Islamic Watchdog Issues Fatwa Against Joining Mission to Mars

Voyage likened to suicide, which is against Islamic principles

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Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp holds a press conference to announce the launch of astronaut selection for a Mars space mission in New York City on April 22, 2013

A religious watchdog in the United Arab Emirates has issued a fatwa against traveling to Mars with Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp’s project Mars One.

The organization, General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE), has likened the voyage to committing suicide, something that is forbidden according to Islam.

“It is not permissible to travel to Mars and never to return if there is no life on Mars,” GAIAE said in a statement. “The chances of dying are higher than living.”

Mars One, which has advertised the journey as a one-way trip, has asked UAE’s Islamic authorities to withdraw the fatwa, stating that “only when [a habitable] outpost is established will human lives be risked in Mars One’s plan.” The statement goes on to compare the first Martian settlers with Muslim explorers like Ibn Battuta, and includes a Koranic verse that “encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth.’”

Space culture isn’t new to Islam. In 2006, Islamic scholars and scientists formalized rules on how Muslim astronauts are supposed to perform their daily prayers at the International Space Station, where days last no longer than 90 minutes. The UAE has also previously supported space travel, with Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments teaming up with Richard Branson to create the spaceflight-tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Mars One shouldn’t feel specifically singled out, though, since GAIAE has issued nearly 2 million fatwas since 2008. It is also unclear how many of Mars One’s 1,058 short-listed candidates are Muslims.