A group of imams in the UAE (the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment or GAIAE) have issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from going to Mars. The edict came in response to the proposed Mars One project, which aims to be the first manned mission to Mars and has generated interest around the world, including in the Gulf region.
From the Khaleej Times, which initially reported the story:
“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said. “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”
Whoever opts for this “hazardous trip”, the committee said, is likely to perish for no “righteous reason”, and thus will be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”.
Over 200,000 people from around the world applied to be part of Mars One. The project is a private venture that hopes to eventually establish a human outpost on the red planet. The one catch: the people sent to the red planet don’t have a way back. Even in the best-case scenario, the people who volunteer will have no way to back out or go home. The thousands of people who have signed up seem ok with that risk, for the sake of exploration.
Mars One has already started the selection process for astronauts, with plans to turn both the selection process and mission into a "media spectacle" with a reality show. Think Big Brother...in space. The company responded to reports of the fatwa with a statement:
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.