No Mars For Muslims? Mars One Asks Imams To Rescind Fatwa

Islamic leaders ruled that a Mars journey would be akin to suicide, but the private Mars colonization project disagrees, citing a 14th century Muslim explorer.

Mars colony with solar panels
Mars One

Martian colonization is a risky proposition. So risky, in fact, that a group of Islamic leaders in the United Arab Emirates issued a religious ruling saying Muslims should not go to the Red Planet. The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) ruling compares a Mars mission to suicide, and says that those who attempt it can expect the same consequences in the afterlife. In fact, GAIAE went so far as to claim that those seeking to escape God's judgment on Mars would be unable to do so, saying: "This is an absolutely baseless and unacceptable belief because not even an atom falls outside the purview of Allah, the Creator of everything."

Martian colonization is certainly dangerous. NASA's Curiosity rover has found water in Martian soil, but it also found toxic chlorine gas. There are promising signs of flowing water, though that's still uncertain. Even if space travelers had sufficient food, water, and heat, the confined spaces and isolation of a Mars colony would be really bad for colonists' mental health. Plus, high levels of radiation would likely make Martian humans quite sick. On top of all of this, the nearest non-colonist humans will be anywhere from 34 million to 250 million miles away, making any rescue mission difficult, if not impossible.

Private Mars colonization organization Mars One still thinks the journey is worth it. Today, they issued a response to GAIAE, citing the Quran and the specific example of Ibn Battuta, a 14th century explorer.

"And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know." (Quran 30: 22) The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration. The verse from the Quran above encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth’. The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveller, Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 travelled 73,000 miles, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries. Among the countries Ibn Battuta visited were Russia, Afghanistan, India, the Maldives, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China.

Ibn Battuta
14th century Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta would have totally gone to Mars.Imre Solt, via Wikimedia Commons

Mars One continues, imploring the imams to rescind the ruling, and instead think of the risk to humanity posed by not colonizing Mars.

If we may be so bold: the GAIAE should not analyze the risk as they perceive it today. The GAIAE should assess the potential risk for humans as if an unmanned habitable outpost is ready and waiting on Mars. Only when that outpost is established will human lives be risked in Mars One's plan. With eight successful consecutive landing and a habitable settlement waiting on Mars, will the human mission be risk-free? Of course not. Any progress requires taking risks, but in this case the reward is 'the next giant leap for mankind'. That reward is certainly worth the risks involved in this mission. Mars One respectfully requests GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa and make the greatest Rihla, or journey, of all times open for Muslims too. They can be the first Muslims to witness the signs of God’s creation in heaven, drawing upon the rich culture of travel and exploration of early Islam.

Read more about Mars One here.