Question: In Ramadan when evening adhan is heard, should we do the Maghrib prayer first or start eating?
Related hadiths and the conclusion basing on them are as follows:
1. Narrated Anas bin Malik (r.a.):
“If dinner is already served and iqamat-as-salat-al maghrib (evening prayer iqamat) is heard, you should begin having dinner.” (Bukhari, Et’ime, 58; Muslim Mesajid, 64 (557).
2. Narrated Anas bin Malik (r.a.):
“If dinner is in front of you, start eating before the evening prayer. Do not haste leaving your meal.” (Bukhari, Azan, 42; Muslim Mesajid, 64 (557)).
3. Narrated Aisha (r.a.):
“If dinner is in front of you and iqamat-as-salat-al maghrib (evening prayer iqamat) is heard in the meantime, you begin having dinner.” (Bukhari, Azan, 42; Muslim Mesajid, 65 (558)).
4. Abdullah ibn Omar (r.a.):
“If dinner is in front of you, in the meantime iqamat-as-salat-al maghrib (evening prayer iqamat) is heard, you begin having dinner. Do not haste leaving your meal.” (Bukhari, Azan, 42; Muslim Mesajid, 66 (559)).
There are several narrations from the companions of Messenger Muhammad, most of which advise to eat first and offer the prayer after that.
According to Nawawi, it is makruh (disliked) to start the prayer before eating, because the serenity of heart is disturbed when the mind is busy with the idea of eating. However, it depends on the time left. If the prayer time is about to end, we should do the prayer first.
Related from Abu Hanifah: “I would think about prayer while eating, rather than think about food while praying.”
Ahmed bin Hanbal tells that these expressions should be interpreted. According to him, a person who started eating should join the prayer in case he/she hears the iqamat, because he/she has eaten enough to be undisturbed in the heart.
Imam Shafi’i thinks: if dinner is served and the person is quite hungry due to fasting, he/she eats first. Otherwise, prayer is preferred.
According to a narration from Imam Malik, prayer is preferred before meal, but meal may be preferred if foods are light. (Ahmet Davudoğlu, Sahih-i Müslim Şerhi, Masajid, 67 (560) hadith explanation)
When health is also considered: having some simple food like soup first, doing the prayer afterwards and completing the meal at last, is the best choice. Thus during the prayer, mind is undisturbed and body is comfortable, since stomach is not full after long hours of fasting.