There has been much controversy in South Africa regarding our mothers and sisters in Islam attending the Eid prayers. Others in the Muslim world will find it amusing!
The Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) as narrated by Imam Bukhari and others is CLEAR that the women would attend the Eid Salah in the Era of the Prophet (SAW).
In fact, the Prophet (SAW) would order all women, including the young virgins, those in haydh, and those did not have proper clothes to attend (the latter were instructed to borrow clothes and the menstruating women to just sit there in the Eidgah/Musalla).
This was the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) as he established it for all generations.
Of course, in later times, with the expansion of Islam to various lands and cultures, this Sunnah was "temporarily suspended" by some Fuqaha, especially noting that the attendance of women was not considered an Obligation, but an Encouraged matter (which may be "suspended temporarily" by the Ulama considering their context).
They tried to suspend it due to (genuine or cultural) fears of Fitna and danger.
The Hanafis were at the forefront of this "suspension". The founding savant of the Hanafi Madh-hab, Imam Muhammad bin al-Hasan narrates in his Kitab al-Athaar that:
"Imam Abu-Hanifah informed us from Abd-al-Karim ibn Abi'l-Mukhariq that (the female Sahabi) Umm Atiyyah (RA) said:
"Women used to be granted as a concession ("ordered" in other stronger narations) to go out to attend the two Eids (prayers): al-Fitr and al-Adha (i.e. in the time of the Prophet SAW)."
However, immediately after that, Imam Muhammad states:
"Their going out to attend the Eid does not please us, except for old women beyond child-bearing age. This is the opinion of Abu-Hanifah also."
As we can see from this early Hanafi text: all women were already attending the Eid prayer (as per the established Sunnah) in those early days.
However, it seems that the noble Imam Abu-Hanifah (a Persian from Iraq) did not "like it".
Nevertheless, even he (RA) also, made an exception for "older women". He didn't ban it outright!
It seems that this Hanafi opinion of "suspending the Sunnah" (not "prohibiting it" as no one can do that), spread in Hanafi ruled lands (e.g. Indo-Pak), where the local pre-Islamic cultures were already very conservative regarding women attending public gatherings.
HOWEVER, I wish to remind everyone here that while this may have been the case with Hanafi India or Salafi Arabia (exception of the Haramayn though); in OTHER PARTS OF THE MUSLIM WORLD, the Sunnah of women attending the Eid Salah has continued uninterrupted.
Nobody "suspended it" or stopped it ever.
I attach here photos from the Eid Salah in the Mauritanian Desert. It is perhaps the closest image one can get of the Salah of the Prophet (SAW)'s time.
You will notice the women sitting behind the men.
Also, photos from Indonesia (country with largest Muslim population).
Muslims of the Cape come from Indonesia generally and follow the Shafi'i Madh-hab.
As a photo says a thousand words, attached are also photos of mass female Eid congregations from:
Egypt, Kashmir, Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, Turkey, Iran, Philippines, UK, Gambia and INDIA.
Please look at them carefully so that we can expand our horizons!
We are part of a global Ummah. After that, as South Africans, we are part of Africa.
The question for our local Fuqaha is:
As 21st century South African Muslims, will we continue to advocate this "suspension of the Sunnah" that we inherited from our Indian Hanafi roots? or are we going to suspend that "suspension" itself and go back to the Sunnah as the more suitable option for our multi-cultural global/African context???
Do note that going against the Hanafi Madh-hab in one issue does not remove one from the Madh-hab as is well-known to anyone who has studied Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh.
Note also that Imam Abu-Hanifah (RA) himself stated:
"If the hadith is authentic, then that is my Madh-hab".
Hanafi Ulama stated that this important statement of the Imam means:
'If an opinion of Imam Abu-Hanifah - that was based on analogy or contextual considerations (and not a hadith) - seems to contradict an authentic hadith, then one should leave that opinion and follow the hadith. One will still remain a Hanafi'.
See the Radd al-Muhtar of al-Allamah Ibn-Abidin al-Shami.
The "suspension" of the Eid Prayer for Women is an opinion based on contextual considerations, and not textual evidence. Therefore, if a Hanafi scholar goes against that opinion in order to follow the established Hadith, he remains a Hanafi, as the Imam al-A'zam himself confirmed!