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Premise

Mars has been terraformed and has seen its first few stages of large-scale colonization. The colonists are middle to upper class Earthlings. Earth is not a dystopian planet per se, but Mars offers great air quality, job opportunities and more.

The population on Mars is now very heterogeneous and the government is a very egalitarian / pluralistic one. The decision has been made by the Mars government to allow the private sector to build religious structures as desired. However, this task is some what tricky.

First consider the original passage concerning qiblah (direction of prayer): enter image description here

It reads:

We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.

In this case "wherever you believers are" takes on a whole new meaning.

Question

Are there any viable techniques to help the Muslim Mars colony to choose a proper area such that the qiblah ontology is satisfied? The reason I said it's tricky earlier is that Mars and Earth both have their own orbits and rotations. I would like to see something like the following in the answers:

Some physics concepts to explain why / why not the mosque site is arbitrary

Bonus: If you want to go the extra mile, try including these in your answer:

  • In the case of the mosque site not being arbitrary, what is an example "good candidate site"? (perhaps martian coordinates?)
  • In the case that the mosque site is arbitrary, what else could the Muslim mosque colonists try to justify a deserving plot of land?

Further Clarifications:

  • The believers: the Muslim colonists on Mars
  • The qiblah: the direction facing Mecca, on Earth

  • technology: assume the mosque is traditional, but the colonists can use near-future technology in the design and construction of the mosque (they already have terraforming)

  • Success metric: the mosque on Mars faces the correct qiblah OR the mosque site faces the qiblah more often than other places on Mars.
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Islam is a religion with as many varied views as any other major religion. There is no correct answer, for different clerics will have different interpretations of scripture and for their respective communities, they will each be right on their own way.

There are many possibilities for interpretations, but I will just add two: one from a known source that has already had a say in such a matter, and one of my own. Disclaimer: I am not a muslim, and asides from some books and a few friends I've had little to no contact with the muslim faith.

The practical solution already employed

I found this interesting answer about praying outside Earth, on the Islam site here in SE. Turns out there have already been plenty of muslim astronauts in space before. The link contains the whole elaboration, but the part I wish to quote is an actual interview with one such astronaut, with emphasis of mine:

MARTIN: One of the aspects of space travel that I think people find fascinating is how astronauts cope with the routines of daily life, be it eating or brushing their teeth. And traditionally, Muslims are required to pray five times a day. How did you address this responsibility while in space?

SAUD: Very easily. Because we have been acclimated, whether from a religious point of view or whether from just a personal point of view, I myself have grown up in the central part of Arabia, and we're surrounded by great deserts. And, of course, I'm a diver also at the same time. And I'm a flyer and I'm a glider pilot. And in doing all these things at the same time, they become natural when you work on them and practice them.

We never really saw Islam or religious duties as being something out of the ordinary. I remember, you know, whether we're flying or in different places - as a Muslim, you can pray anytime. You can face any direction. Like, in the space shuttle, you know, we can't really face to Mecca, although we're flying east, because we're flying at such a great speed. Like I said, those days, by the time you face Mecca, you probably already passed it.

MARTIN: So what did you do? Just stop or - how did you manage it? You couldn't have a rug, I presume. You couldn't have a prayer rug.

SAUD: No rug. No magic flying rugs.

MARTIN: No.

SAUD: But, you know, I had to strap my feet so I can kneel. You know, you can't kneel fully because lack of lack of gravity, actually. But, you know, I prayed like a traveler. As travelers, we pray three times a day, not five times a day. And I prayed according to Florida time, when we launched. And, in fact, it was the end of the fasting month, which is approaching now, as you know, in about three weeks.

TL;DR they see to go with the best effort option. Just like a man without legs will not be considered sinful for not kneeling down, so won't a man who is unable to face Mecca in a practical way be considered sinful for praying as best as he can.

The most probable thing in the future, though

Sols in Mars last almost as much as a sol in Earth for all practical purposes, which works quite in favor of any muslims who happen to live on Mars in the future. Given the state of geolocation we have today on Earth, it is no stretch to imagine that geolocation would be just as good, but probably better on Mars. A simple smartphone app or whatever equivalent people use in the future will should be able to point the faithful in the right direction.

A GPS antenna, a gyro and a compass together will currently fit in your hand and have been things for decades now. The mathematics involved are a little rocket-sciency, but nothing that a computer science undergraduate could not implement in a couple days.

Moreover: mosques on Mars could be built in such a way that there will be indicators on which way you should face while praying, which will vary slightly during the course of a day. This variation is cumulative, so the changes will be mostly perceived throughout the year.


Going an extra mile here. At some points during both planets orbits, the Qiblah might be "below" the faithful when they are in the Mosque during prayer time. This will happen mostly around the equator, for the inclination between the orbital planes of the Earth and Mars is very small (less than 2 degrees) - and then again, not throughout the whole martian year but rather a small part of it. For example, Isha (a prayer that begins before the midnight) when Mars and Earth are at their closest.

Mosques on higher latitudes will not have this problem, and in fact should be able to face the Qiblah everyday, specially above 45 degrees north, or below 45 degrees south. For the mosques closer or around the equator, you either wait a little longer until the geometry allows you to face the Qiblah properly, or (I truly mean no disrespect) you pray on a slope (the mosque might have slopes on different angles and different steepness for such occasions).

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    $\begingroup$ It's also perfectly plausible for the Earth to be at or near the zenith of the Martian sky. $\endgroup$ – E.P. Jun 13 '18 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ The "straight down" problem occurs here on Earth too: For a Muslim in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mecca is just about straight down. but they don't go by the straight-line direction, they go by a great circle direction. I'm not sure what the equivalent to that is from another planet. I presume a convention would have to be invented. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jun 14 '18 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Jay the obvious convention is to draw a straight line to Earth/Mecca, represented in spherical coordinates (azimuth and elevation angles). Then simply set the elevation to 0 (whether the Earth is above or below the horizon isn't relevant) and the azimuth is your Qiblah. The only real problem is when the elevation is ±90° and there is effectively no azimuth (or all azimuths are equally valid), not unlike dividing by zero. In this case, choose the azimuth that will be valid as the relative motions of the planets cause Earth to appear to move away from the zenith or nadir. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Jun 14 '18 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Jay: The great-circle direction to Mecca is the direction determined by stretching a string taut on a globe between your position and the position of Mecca, so the logical extension of that would be to (conceptually) stretch a string taut between your position on Mars and the position of Mecca on Earth, and then to pick the direction that the conceptual string initially travels away from your position on Mars. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 14 '18 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ Fwiw: This is an excellent answer and it's good to include Saud's quote, but it's worth noting that the point about being a traveller wouldn't apply to colonists. You're right that the actual Muslims would just use an app and the story doesn't need to explain how it works, but @MontyHarder's answer is probably very close. They wouldn't use slopes or pray directly up or down in ways that made the form of prayer different. The best point, of course, is that you're right that sects could easily have slightly separate answers about the math. They'd follow their own imam's guide/app. $\endgroup$ – lly Jun 15 '18 at 14:36
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Other than actually going to Mars, we can already do this.

Build each Mars mosque with a round prayer room and with a domed roof. Set the space up like a modern-day planetarium, complete with projectors or equivalent technology. (Note that the link references inflatable, portable, planetariums, so this concept could be "packed" aboard a colony ship in deflated state, if need be.)

(See Hagia Sophia for an example of a domed structure that began as a Christian church, became a Mosque, and is now a museum. As an aside, I've toured this building, and it is an unbelievably awe-inspiring structure.)

Computers can easily calculate the exact position of Earth relative to the GPS coordinates (or preset location) of the Mosque. At prayer times, the computer generates a symbol for the planet Earth, then projects this symbol in the appropriate location on the ceiling.

If the Earth is below the horizon at that time and from that Mars location, it would simply show an arrow at the appropriate spot along the lower-most ring, to point where the Earth is, "off screen" to those in prayer.

We have 100% of this technology already. We use it in planetariums to recreate the night sky for any given Earth location and time. I've seen Mars in these projections a number of times. It would be trivial to reset the calculations to show Earth from Mars. And it could update the location in real-time all day, every day, if need be.

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Correct me if I am wrong, but I read as "the prayer has to be properly oriented".

This means that, as long as the prayer is aiming at the Earth, and this is easily doable knowing where it is in the sky at the moment of the prayer, the condition is satisfied.

Mind that, given the relative distance of Earth and Mars, the position of the target with the rotation of Earth won't change appreciably.

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The best solution I can think of would be to have the mosque contained within a sphere that would always orient itself properly. If you have some sort of artificial gravity, then the mosque would be properly oriented even if it had to face itself downward through the planet, if need be.

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    $\begingroup$ It wouldn't even need to be a sphere: a horizontally rotating platform would suffice. Muslims praying in New Zealand do so facing West (kind of; 256° is closer to WSW actually), not facing the center of the Earth, so Muslims in Mars could do the same: build a mosque that is always facing in the horizontal direction closest to where the Earth is. +1 anyways! $\endgroup$ – walen Jun 15 '18 at 8:02
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Have a mobile qibla compass in the mosque.

The colony will be very interested in pointing radios at Earth so will keep a reliable method of keeping the direction updated. Linking the aiming of the radio to the rotation of the pointer should be easy.

But also the planets change angles fairly slowly and in a predictable way with conjunctions just over 2 (Earth) years apart. A calender or almanac could be made that would give the direction to earth on any particular day or month.

Since the local (Mars based) calender and the (Earth's) moon based Islamic calender would be already hopelessly out of sync adding a third for direction finding wouldn't be a huge issue.

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    $\begingroup$ I particularly like the comment about radio antennae facing earth. I can imagine a story involving traveling Muslims using the direction of the antennae to orient themselves for prayer $\endgroup$ – Fred Stark Jun 14 '18 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if there would be new holidays or times of prayer for the occasional times when the mosque and Mecca are, ignoring distance, in "line of sight"? That should happen once a day, assuming I have the planetary motion right? And perhaps a special day every two years when the planets are closest? $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Jun 15 '18 at 12:38
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You've asked for a physics answer to a religious question

I enjoyed reading an explanation of qiblah on AboutIslam.net. The article makes these points:

  1. Obedience: Facing the qiblah is, first of all, a test to our ability to obey the commands of God even when we fall short from understanding His wisdom. Muslims, as servants of God, are required to surrender to Him.

  2. Unity: Another aspect is the fact that the qiblah is a sign of the spiritual unity of Muslims. At the time of prayer, Muslims all over the world are lined in circles big and small facing one direction and feeling belonging to this center and belonging to each other.

  3. The Hajj: On the individual level, it is well known that Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) is one of the main Islamic deeds and the fifth pillar of Islam. Muslims all over the world, who are not in Hajj, face Makkah five times a day to re-voice their wish and love to perform this great ritual of Islam.

  4. Devotion: Another important point, which I think very important today, is the fact that everyone in this world has a direction in his or her life, whether physical or spiritual. ... Only when people lose the direction, they face loss and disruption. Since Islam is the religion of monotheism and since Muslims believe that Almighty God is beyond space and place, above time and perceptions, we cannot face the heavens in our prayer because it is impossible, but we raise our hands seeking help from God.

  5. Sacred: Muslims face the Kabah because it is the first sacred house ever built for mankind, established by Adam and raised by Prophet Abraham. So, they connect themselves with these great prophets and renew this lineage that extends from Adam to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

I suspect that after some initial discussion (might be outright arguments) a combination of practicallity and spirituality will prevail.

I suggest that on Mars (and every subsequent planet) would be built a single Makan Muqadas ("sacred place") that would symbolically represent Mecca as the first sacred house built on that planet.

This eliminates the confusion and impracticaility on each and every planet, the result being that all Muslims on every planet are doing exactly the same thing. Those with resources to complete the Hajj to Earth are fortunate, but those whose resources only permit an Hajj to Makan Muqadas are celebrated and accepted.

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  • $\begingroup$ This ties into another suggestion that there would be a "main mosque", which would hold special significance. The idea of making a local set of standards for a religion seems logical. I wonder if it's worth asking a separate question to discuss the holidays? Same idea - do you hew to the Earth dates, or do you assume it'll become connected to the Martian calendar? Do you tie Christmas to the Martian winter solstice, etc? $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Jun 15 '18 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ While taking a chip off the kaaba would cause an eventual erosion problem as humanity reaches out to the stars, they might build a small replica, touch it to the Kaaba, to spiritually "Make it" the Kaaba as well, and house it there. Kind of how a Jewish temple isn't official until it has a Torah? $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Jun 15 '18 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Another possibility is that devout Muslims would face the main planetary spaceport, as all Hajj would start with a journey to that location. And a rock from that location could be brought to Mecca by the first person making Hajj from each planet. $\endgroup$ – arp Jun 15 '18 at 21:49
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You realize, of course, that it is possible to build a building that rotates with modern technology? I imagine a circular or rectangular building with one or more domes and a mihrab niche, so the building can be rotated so that the mihrab always points in the direction toward Earth.

And there could be a slot in the dome and in the mihrab niche in the walls with many sections of coverings that could be opened or closed so that there would be one opening in the slot centered on the dot that was Earth in the sky, or else pointed downward if Earth was below the horizon.

On Earth Muslim prayers orient themselves in the direction to Mecca, and stand, sit, bow, and prostrate themselves face downwards during different parts of the prayers. If they are facing the direction of Mecca, they may have their eyes looking in the direction toward Mecca when standing up during prayer sessions, and then have their eyes looking downwards at about 90 degrees from the direction of Mecca when prostrate face down during prayer sessions.

Since Mars orbits outside Earth, and since Islamic prayers are mostly during the daytime, Earth should always look somewhat close to the Sun during prayers.

According to an answer to this question, the maximum possible elongation between Earth and the Sun as seen from Mars is 47.378 degrees. So even at maximum elongation and in the worst possible configuration Earth will never be more than 47.378 degrees below the horizon during Martian daylight, and it will above the horizon during daylight about four times as often as it is below.

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091003012620AAxZKSP1

I point out that on Earth, the orientation of a mosque is determined by the line to Mecca along the surface of the Earth, which of course is a curved line and not straight, even when it is calculated correctly. Hypothetical mosques that are exactly antipodal to Mecca will be oriented so that the Muslims will be looking along a line that travels 12,000 miles in a semicircle to Mecca, while the actual direction to Mecca is straight down from the mosque 8,000 miles through the center of the Earth.

By Muslim conventions, it is thus considered acceptable and usual for the mosque to be oriented so that the congregation faces up to 90 degrees away from the actual shortest, straightest, direct line to Mecca going through part of the Earth.

The 5 times Muslims on Earth pray are between dawn and sunrise, preferably 10 to 15 minutes before sunrise, then after true noon, then in the afternoon, then after sunset before dusk, and then after dusk.

If hypothetical future Martian Muslims pray during the Martian sol, or day, the Sun will always be over the horizon during the post noon and afternoon prayers. Since Earth will always be between 0 and 47.378 degrees from the Sun as seen from Mars, it can never be more than 47.378 degrees below the horizon during those prayer sessions.

Suppose that the Sun is high in the Martian sky, over 42.622 degrees high, and the Earth is 47.378 degrees above the Sun. Then the Earth will be over 90 degrees high, and thus behind the congregation. So the mosque will rotate 180 degrees until it is facing toward the Earth and Earth is high overhead and the congregation is facing in the direction to Earth.

During the dawn/sunrise and sunset/dusk prayer sessions, the Sun will be a few degrees below the horizon. If the Sun is X degrees below the horizon, and Earth is between zero and 47.378 degrees away from the Sun, the Earth can be as high as 47.378 minus X degrees above the horizon, or as low as 47.378 plus X degrees below the horizon. X should be only a few degrees, probably less than 10.

What about during the post dusk prayers? Then the Earth and Mecca could be as much as 90 degrees below the horizon. But never more than 90 degrees. If Earth is more than 90 degrees below the horizon the way the mosque is facing, the mosque can rotate until Earth is less than 90 degrees below the horizon.

On Earth Muslim prayers orient themselves in the direction to Mecca, and stand, sit, bow, and prostrate themselves face downwards during different parts of the prayers. If they have the horizontal direction to Mecca correct, their direction of vision will swing through about a 90 degree vertical arc several times during prayer that will pass each time through the exact direction to Mecca.

If a rotating Martian mosque prayer hall is correctly rotated so that its mihrab niche is facing toward Earth and Mecca in the horizontal plane, Earth and Mecca can never be more than 90 degrees (straight up or straight down) away from the mihrab in the vertical plane.

If Earth is exactly at the horizon during prayers, the congregation will face exactly toward Earth when standing and facing the mihrab. If Earth is below the floor, the congregation will briefly be looking exactly at Earth whenever they change from standing or sitting to bowing or prostrating themselves, and vice versa, and change the elevation they are looking at.

If Earth is high up in the sky during prayers, the congregation might not look exactly toward Earth during the prayers. And to avoid that, some Martian Muslims might hold mirrors at an angle and look up at the dome in the mirrors during part of the prayers. Or some Martian Muslim congregations might add to the prayer ritual a moment of looking upwards, even if it hurts their necks a bit, at the position of Earth.

Thus a Martian Muslim congregation, in a rotating prayer hall correctly aligned, can never be looking more than 90 degrees away from Earth, Mecca, and the Kaaba. And an Earthly Muslim congregation, in a stationary prayer hall with the mihrab pointed at Mecca, can never be looking more than 90 degrees away from Mecca and the Kaaba.

So as far as I can tell a horizontally rotating prayer hall on Mars would enable Martian Muslims to face in the direction of Mecca just as accurately as Muslims on Earth do.

Except that on Earth the line to Mecca is never a straight line directly to Mecca but always a curved line arcing along the surface of the Earth, while a line from a Martian mosque to Mecca on Earth would be a straight line.

Thus hypothetical Martian Muslims might consider Muslims on Earth to be some sort of heretics who don't pray correctly, and might invade Earth and force all Muslims on Earth to move to Mars so they could pray correctly, never being allowed to return to Earth except on pilgrimage to Mecca.

Of course the larger a building is, the harder it is to make to make it rotate. Thus a Martian mosque for a large congregation might have to have many different prayer halls that rotate separately to keep lined up with Earth and Mecca.

Here is a list of some rotating buildings:

https://weburbanist.com/2008/09/20/rotating-architecture-16-sweet-spinning-structures/2

I note that each of the 11 floors, each with a single apartment, in the Suite Vollard, built 2001, in Curitiba, Brazil, rotates separately from the other floors.

https://www.emporis.com/buildings/136410/suite-vollard-curitiba-brazil3

A hotel planned for Dubai, scheduled to open in 2020, will have 80 floors with an apartment in each separately rotating floor.

https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-ideas/weird-and-wacky/dubai-is-planning-the-worlds-first-fully-rotating-skyscraper/news-story/11b2f45c2137ac2bcd114c6b89ec70594

Wikipedia has a list of rotating restaurants subdivided into list for 69 countries.

The following is a list of revolving restaurants. A revolving restaurant is usually a tower restaurant (an eating space) designed to rest atop a broad circular revolving platform that operates as a large turntable. The building remains stationary and the diners are carried on the revolving floor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_revolving_restaurants5

Or possibly most of the building structure would be solid and unmoving, but a strip of wall perhaps ten meters tall, would be transparent, supported by widely spaced steel columns, and an inner opaque ring of wall just inside it would rotate so that the only transparent section of the wall, with architectural framing like a niche, would face toward Earth. That might save on the weight of structure that would have to be moved.

And of course legend tells of the amazing Takht-i-Taqhis built by Khusrau II, King of Kings of Iran, (reigned AD 590-628) which had a dome that revolved like the heavens, and the entire building could be turned in various directions.

And then there was Nero's Golden House. Seutonius, in his life of Nero, # 31 says:

The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens.9

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Nero*.html6

And archaeologists discovered what could be the foundations of the revolving room in 2009.

http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/revolving-dining-room-emperor-nero-s-luxurious-palace-really-existed-0018247

So people have been working on the design of revolving structures before the first mosques were ever built, and for two thousands years before the probable date for the first colonization of Mars.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem being discussed isn't so much the need to rotate in the horizontal direction (which would be addressable by a rotating mosque), but, rather, the need to rotate in the vertical direction (because Earth, and, therefore, Mecca, might well be above your head or below your feet). $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 14 '18 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean I mentioned: ":And there could be a slot in the dome and in the niche in the walls with many sections of coverings that could be opened or closed so that there would be one opening centered on the dot that was Earth in the sky, or else pointed downward if Earth was below the horizon." So people could look up at the one part of the slit that was open and pointed at Earth, before bowing down in prayer. And I also said that as seen from Mars Earth is never more than 47 degrees from the sun and so should never be more than 47 degrees below the horizon during the day, when Muslims pray. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Jun 14 '18 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean I have revised my answer to show that a horizontally rotating Martian mosque would be approximately as effective as a stationary mosque on Earth at keeping the worshipers facing toward Meca. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Jun 17 '18 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ This answer deserves a bounty. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 17 '18 at 21:50
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I'm thinking the first Mosque on the planet will hold special significance to the religious community. Once the community is fully established and has time they would be able to build a huge place of worship that has all designs worked into one. I refer to this as the Main Mosque.

I see three options that can be combined:

  1. You have the main mosque that has a rotating inner sanctum that always faces the intended direction.

I can't see the feasibility of a rotating building being justified by colonists or architects/engineers. They can however have the mosque designed with a general foyer floor. Then a staircase to elevate you above your earthly or martian worries. On the First Floor, you have a rotating room. The building's outside walls remain stationary and the first floor rotates around the staircase, with a set of 'inner' walls. These walls can now be decorated in whichever way is traditional for various Mosques. The walls will rotate so that the direction of prayer is always clear.

  1. The main Mosque provides direction for Martian prayers.

Not saying pray to the Main Mosque (that could be an option if necessary), but rather the Main Mosque can provide an indication of which direction to currently pray in. Linking back to the direction that the main floor of the Mosque is pointing. I'm thinking a visual device. Something like a large three dimension wind-vane type device on top of the main Minaret (highly decorative and stylised of course). People can look at the main mosque and easily see which direction to currently pray in. This can be updated with technology, so that the directions/co-ordinates can be broadcast across the martian landscape.

  1. Orient the Martian Main Mosque to Earth's Mecca for a day of special significance.

Choose a day of extreme significance to the religion. Either on Earth, or maybe day of first Muslim arrival on Mars (your choice). Orient the Mosque so that the main building is fully orientated to Earth.

Smaller/newer mosques can either orientate themselves in relation to the Main Mosque, or on their own choice of day of significance. You could possibly have a series of Large Mosques that celebrate different events. Martian Hajj, could be to make a pilgrimage to pray at the various orientated Mosques for each of the main events during the religious months.


Extra notes:

  • Also take into account the different planetary Calenders. 685 Martian days vs 365.25 Earth days. You would find this affects your story as well.
  • Some years, Earth will be closer to Mars, and some years will be further away. This will probably play into the developing Martian religion. Making prayers at specific Mosques which are closer to Mecca could become an important part in Martian Muslim Culture (mountain top Mosques may also play a more important role).
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For a maximum effect, to make sure that it is the Martian year's most precious day, build a laser inside the Mosque. One day a year, the laser will hit a precise point at the Mecca. That will be the day of spiritual rejoice, the believers will feel united to their brethrens on Earth as their own laser will hit the Mosque's. This will be the mark of a special, all new celebration to remember truly the Muslim roots of those colonists.

During the rest of the year, I guess, but not being a Muslim myself I cannot give a precise answer, it will be enough that they pray in the direction of Earth, during daytime. Even better when dawn or twilight are upon them so that the mother planet is visible in the sky though for an even more limited time.

Muslims who really don't want to go all the way will just accept to pray in the direction of a position on Mars with coordinates similar as to the Mecca's on Earth. I feel pretty sure the Imams will sanction it.

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  1. The mosque could have a special room that spins, using centrifugal force to keep everyone pressed to the wall. It then points towards earth (Mecca, if you have a really, really precise laser).

    It work based on the same technology as these theme park rides, but probably less barf-inducing:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLy8AM6-jJ8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KniIDFdyQnE

  2. the Martians could break of a chunk of the Kaaba rock and bring it with them to mars, then they could all pray towards that.

  3. Martians don't think much of earth religions, and persecute believers. Of any religion, or specifically Islam, if it fits your story. Muslims on Mars must practice Taquiya, exempting them from that particular rule.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think Option 2 will be allowed :) Option 3, well the OP stated that Martians were pluralistic. Which means they should be open to many different diverse religions and beliefs. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jun 13 '18 at 20:07
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This matter has already been discussed long ago by Muslim scholars and the issue actually has a pragmatic solution.

The mosque

Can be anywhere on mars! There's no restriction. One may consider to build a round or circle-like mosque due to what I will explain next!

The qiblah direction

This actually is the issue as each time you pray you need to face -at least for the beginning of your prayer- the correct direction, which in this case is the actual direction of earth (according both Shi'a and Sunni Scholars). As the Ka'abah or al-Masjid al-Haraam are on earth and facing the actual position of the Ka'abah is rather difficult and therefore a deviation is allowed.

Note that even on earth a deviation from the qiblah is allowed in case of necessity or incertitude. Else I bet most mosques around the world should have been rearranged after the introduction and use of GPS. Actually I know two mosques in the same district in Salé Morocco which point to somewhat different qiblah directions I'd say that the deviation angle is of > 25°, it even happened that people outside the mosque missed the qiblah direction of the mosque by around 45° at Friday's when the mosque is too crowded.

So basically what you have to invent or make sure is that each mosque on mars has a device that can point at the most closest point on earth at the actual prayer time (maybe a GPS is already sufficient or a kind of compass pointing at earth).

Purification for the prayer

You may need to consider that Muslims should perform a ritual purification for the prayer this means they should in best case use water or if no water is at hand they may use soil or stones etc. if this is possible. The possibility in this case refers to whether a person is actually able to make the medium (water or soil etc.) reach the body parts which should get in touch with it for a valid purification. If even this is not possible then the person can pray without any kind of purification as he/she would be considered as a person who has neither of the purification medium. I'd assume that this might be the only option as humans may not survive in the typical environment of the planet unless they are protected by buildings that can offer all their usual needs (Oxygen in first place and a good heating might also be worth thinking of due to average temperature of -55° on the planet)

How to define prayer times

Here the Muslims could calculate the prayer times according the same conditions as on earth if this is posisble: Simply speaking based on the time of sunset and dawn they can determine three prayer times easily If the location has a sunset and a dawn. These prayer times are that of Fajr (Dawn), Dhohr (midtime beteen dawn and sunset) and Maghrib (sunset). As for the two other prayers they might need to adapt the calculation methods either based on local observations or by inventing new algorithms. They could also rely on the estimation often used that 'Isha time is 90 min. after Maghrib.

If it wouldn't be possible they need to be inventive and try to figure out times... even on earth there are different views for long summer days and short winter days in the (extreme parts of the) northern or southern hemisphere.

How about moon sighting

I think this is also worth thinking of as Muslims rely on a lunar calendar when it comes to some worships such as fasting Ramadan and Hajj.

Would martian people rely on the sighting on earth?
This seems the most logical as Hajj can only be performed on earth!

And if they wouldn't would they rely on a local moon and which moon to chose? Phobos or Deimos.

In case you are able to read Arabic refer to these two fatwas addressing your question: islamweb #28158 islamweb #135469

See also Islam and alien mages?

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect there would be more conservative and liberal groups would would require more or less precision. Merely looking to the sky might even be enough for some. $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Jun 15 '18 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ @VBartilucci in sunni Islam this (qiblah estimation) has consensus! Even on earth a deviation of 1 cm in your a location in Europe may mean that you miss the Ka'abah by many meters! Therefore the premise is to face the direction after a certain effort not to face the Ka'abah with 100% certitude. The Qur'an itself supports this! $\endgroup$ – Medi1Saif Jun 15 '18 at 12:36
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Export one building block (stone) from the Kaaba or the Sacred Cap (cloth cover) previously used on the Kaaba or both (the Seeds).

Than make a new Martian-Kaaba on the Mars at the same simulated spot where the original resides (Mars surface projected on Earth) using exported original building blocks (the Seeds) from the Original Kaaba.

...And you have a "New Mecca" a new religious tourism center, "Qiblah", "Hajj", "Martian Pilgrims" and a new plot (because it cause lots and lots of hot arguments) for your story.

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  • $\begingroup$ It actually solves the problem in the most practical way among all answers. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 18 '18 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ This has actually been suggested in several science fiction universes, along with splitting the Rock of Mecca and carrying half of it off into space to create a new site of pilgrimage outside our solar system. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 18 '18 at 13:16
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This quote from a Wired article describes the creation of a document that covers prayer in space.

Malaysia's space agency, Angkasa, convened a conference of 150 Islamic scientists and scholars last year to wrestle with these and other questions. The resulting document, "A Guideline of Performing Ibadah (worship) at the International Space Station (ISS)"

The linked document provides this guidance for direction

3.3 Determining the Direction of Qibla Qibla direction is based on what is possible, prioritizing as below:

The Ka’aba

The projection of Ka’aba

The Earth

Wherever

Based on the guidance from the document, I would surmise the appropriate answer would be to choose wherever. It is mentioned that if you were to face the moon or sun, that could cause issues with the validity of the prayer, based on the order not to prostrate ones self to the sun or moon. Attempts to orient everyone in the right direction, would likely be a distraction overshadowing the prayers.

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