Iftar in Space? Muslim Astronaut’s Occupational Hazards During Ramadan Fast
- While Sultan Al Neyadi is excused from attempting to observe Ramadan as he’s a traveler, he might observe the holy month per Greenwich Mean Time, or Coordinated Universal Time.
With the onset of Ramadan, Muslims around the world have begun their fasts from dawn to dusk. As the sun sets, they gather with family and friends, offer prayers and break their fast. Timing their Iftar during sunset is not a challenge for most, but for Sultan Al Neyadi it’s an occupational hazard. For the uninitiated, Alneyadi is an Emirati astronaut currently on the SpaceX Crew-6 mission. The Space Station Al Neyadi is in “whips around the Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour (27,600 kilometers per hour),” he can see 16 sunrises and sunsets each day,” CNN notes.
As just one of fewer than a dozen Muslim astronauts who has traveled to space, he arrived at the Space Station on March 3, and will be there during Ramadan, which began on March 22 evening and last until April 21.
He can be excused from “attempting to observe Ramadan at the same time as Earth-bound Muslims,” the CNN report says. However, speaking to reporters in Dubai in February, he said he “could fast according to Greenwich Mean Time, or Coordinated Universal Time, which is used as the official time zone on the space station. If he had an opportunity, he said “Ramadan is a good occasion to fast, and it’s actually healthy.”
Fasting during space missions has happened before during Ramadan, as an online publication focused on space exploration, astronomy, skywatching and entertainment, points out. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, “the first-ever Muslim in space, launched on the last day of the holy month on June 17, 1985, on the weeklong space shuttle mission STS-51G,” according to space.com.
In 2007, when Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor stayed on the International Space Station during Ramadan, “the Islamic National Fatwa Council of Malaysia issued special guidelines specifically to guide his and other future Muslim astronauts’ practices,” the CNN report noted. His fasting could be postponed until he returned to Earth or he could fast in accordance with the time zone of the place from which he had launched. Additionally, he didn’t have to kneel while praying and attempting to face toward Mecca.