The scholars differed concerning the ruling on Eid prayers. There are three scholarly points of view:
1 – that Eid prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (a confirmed Sunnah). This is the view of Imam Maalik and Imam al-Shaafa’i.
2 – that it is a communal obligation. This is the view of Imam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him).
3 – that it is a duty for each Muslim and is obligatory for men; those who do not do it with no excuse are sinning thereby. This is the view of Imam Abu Haneefah (may Allaah have mercy on him), and was also narrated from Imam Ahmad. Among those who favoured this view were Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and al-Shawkaani (may Allaah have mercy on them).
See al-Majmoo’, 5/5; al-Mughni, 3/253; al-Insaaf, 5/316; al-Ikhtiyaaraat, p. 82.
Those who held the third view quoted several texts as evidence, including the following:
1 – The verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice (to Him only)”
Ibn Qudaamah said in al-Mughni: The well-known view is that what is meant by this is the Eid prayer.
Some of the scholars were of the view that what is meant in this verse is prayer in general, not just Eid prayer, so what the verse means is that we are commanded to devote our prayer and sacrifice to Allaah Alone, so it is like the verse in which He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say (O Muhammad): ‘Verily, my Salaah (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists)’”
This view concerning this meaning of the verse was shared by Ibn Jareer (12/724) and Ibn Katheer (8/502).
2 – The fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded the people to go out to it (the Eid prayer) and even commanded the women to go out too.
Al-Bukhaari (324) and Muslim (890) narrated that Umm ‘Atiyyah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded us to bring them (women) out on (Eid) al-Fitr and (Eid) al-Adha, and to bring out adolescent girls, menstruating women and virgins, but the menstruating women were to stay away from the prayer, but were to witness goodness and the gathering of the Muslims. I said: “O Messenger of Allaah, what if one of us does not have a jilbaab?” He said: “Let her sister lend her a jilbab.”
The evidence of this hadeeth that the Eid prayer is obligatory is stronger than the evidence of the verse quoted above.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (16/214):
What I think is that the Eid prayer is fard ‘ayn (an individual obligation), and that it is not permissible for men to miss it, rather they have to attend, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) enjoined that. He even commanded the women – including virgins and those who usually stayed in seclusion – to come out to the Eid prayer, and he commanded menstruating women to come out to the Eid prayer, but told them to keep away from the prayer-place itself. This indicates that it is confirmed.
He also said (16/217):
What seems more likely to be correct in my view, based on the evidence, is that it is fard ‘ayn (an individual obligation), and that it is obligatory for every male to attend the Eid prayer apart from those who have an excuse.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 13/7 concerning the view that it is fard ‘ayn:
This view is more likely to be correct, based on the evidence.