Thoughts on ‘A Muslim Astronaut’s Dilemma: How to Face Mecca From Space’

Below the article that got my juices flowing in the tender morning…

http://www.wired.com/science/space/news/2007/09/mecca_in_orbit

Several things spring to mind: As with the ‘How many Angels can Dance on the Head of a Pin’ question, it is a wonderment to me how much time, brainpower,  and resources are spent debating, calculating, morally philosophising, researching and determining what is in any religious context’s perceived grand scheme of things only a logistical detail.

Even though there is some mention of ‘prayer is not supposed to be a gymnastic exercise’ and ‘The astronaut should be able to determine the qibla based on what is possible’, it wholly puts this in the realm of dangerous judgement through superstition.

For the sake of completion I have to take a stitch unpicker to the above quotes, as prayer is most determinedly a gymnastic exercise by default.The mental acrobatics one is required to perform to accept there is some form of predetermined cosmic force at work in the first place make it so. An architecture that has a sentient designer with a toolkit leaking diagrams, double helixes and pencil stumps that make us who we are today, whom watches our every eye blink, hears our every thought and is aware of every time we touch our naughty bits and whom would listen when we whisper our petty desires into the clasped palms of our sweaty hands elevates those gymnastics to Olympic standards.

After ample deliberation, by grand magnanimous decree of the Malaysian National Fatwa Council, the astronaut is given license to worship ‘according to what is possible’, because the Council approved the results of the conference held by 150 Islamic scientists and scholars regarding worship at the International Space Station.

I can only feel a kind of helpless exasperation at the fact that their reference to what is possible is based on a scientific method of determining where Mecca lies from any point. So far so good… but that the scientific method is applied with the sole purpose of calculating in which direction a man is to pray to an imaginary entity which has been commonly accepted as being possible in the first place  fills me with a sense of vertigo.

Meanwhile, they’re certainly not going to take any prizes for consistency within even their own belief system, as apparently the devotee should ascertain as closely as possible that they are not accidentally praying towards the Sun or the Moon, as these are pagan icons and would render the whole exercise moot.

The devotee should bend his knee to the Deity, who created everything in the first place and worship him as such.

Pardon me while I untangle this ball of wool: The celestial bodies mentioned are worshiped by pagans so one mustn’t bow to those. Simultaneously, they are created by the Deity one should prostrate oneself before and they should be viewed accordingly. Well, which one is it, my little chickadees? We can’t have cake and eat it on that position, as the latter should render the former moot, not to mention safe for the devotee of the creator. And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue I have with the concept of prostrating oneself before anything intangible, let alone allowing it to determine my footing in life unquestioningly.*

So here I come to what I facetiously really want to shout, only half-jokingly, with much incredulous and slightly hollow mirth, at this particular space-faring dilemma: 

How is it that this astronaut is alright to go into Space in the first place, according to your own beliefs and nitpicking agonising as it will bring him closer to the Sun and Moon, those blasphemous things?

And here I’d like someone of my friends who is clever with animation to make me a short cartoon of a lone Muslim trying to put down his trusty prayer rug in zero gravity, ending up grasping it like nothing so much as a fakir on a magic carpet, bobbing upside down in his spaceship whilst steadfastly singing his praises to his God. We’ll have a little Kubrick-homage and do it to Strauss’ ‘An der Schönen Blauen Donau’ for good measure.

But back to the article, for it’s alright everyone: “God does not take a person to task for that which is beyond his/her ability to work with.”                                                                                                                                                                         And this, this is the root of my beef with religion that is based on an overarching entity who sees and decides all:The small print that forms the out-clause of responsibility and accountability.

That one quote unmasks the whole kitten caboodle as what it is: Theatrics.

A diversion to seem hard at work pondering the best route to righteousness according to the cultural flavour of the month – and equally as agile, fickle, fluid and flexible – whilst feeding off-stage agenda’s. The ‘Jesus is coming, look busy’ strategy.

Ach, I should calm down. I’m probably just sinfully envious that Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is going into space at all, to view all that vasty black glory in situ.

I’d have loved to be an astronaut. Truly I would have. I looked at application policies and everything. Unfortunately, it became very clear I would never be able to even get into the program:

What I lacked to qualify is mathematics.

mandelbrot-set-equation

*Some of those who know me would say: But. You practise paganism and Hindu pantheism. Does that not make you a hypocrite for mocking the preposterous hairsplitting in this article? You celebrate the fairies at the bottom of the garden and the blue-bodied, many-armed goddess, they’re just different expressions of the same nonsense, surely?Call me a Sagan Pagan, like one of my close friends did: With the application of common sense and what I understand of science and human psychology, I celebrate with the full knowledge that ritual is vital to our species.

We crave patterns, event markers, the celebration of rites of passage and achievement.I ripped up the floorboards and looked at the wiring. It has done nothing to abate my sense of wonder at the spectacular beauty and glory of nature and all that sails in her. I celebrate that wonder with all my heart.

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