Yes, and furthermore, I believe we should!
Here I’d like to distinguish between two things:
- The communal Eid prayer offered in an open space (or mosque) with the subsequent sermon,
- Offering two units of prayer for the special occasion of Eid.
Now of course, for those living under lockdown, unfortunately the first is unfeasible. But this does not preclude the second, and I believe it is virtuous to perform two units of prayer for the special occasion of Eid, and it is what God wants from believers.
The Quranic verse on Ramadan ends:
“He (God) wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.”Qur’an 2:185
Now the glorification of God here can take various forms: from uttering the takbir (saying ‘God is the greatest’) on the morning of Eid, to performing salat on Eid with additional takbirs. Where we are unable to gather communally, both can still be achieved at home, whether we live alone or with our families (and a couple of acquaintances in those contexts where COVID19 guidance may allow). This understanding is reflected in a well known narration reported by al-Baihaqi where the prophetic companion Anas b. Mālik, having missed the communal Eid salat, gathered his family and other household members behind Abdullah b. Abī Utbah to lead them in two units of prayer with the additional takbirs. al-Baihaqi also related the practice from Ikrimah, Muhammad b. Sirin and ‘Atā, although ‘Atā reported the salat was performed with the additional takbirs in such a situation. This was also reflected by Ma’mar as related by Abdur Razzaq, although Abdur Razzaq also relates the practice from Qatadah but where a person performs the two units of prayer as the imām would (that is, with the additional takbirs).
Additionally, the verse ends, “so that you may be thankful” and salat can be an expression of gratitude and thankfulness. For example, Ibn Mājah narrates that the Prophet offered two units of salah when God informed him of the end of Abu Jahl, and eight units of prayer upon the conquest of Makkah – on both occasions to express his gratitude to God. (For more, see Ibn Hajr’s ‘Fat’h al-Bāri’)
How should the salat be performed?
The salat should be performed as two units of prayer normally would, but starting with seven takbirs in the first unit and six takbirs when standing for the second unit – in both units these numbers are inclusive of the original takbir. If one would like to add one more in both units (due to variant shar’i interpretations) then that’s perfectly fine.
Should there be a sermon?
A sermon (khutbah) is not required since this is not a public activity (which is when sermons are usually given). However, a few words spoken on the achievement of Ramadan, guidance, the blessing that the religion of Abraham as true subservience to God is – all alongside the glorification of God and deep gratitude to the Most High seems fitting. Likewise, if your leaders have provided a virtual Eid address, you may listen to it but it’s not necessary to do so alongside the prayer; you can listen to it before or later if you’d prefer. As we note from the practice of Anas b. Mālik, Abdullah b. Abī Utbah was not told to provide a sermon. The major act of thankfulness and glorification of God here is the salat.
Should we have a bath and dress up?
Yes, I believe we should, along with a wonderful breakfast to accompany it! God says, “Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people” (7:31) a verse that can be applied here in the generality of its wording. Added to this, to offer this salat on Eid is to present oneself before the Almighty King, Lord of the realms, Owner of the great throne, on an auspicious occasion and as an act of thankfulness and glorification. One the occasions cited above where the Prophet offered salat to express his gratitude, he took a bath first. As for those amongst other people, cleaning up, getting dressed, offering salat and sharing some morning food also emphasises a sense of righteous festivity which is particularly relevant given current conditions.
But doesn’t the Hanafi school of Law disallow Eid salat at home?
From the point of legal interpretation, the schools of Mālik, al-Shāfi’ī and Ahmad advocated for the salat to be offered at home if it cannot be performed with the public. Yes, it is true that the position of the Hanafi school, as reflected by Ibn Ābidīn, is that one ought not to perform the Eid salat on his own if he misses the congregation. But here I’d like to point out two things: firstly, that we’re not missing a communal gathering as there simply isn’t one, and secondly that in the way I’ve characterised it, the salat is fundamentally two units of prayer for thanking and glorifying God on Eid – which God clearly wants as the verse points out. Here I find it extremely difficult to accept that God would neither appreciate nor accept such a show of subservience and gratitude from His humble servants (especially when all of the parameters of the Law have been maintained), and for me, pedantry here over legal technicalities seems greatly misdirected.
Does this differ from Salat Jumu’ah at home?
Yes, the basis and objectives of both are very much different. For more on salat Jumu’ah at home, please see my brief interview here.
And with God the All Knower rests complete knowledge.