Assalamualaikum ustaz. If a wife is just about to pray but then her husband asked her to first nursed her child because the baby is crying, what is the ruling for this?
Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.
Nursing (breastfeeding) a child is an important responsibility of both parents. There is no khilaf among jurists as to the obligation of nursing a child for as long as the child is still at the nursing age (two years) and needs it. According to scholars of madhhab Syafi’e and Hanbali, it is the obligation of the father to prepare the nursing of his child and it isn’t the obligation of the mother to nurse the child herself and the husband cannot force his wife to do so. 
It is clear from the above paragraph that both parents should play a role in ensuring the nursing of their child. Allah SWT states:
وَالْوَالِدَاتُ يُرْضِعْنَ أَوْلَادَهُنَّ حَوْلَيْنِ كَامِلَيْنِ ۖ لِمَنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُتِمَّ الرَّضَاعَةَ ۚ وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ لَا تُكَلَّفُ نَفْسٌ إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ لَا تُضَارَّ وَالِدَةٌ بِوَلَدِهَا وَلَا مَوْلُودٌ لَّهُ بِوَلَدِهِ ۚ وَعَلَى الْوَارِثِ مِثْلُ ذَٰلِكَ ۗ فَإِنْ أَرَادَا فِصَالًا عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنْهُمَا وَتَشَاوُرٍ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا ۗ
“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them.” 
In answering the above question, the matter should be considered in two situations.
In the first situation, if the remaining time for prayer is too short, then the performance of prayer should be prioritized, for the obligation of prayer has become mudhayyaq (constricted).
In the second situation, if the remaining time for prayer is still long, then the wife should first nurse her child because she has to obey her husband and relieve the thirst of her child as well as remove something that may affect her khusyuk in prayer.
From Aisyah R.Anha, Rasullullah PBUH said:
إِذَا أُقِيمَتِ الصَّلاَةُ وَحَضَرَ العَشَاءُ، فَابْدَءُوا بِالعَشَاءِ
“If the Iqama for (`Isha’) prayer is proclaimed and supper is served, take your supper first.” 
This hadith shows that the aim of prayer is to attain khusyuk. Thus, matters that may distract a person should be removed before prayer.
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar cited the words of Imam al-Nawawi: The hadiths (in this issue) explained that it is disliked to pray when food is served for those who want to eat, for such an act will remove khusyuk. Included in this matter is anything that busies one’s heart. This is when the time for prayer is still long. As for if the time for prayer is very short, then one should hasten to perform the prayer and preserve the honour of the time. 
This is strengthened with another hadith of Rasullullah PBUH who said:
لَا صَلَاةَ بِحَضْرَةِ الطَّعَامِ، وَلَا هُوَ يُدَافِعُهُ الْأَخْبَثَانِ
“No Salat (prayer) can be (rightly offered) with food brought (before the worshiper) or when he is resisting the urge to relieve himself of the two filths (i.e. urine and feces).” 
Imam al-Nawawi when commenting on this hadith said: “In these hadiths, it is shown that it is makruh to pray when food is served, for this act busied one’s heart with it (the food) and remove the perfection of khusyuk. It is also makruh for a person to pray when he is holding back from relieving himself from two filth, which is to urinate or defecate. Hence, what can be understood is (praying when food is served) will busy ones heart and remove the perfection of khusyuk. The makruh ruling here is agreed by the jumhur of our ashab (Syafi’eyyah scholars) and other scholars.” 
Syeikh al-Bassam cited al-San’ani who said: “It should be reminded that this matter isn’t included in the chapter of prioritizing the rights of a slave over the rights of Allah, rather it is under the issue of maintaining the rights of the Creator as to not be included in the worship towards Him with a heart that his remembrance isn’t accepted.” 
Furthermore, in a hadith narrated from Anas bin Malik RA, he said:
مَا صَلَّيْتُ وَرَاءَ إِمَامٍ قَطُّ أَخَفَّ صَلاَةً، وَلاَ أَتَمَّ مِنَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَإِنْ كَانَ لَيَسْمَعُ بُكَاءَ الصَّبِيِّ، فَيُخَفِّفُ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ تُفْتَنَ أُمُّهُ.
“I never prayed behind an imam, who was more brief or more perfect in his prayer than the Prophet. If he heard a boy crying, he would shorten the prayer for fear his mother might be distressed.” 
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: ‘أَنْ تُفْتَنَ أُمُّهُ‘ (the mother would be distressed), which means she couldn’t focus on her prayer because she is distracted by the cry of her child. 
This also answers the above question about how the issue of khusyuk and the reason for a distraction should be removed in prayer.
Anas bin Malik RA also narrated that the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنِّي لَأَدْخُلُ فِي الصَّلاَةِ وَأَنَا أُرِيدُ إِطَالَتَهَا، فَأَسْمَعُ بُكَاءَ الصَّبِيِّ، فَأَتَجَوَّزُ فِي صَلاَتِي مِمَّا أَعْلَمُ مِنْ شِدَّةِ وَجْدِ أُمِّهِ مِنْ بُكَائِهِ
“When I begin the prayer. I intend to make it long, but I hear a boy crying and shorten my prayer, being aware of his mother’s emotion because of his crying.” 
This hadith shows that a mother should be calm and undistracted by the cries of her child, anxious and distressed because her child is hungry.
 See al-Mausu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 22/239
 Surah al-Baqarah (233)
 Narrated by al-Bukhari (5465)
 See Fath al-Bari, 4/229
 Narrated by Muslim (560)
 See al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 5/46
 See Taisir al-‘Allam Syarh Umdah al-Ahkam, 1/76
 Narrated by al-Bukhari (708)
 See Fath al-Bari, 4/354
 Narrated by al-Bukhari (709)