Performing Prayer When Food Has Been Served or When in Need of the Call of Nature
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
We all have certainly experienced having to choose between prayer or eating when food has been served and the azan reverberates. What are we going to do? Pray first or eat? And sometimes we are confused as to whether we should hold our urine/defecation when entering the prayer time or if we should answer the call of nature first.
From ‘A’isha, Radhiallahu ‘anha, it is reported that she said that she heard the Prophet, Sallallaahu’ alaihi wa sallam say:
لا صلاة بحضرة الطعام ولا وهو يدافعه الأخبثان
“There is no prayer (sholat) when the food has been served, nor any prayer for those who hold akhbatsan (urinating or defecating).” (HR. Muslims no. 560).
When dinner is served, one obviously desires to eat and if he/she prays before eating that meal his mind might be occupied by his abandoned meal. This state of mind takes away from humility and concentration during prayer. For this reason the Prophet ShallAllaahu `alaihi wa sallam, said:
“There is no prayer when food is served, and there is no prayer when one is fighting off the two impurities (i.e., when one has to urinate or defecate).”
But it is necessary to mention here that one should avoid the habit of always having dinner at the time for prayer because this will result in not praying in congregation. What it meant in the above hadeeth is that if a person is offered food or if he/she comes to eat then he/she should start with the food before praying so that he/she can pray without his/her mind being focused on the food and so his/her prayer can then be offered with the proper focus and humility.
Naf’i reports that the food would be served for Ibn ‘Umar while the iqamah was being made, but he would not come to the sholat until he finished his meal although he could hear the reciting of the imam. (Narrated by: Bukhari).
The majority of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that starting to perform prayers while needing to answer the call of nature is dislikeable. The reason is clear that such a person cannot concentrate on his/her prayer and cannot perform it reverently if he/she needs to answer the call of nature.
Al-Shaikh Sholeh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen explained that if just feel the urge to urinate or have a bowel without help it, as it is still permissible to pray. In the hadith says urination or defecate that create problems only if detained. When did not in a state to hold, then it does not matter for prayer because the heart is still able to concentrate on prayer.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen has also stated that holding in gas (wind) is the same as the law for holding urine and bowel movements. According jumhur (majority) scholars, holding gas is considered makruh.
Imam Nawawi said, “Resist urinating and defecating (including the passing wind) as it results in a person’s heart not concentrating on prayer and the humility was not perfect. If the prayer time is still loose (meaning: there is still ample time for answering the call of nature) then it is considered makruh. But when the time for prayer is narrow, and if eating or purification can impose upon the prayer time, then (though not when in a state holding urine) praying should not be delayed. “
Imam Nawawi also said, “If a person is praying in a state of holding urine when there is still ample time to pray after defecating, prayer was then made makruh. However, the prayer is still valid according to our -ulama Syafi’i- and this is the jumhur opinion of the majority of scholars. “(Sharh Sahih Muslim, 5: 46).
Allah knows the best. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace.