Does Islam forbid one-way death trips to Mars?


Who is god of Mars' dead? Michael Knight/iStock

What happens when we take our terrestrial religions into extraterrestrial territory?

It's a question that always fascinates me, whether we're talking about praying to Mecca in orbit or the cosmos-friendly aspects of the Mormon faith. And now we have a new take on the issue as the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment's Fatwa committee has declared that one-way trips to Mars are prohibited by Islamic law.

More specifically, according to the Khaleej Times, presiding professor Dr Farooq Hamada likens a one-way Martian jaunt to suicide:

"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."

Now, as with any religious stance on killing, there's a lot to quibble about there. But where this all gets REALLY space-age is that the committee feared that some Muslims might take the trip to Mars in order to "escape punishment or standing before Almighty Allah for judgment."

I love the idea of fleeing the planet in order to skirt the wrath of a vengeful deity. It reminds me of the rather cosmic scheme for immortality in the "Prince of Nothing" books. Other Islamic scholars find obvious fault with the cosmic damnation avoidance plan, however, because an all-mighty God naturally rules over other planets as well.

Though we live in a very interesting religious universe if he/she/it does NOT. Perhaps space is the domain of dark outer gods after all.

All of this matters, because "some 500 Saudis and other Arabs" signed up for Mars One's proposed one-way trip to the red planet.

At any rate, I suppose the willful self-destruction argument stands well enough on its own. But still, if a faith is worth spreading, isn't it worth spreading to a new planet?

Update 2/21/2014: I want to be clear that none of this is in any way a commentary on Muslims in general or Islam as a whole. My interest in the matter revolves around the integration of terrestrial religion into extraterrestrial living.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.