fatwa. Fatwa shopping is a no no.)

3. Their audience, whatever its size. (If you recognized these people in the past, you should continue to recognize it, barring a specific reason not to. Again, because fatwa shopping is bad.)

No idea what size set #3 is either. But this fatwa is in line with mainstream Muslim thought. They're really not big on taking risks with one's life without a compelling reason.
posted by ocschwar at 1:31 PM on February 21 [9 favorites]


How do you pray towards Mecca when it's straight up, above you? Or straight down? And constantly changing?
  1. Find the point of intersection between the surface of Mars and a line connecting the center of Mars and Mecca.
  2. Pray along the great-circle path toward that point.
posted by The Tensor at 1:32 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Re: salat off-Terra - In Pitch Black, the Muslim crash survivors stood in a circle and looked up towards the sky.

Evidently a the extras playing the junior passengers were practicing Muslims and were a little hinky about it at first, but David Twohy the director explained the general idea that in the future Muslims were all "This is a good-faith effort and God isn't THAT much of a stickler for the impossible". That got them on board.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:34 PM on February 21


I'm having poster's remorse...

Don't. Mars One's response was great, and makes this an opportunity to showcase the diversity of modern Islamic thought. Ibn Battuta FTW.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:39 PM on February 21 [7 favorites]


337,000 fatwas? That right there is impressive.
posted by ian1977 at 1:40 PM on February 21


From Mars One response...

The lives and journey of the first Mars settlers will tell us more about our place in the universe than any other humans before us.

That seems a bit...rich.
posted by ian1977 at 1:41 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Also, for the record, the GAIAE issued 337,000 fatwas last year.

Surely there is a fatwabot behind this.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:42 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


Surely there is a fatwabot behind this.

Or a fatwawallah, which is entirely too much fun to say.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:46 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


Bear in mind that that isn't necessarily 337,000 unique fatwas:
The Fatwa Centre provides the following services:
1. The Fatwa toll free number 8002422 is available from 8 am to 8 pm during working days. Muftis answer queries regarding matters relative to worship and creed, social relations, business transactions, family relations, and women issues. The service is available in Arabic, English and Urdu. More than 1000 calls are received daily. In Ramadan, calls tend to exceed 3000 a day.
I suspect that the vast majority of those fatwas are cut-and-paste replies to questions they've heard a bunch of times before, especially during Ramadan (if you think AskMe gets a bunch of "Should I eat this?" questions...).
posted by Etrigan at 1:52 PM on February 21 [13 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, it would be great to not just stomp on the gas pedal and drive this thread straight into the wall if people could maybe just make a little effort.]
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Etrigan: "The Fatwa toll free number 8002422"

They're really missing out on an opportunity here. Charge a couple of bucks per fatwa and you'd be set!
posted by Big_B at 2:00 PM on February 21


Bear in mind that that isn't necessarily 337,000 unique fatwas

At least some of them seem to be detailed online, and the count there only runs up to 36,876, but it's not clear what exactly that's tracking -- the numbers jump around.
posted by cjelli at 2:01 PM on February 21


Elementary Penguin and Celcius1414's links regarding how Islamic scientists calculate the best way of facing Mecca both on Earth and in space are fascinating and worth reading. They both got me asking myself something I've not asked myself before: was their a reaction among the world's major religions to space flight in general and the Moon landings in particular? It strikes me that space travel has some potentially profound ramifications for most faiths. I mean, it wasn't that long ago (in a macro-historical sense) that Galileo was being persecuted for (among other things) his model of the universe.

Were there reactions from the major world religions?
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:15 PM on February 21


There are also proclamations on how to be cool, otherwise known as phatwas.
posted by jonmc at 2:28 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


Elementary Penguin's link talks about Malaysia's space program. From what I know (being in Malaysia at the time) people were really excited to send Malaysians to space, and there was nothing particularly unIslamic about it.
posted by divabat at 3:01 PM on February 21


Joey Michaels: "Were there reactions from the major world religions?"

Pope Paul VI: Kind of a space nerd with a lot to say about it. He mentioned the moon landing in a lot of public addresses both leading up to the mission and afterwards, always excitedly. (Either in The Dish or Apollo 13, I always watch the two together so I forget which historical footage is in which, there's film footage of Paul VI watching the moon landing and blessing the astronauts on TV as they land.)

From the last link there:
Pope Paul told Armstrong that he was right on the mark in describing the mission as "one giant leap for mankind."

"Man has a natural urge to explore the unknown, to know the unknown; yet man has also a fear of the unknown," Pope Paul told the three men. "Your bravery has transcended this fear and through your intrepid adventure man has taken another step toward knowing more of the universe."

Pope Paul told the men that the time, energy, talents, resources and teamwork behind their successful trip "pay tribute to the capacity of modern man to reach beyond himself, to reach beyond human nature, to attain the perfection of achievement made possible by his God-given talent."

The pope also prayed that people's knowledge of God's creation would continue to grow and that it would lead them to see more clearly God's power, infinity and perfection.
On the main topic of this thread, I totally love these kinds of religious law debates (I get easily sucked into reading Talmudic debates for hours). The answer, almost always, though, is: "Good question! Here are a couple of possible answers that might work and we will now argue through the technicalities for forty pages. But in the actual fact of it, try your best and don't injure anybody trying, it'll be fine. Good luck!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:03 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


That's a great response. Space! We have to go there as a species.
posted by limeonaire at 3:06 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


> Or a fatwawallah, which is entirely too much fun to say.

And when it's revealed that sitting around doing nothing but writing has made him overweight:

A fat fatwawallah, voilà!
posted by benito.strauss at 3:21 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Now that you've got my brain on this topic, I recall that when I was in college and then seminary studying theology (8 years total) one of the favorite "angels on the head of a pin" topics for theologians to argue about when they had nothing else to do, given that we were in the early stages of "water on Mars, maybe?!?" and "other earthlike planets, we think?", was "If there are other intelligent beings in the universe, were they all saved by our Jesus or did they each get their own Jesi or are they unsaved until we locate them and tell them about Jesus? If they each got their own Jesi, would those Jesi necessarily be simultaneous or could they occur at different points in time? How developed must an intelligent race's brain be to get a Jesus?"

Not because it matters -- if pushed, their actual answer is generally, "I'm sure God has worked it out and we'll find out when we get there" (reasonably quick discussion that's not unlike what you expect to hear) -- but because it's fun to argue about hypothetical technicalities where you can create more and more and more hypothetical scenarios to support your point and undermine the other guy's without inconvenient facts constraining your imaginations.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:59 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


But how then will Frank Chalmers goad the Mars Arabs into racial resentment which will undermine John Boone's success?
posted by dhartung at 4:00 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


"If there are other intelligent beings in the universe, were they all saved by our Jesus or did they each get their own Jesi ..."

My own earlier response to this question.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:10 PM on February 21


A fat fatwawallah, voilà!

Voilà! A fat fatwawallah from Walla Walla!
posted by octobersurprise at 4:15 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Jesi

Surely you meant Mohammeds.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:19 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


The whole "too hard to find Mecca" thing seems like a weird complaint in a day and age when my phone can always tell me exactly how long it's going to take me to drive to several places I don't even want to go, just because I once looked them up on Google Maps.
posted by Sequence at 5:32 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Were there reactions from the major world religions?

One Christian's opinion, anyway:

C.S. Lewis, shortly before his death in 1963:

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”


Lewis had several writings where he touched on the idea, admittedly just a supposition of his, that perhaps Earth was a rare thing in that we were fallen; perhaps other inhabited planets were made up of people who hadn't gotten out of tune with God.

I realize if you're not a Christian that last part of the quote isn't going to be something you'll agree with. It's hard to argue with the first part, based on history. But I think Lewis had some intelligent things to say about space travel. When the Russians got into space ahead of the USA and were supposedly saying they had been into space where God was supposed to be and didn't see Him, Lewis said something like "I'd be rather more disturbed if they HAD seen Him." IIRC, he also said something like "It's not a new problem; we're already in outer space, and traveling around."
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:33 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


The whole "too hard to find Mecca" thing seems like a weird complaint in a day and age when my phone can always tell me exactly how long it's going to take me to drive to several places I don't even want to go, just because I once looked them up on Google Maps.

Yeah well, put that phone in a vehicle moving 7km/sec and see how well it does.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:16 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I just hope none of this obscures the obvious fact that Mars One is a cynical, sleazy hoax.
posted by Max Udargo at 6:30 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


When I finished The Chronicles of Narnia I should have gotten myself hypnotized to utterly forget the name of the author.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:59 PM on February 21


Lewis had several writings where he touched on the idea, admittedly just a supposition of his, that perhaps Earth was a rare thing in that we were fallen

I can see how this kind of thing is entertaining, but where does it end? Maybe Jesus was a space alien. Maybe spiritual emanations in interstellar space removes sin, and colonists who took a long journey to another world would become like their Jesus. I'm not sure that science fiction is a very solid rock to build your theology on.
posted by thelonius at 8:24 PM on February 21


Let me state the obvious: a Muslim on Mars has grown beyond Mecca. He has reached beyond the stale confines of his origins and turned his face to the stars, who welcome him in peace.
posted by SPrintF at 9:24 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Naah, any where we go, we''ll bring our pasts with us.

Anyway, I can't really argue with the fatwa, because the Mars One nonsense would basically bil down to slow, extended suicide.
posted by happyroach at 9:32 PM on February 21


happyroach: I think that's what the fatwa itself is getting at - not that flying to Mars or outer space in and of itself is unIslamic, but that the way Mars One is set up it's deeply unsafe, no better than a suicide mission and death won't lead you to martyrdom so might as well not bother.
posted by divabat at 10:39 PM on February 21


I just hope none of this obscures the obvious fact that Mars One is a cynical, sleazy hoax.


Oh, goddamnit. I was vaguely hopeful about space exploration for a minute.
posted by dogheart at 11:07 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]




Lewis had several writings where he touched on the idea, admittedly just a supposition of his, that perhaps Earth was a rare thing in that we were fallen; perhaps other inhabited planets were made up of people who hadn't gotten out of tune with God.

The first two novels of the Perelandra trilogy are predicated on this: the vacuum of space is 'the heavens' and the habitation of angels. In "Out of the Silent Planet", which is the first novel, Mars is an unfallen world, ruled by an archangel; it's rather like the Narnian relationship with Aslan.

They're interesting, but they're not as satisfying as Narnia was to me as a child.
posted by jrochest at 1:40 AM on February 22


> "If there are other intelligent beings in the universe, were they all saved by our Jesus or did they each get their own Jesi or are they unsaved until we locate them and tell them about Jesus? If they each got their own Jesi, would those Jesi necessarily be simultaneous or could they occur at different points in time? How developed must an intelligent race's brain be to get a Jesus?"

I can't believe no one else has mentioned A Case of Conscience by James Blish, the locus classicus for this issue.
posted by languagehat at 9:02 AM on February 22


I just hope none of this obscures the obvious fact that Mars One is a cynical, sleazy hoax.

Yeah, the response to the fatwa is fun and pointed, but there are some links in that previous thread that leave lots of room for skepticism about the cost and the reality-show model the Mars One folks say they're going to be using to choose a crew. This article does a good job describing the possibilities and doubts about the company's capabilities. It's all very tentative at this "crowd-funding to support mission development" stage:

Just how much those missions will cost, and how Mars One will raise the money, remain unclear. Lansdorp said at Mars One had a “ballpark figure” in mind for the mission cost, but declined to share it publicly; mission cost estimates would come out of the concept studies Lockheed and SSTL will perform. After the press conference, Lansdorp said he estimated the total mission cost would be less than NASA’s InSight mission, which, as part of the agency’s Discovery program, is capped at $425 million plus launch costs.

As for raising the money for the mission, Lansdorp was similarly vague. “We’re having really good discussions with partners,” he said, citing in particular interest in the planned university payload competition. “There are a lot of companies interested in associating themselves with that.” Such partners would be the primary source of funding for the mission, he later said. Mars One has delayed the mission by two years, to 2018, in part to give it more time to line up partners for the mission.


If you must, give 'em $20 bucks and hope they make it work. If it does, the future of human space exploration will look very different. But I wouldn't expect too much from Mars One, except for some neat, well-written press releases like this one here. Both groups seem to be doing a "hey this is great for some free publicity to put our name out there" dance.
posted by mediareport at 4:07 PM on February 22


fwiw, many folks at Reddit have been merciless in dissecting Mars One, if not outright denouncing it as a scam, each time the co-founder does an AMA:

June 2012: IAmA Founder of Mars One, settling humans on Mars in 2023. AMA

Two months ago: I am Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars-One - Mankind's mission to Mars. AMA!

This comment captures the attitude nicely:

Fuck this guys treachery, deceit and fraud. While global private front-runners is seemingly the next required step in space exploration, playing off the heartstrings of space lovers and the sensationalism of the potential headlines is a shit thing to do to fraud people out of $400k in a shit indiegogo campaign. You have contributed absolutely nothing to the discussion, let alone the advancement of space technologies and space exploration. MarsOne has added nothing to the discourse except PR bullshit. Your 'road map' is laughable...
posted by mediareport at 4:39 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


For the record, a professor of Islamic theology I contacted had this to say:

"The GAIAE group would only be authoritative for the UAE. I doubt that there is any consensus among Muslim scholars concerning travel to Mars. The basis of this fatwa seems to be that a trip to Mars amounts to suicide and is therefore forbidden. But many other Muslim scholars might very well think it possible for humans to survive on Mars and therefore travel to Mars would not be forbidden. Furthermore actions are judged in Islam according to intent, so travel to Mars would not be considered suicide if the traveler thought that he would survive there. Suicide bombers, for example, are not committing suicide, since their intent is not to kill themselves but to kill the enemy."
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:47 PM on February 22


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