Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
In Sahih Bukhari I have found this hadith:
While I was praying in the Mosque, Allah’s Apostle called me but I did not respond to him. Later I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was praying.” He said, “Didn’t Allah say’ “Give your response to Allah (by obeying Him) and to His Apostle when he calls you.”
So did this mean that the person should have responded to our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) while the person was offering his prayer?
Answer: Assalam Alaykum. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question. I pray you are well insha’Allah.
One of the nullifiers of prayer is speaking during it. This is based on the hadith, ‘This prayer of ours is not the place for ordinary human speech, rather it is glorification and magnification of Allah, and reciting Qur’an.’ [Muslim] The various conditions for speech to nullify the prayer can be found in standard fiqh texts in each school.
There are exceptions to this rule, and one of these is when one speaks to the Holy Prophet ﷺ during prayer.
Speaking to the Prophet ﷺ during prayer
While speaking to any animate or inanimate being or object nullifies one’s prayer, speaking to the Prophet ﷺ does not. One of the proofs for this exception is the hadith you mentioned, which is narrated by Abu Sa`id Al-Mu’alla, who said,
‘While I was praying, the Prophet ﷺ called me but I did not respond to his call. Later I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was praying.” He said, “Didn’t Allah say, ‘O you who believe! Give your response to Allah (by obeying Him) and to His Apostle when he calls you’?’ [Al Bukhari].
Therefore, if a person is engaged prayer and the Prophet ﷺ came to him and spoke with him, or commanded him to respond to an order, whether during the actual lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ or after his passing away, the prayer is still valid. [Bushra al Karim].
There are conditions to this exception, which are that:
1. The person’s speech must be in response to the Prophet ﷺ, such as if the Prophet asked a question or commanded the person to say something, and not initiated by the person praying. For example, if the person saw the Prophet ﷺ and said, ‘O’ Prophet!’ or ‘How are you O’ Prophet!’ then the prayer is nullified.
2) Whatever exchange of conversation takes places between the Prophet ﷺ and the person, the person engaged in prayer limits his words to what is needed to answer the Prophet ﷺ, even if the ‘need’ means a lot of words and takes a long time.
The rulings and conditions that apply to speech during prayer also apply to actions in prayer, so that if the Prophet ﷺ told one to go somewhere or do something during their prayer, the prayer would still be valid, even if one made many consecutive movements.
[Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Bushra al Karim]
Speaking to other Prophets during prayer
In regards to Prophets other than the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah have mercy on them all) then the reliable opinion is that it is obligatory to answer them but it nullifies the prayer. [Hashiyat al Bajuri]
Speaking to Parents during prayer
Additionally, the fuqaha mention that it is prohibited to answer parents if one is engaged in an obligatory prayer (unless there is some imminent danger), while permissible if engaged in a supererogatory prayer, and optimal to answer them (during a supererogatory prayer) if one knows ignoring them will cause them any form of distress, though in all these scenarios one’s prayer is invalidated. [Hashiya al Bajuri, Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Mughni al Muhtaj]
Given the above, we can fully understand the hadith you mentioned, insha’Allah. And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.