Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalamu ‘alaikum,
When the call to prayer is given and food is on the table should we eat first and then pray? This has bothered me a lot during Ramadan because my mother would have food prepared at maghreb time. I follow the Shafi’i school.
Answer: Assalamu ‘Alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,
Praying the prescribed daily prayers, like Maghrib, in congregation for men is a communal obligation (fard kifaya) and sunna for an individual. Doing so in a masjid is preferred; the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is reported to have said, ‘Whoever makes wudu at home, then walks to one of the houses of Allah to perform an obligatory prayer, one out of every two steps he takes would remove a sin, the other raising his rank’ (Muslim).
The status of the congregational prayer as a Sunna may be dropped for various reasons. One such reason given, as in the narration you have mentioned, is that food has become available while a person is in real need of it, such that one cannot focus properly on the prayer. In this case, it is recommended that a person eat first in a manner that will then allow him to pray in a focused manner. Your situation, alhamdulillah, appears to be different, in that praying in congregation in the mosque does not appear to cause you hardship, because you are able to break your fast in a light manner, then return, guilt-free, after the prayer’s completion.
In summary, while congregational prayer in the masjid is not obligatory for an individual, it remains a highly recommended act that should not be taken lightly, more so if one is blessed to be in close proximity to it.
May Allah reward you for your fasting and prayers, and grant us the ability to remain steadfast in His way.
Source: al-Hawashi al-Madaniyyah
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.