Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No Muslims on Mars?

In an effort to spur interplanetary colonization, Dutch company Mars One is planning a mission to Mars in 2023. The catch is that while the technology exists to get travelers there, without some major breakthroughs between now and then it will be a one-way trip. Mars doesn't have the infrastructure that would allow colonists to build a return rocket, so anyone who opts to go may very well be stuck there for the rest of their lives. This doesn't sit well with the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates, which has issued a fatwa against Muslims participating in the Mars One mission.

Promoting or being involved in a one-way trip to the Red Planet is prohibited in Islam, a fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the UAE has ruled.

“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”.

The committee, presided by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said: “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.”

The one-way nature of the mission would give me pause as well, but as a Thelemite my opinion is that if somebody wants to go its their own business. It also sounds as if the fatwa may be lifted once a suitable technology is developed for a return trip. But until then, the result is likely to be fewer Muslims in the initial wave of colonization. That is, of course, if the mission manages to get off the ground at all. Nothing like it has ever been attempted, and it remains to be seen if the organizers can really meet their commitments by the target date.

Mars One has issued a response to the fatwa. It can be found here.

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