Guidebook issued for Muslims in space

KUALA LUMPUR Sat Oct 6, 2007 8:48pm BST

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has come up with the world's first comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space as its first astronaut prepares to go into orbit next week.

The book, entitled Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station, teaches the Muslim astronaut how to perform ablutions, determine the location of Mecca when praying, prayer times, and how to fast in space, the Star newspaper reported on Saturday.

"The reason we formulated guidelines for Muslims in space is because we wanted to ensure our astronaut could fully concentrate on his mission, without having to worry about how he should perform his religious obligations in space," Abdullah Md Zin, a minister for religious affairs, was quoted as saying.

The 18-page guidebook will be translated into English, Russian, Arabic and possibly more languages for the benefit of future Muslim astronauts, he said.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, an orthopaedic surgeon and university lecturer from Kuala Lumpur, will leave Earth from Kazakhstan's Baikonur launchpad for Russia's International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Malaysian has said he will try to observe as much of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in orbit as possible. The lunar month, during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, is due to end around October 13.

Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who was the first Muslim in space, had said that although he managed to pray and fast, he was not able to face towards Mecca and could not fully kneel on the ground.

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