If a person was reading the Qur’ān and heard the caller to the prayer perform the call, does he continue reciting the Qur’ān or respond to the call?
The principle -which the evidences point towards- in this subject is that:
➖The virtue of an act of worship over another, when looked at intrinsically, does not mean that it takes precedence in every situation➖
It’s possible that something could make the lesser in virtue take precedence over that which is greater than it in virtue.
When two acts of worship come together in one place and a time, the one which is prescribed for that specific time takes precedence, making worshipping Allah in what He has prescribed in that time, that which is sought after, even if the other action was something greater than it in virtue when looking at it by itself.
Something generally being more virtuous does not necessitate that it takes precedence over the virtue which is specific and restricted.
There is a difference between something being greater in virtue, in and on itself, and it being more virtuous due to something else being connected to it; so everything is being put in its correct place.
This is from fiqh (understanding) of the levels of the actions and their dissimilarity and the intent behind them.
If the allocated time for an action -which is usually lesser in virtue- was to pass then it can not be obtained, so performing it takes precedence, after this one can return to that which is more virtuous, due to the possibility of obtaining it still presenting itself, whereby combining between it and preserving what the legislation intended of performing each act of worship in its appointed time.
And remembrances are of different levels, reciting the Qur’ān is better than Tasbīh when looking at it in and on itself, but Tasbīh when performing the Rukū‘ (bowing) is more virtuous, because it’s the worship which is prescribed for that specific time and place.
And the recitation of the Qur’ān is better than responding to the Mu’adh-dhin when looking at it, in and on itself.
But when the Mu’adh-dhin finishes the call to the prayer, the worship which is prescribed for that specific time and place is the responding to it, making worshiping Allaah with it at that time more virtuous than the recitation of the Qur’ān.
And this is what the people of knowledge have mentioned, in implementation of this principle.
From that is what Ibn Ul-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy upon him, mentioned in his book “Al-Waabil-Us-Sayyib” -and I have relayed from it- as he clarified this subject there with clarity, and has explained it with mention of examples, so look for it there.
Shaykh Abu Hatim Yusuf Al-‘Inaabi Al-Jazaa’iree – may Allah preserve him.
28th, Saffar, 1438H.
Abu ‘Abdirrahman ‘Abdullaah bin Ahmed Ash-Shingaani.