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Sadd al-Abwab

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Imam 'Ali (a)
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Sadd al-Abwāb (Arabic: سدّ الابواب, lit: to close the doors) refers to the event that Prophet Muhammad (s) ordered that all doors which were opened to the mosque of Medina be closed except the door of 'Ali's (a) house. This hadith is frequently narrated (Mutawatir) in Shi'a and Sunni sources. The event of Sadd al-Abwab is regarded as one of the excellences of Imam Ali (a). He referred to this event in the six-member council for assigning caliph after 'Umar b. al-Khattab.


Sadd (Arabic: سدّ) means closing, and Abwāb (Arabic: أبواب) means doors; then Sadd al-Abwab means "closing of doors."


A short time after immigration to Medina, Prophet Muhammad (s) built a mosque there, which later was called al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The mosque of the Prophet). Afterwards a number of houses were built around the mosque for Prophet Muhammad (s) and a number of his wives. Then several companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) built their houses around the mosque. All these houses had an exit door and an extra door leading to this mosque. They used it for entering al-Masjid al-Nabawi in praying time. However, God ordered Prophet Muhammad (s) to close all of the doors of houses which could be opened to the mosque, except 'Ali b. Abi Talib's house.

A number of people became upset by this order and complained about it. Prophet (s) replied: "I am ordered by God, to close all the doors except for 'Ali b. Abi Talib's. I heard your words. By God, I did not order to close or open any door of the mosque. I was assigned to give such an order and I fulfilled the assignment."

Some people including al-Qadi al-Nu'man al-Maghribi said in his Sharh al-akhbar, "al-Abbas, uncle of the Prophet (s), went to the Prophet (s) and said, 'Are you prohibiting Abu Bakr, 'Umar and me, your uncle, while only allowed 'Ali to leave his door open to the mosque?!' The Prophet (s) said, 'it was the order of God.'" Elsewhere, al-Qadi al-Nu'man said that this was a question of Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib from the Prophet (s). Al-Sayyid Ja'far Murtada, has not considered this sentence by Hamza' as an objection to the Prophet (s), but a question about the secret behind this command.

Time of Incident

Exact time of the incident of Sadd al-Abwab is not mentioned in historical and hadith sources. Al-Majlisi has mentioned that it happened on the Day of 'Arafa without mentioning the year of its happening. According to some names and other evidences, researchers have made speculations about the year of this incident and have proposed two major opinions:

  • First years of Hijra (immigration): some, referring to the question of Hamza from the Prophet (s), have said that it happened in first years of Hijra. Mentioning the name of Ruqayya, daughter of the Prophet (s) in this story is a support for their opinion. In this report, it has been mentioned that 'Uthman b. 'Affan closed the door of his house to the mosque as well and that time, Ruqayya, his wife was still alive.
  • Last years of the Prophet's (s) life and after the conquest of Mecca: objection of Abbas, the Prophet's (s) uncle for closing the door of his house shows that it was after the conquest of Mecca, because Abbas was settled in Medina after the conquest of Mecca. Another issue which supports this opinion is its concurrence with hadith of Manzila. And even some believe that this hadith is mentioned to support hadith of Manzila. According to some historians, hadith of Manzilat was mentioned in different times, most important one of which was after the battle of Tabuk.

Hadith's Chain of Transmission

Ibn Shahr Ashub has narrated this incident from different narrators. As he said, the hadith Sadd al-Abwab was narrated by about thirty companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) such as: Zayd b. Arqam, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, Umm Salama, Abu Rafi' etc.

Ibn al-Bitriq has mentioned eleven hadiths from different sources on this incident in the twentieth chapter named Fi sadd al-abwab min al-masjid illa bab 'Ali (about the closing of the doors from the mosque except the door of 'Ali), of his book al-Umda. Al-Qunduzi has mentioned numerous hadiths with different sources in the seventeenth chapter of the book Yanabi' al-mawadda called "Fi sadd al-abwab min al-masjid illa bab 'Ali". Ibn 'Asakir has allocated thirty pages of his book, Tarjamat Imam 'Ali b. Abi Talib on this hadith.

According to Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi the hadith of Sadd al-Abwab is regarded as a Mutawatir hadith. 'Allama Amini has explained in his book, al-Ghadir: "Sunni scholars have narrated the hadith Sadd al-Abwab with numerous and Sahih (authentic) sources from a number of companions of Prophet (s), which can be regarded as Mutawatir (frequent) hadith."

Special Privilege of Imam 'Ali (a)

The hadith Sadd al-Abwab is regarded as a special privilege of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a); a desire for everybody. Hakim al-Nishaburi has narrated this hadith and expressed that Sadd al-Abwab is among Sahih (authentic) hadiths: "As narrated from 'Umar b. al-Khattab:

'Ali was gifted with three attributes, I wished I had only one of them:
  1. Marrying Lady Fatima (a),
  2. Settling in Masjid al-Nabi and having what Prophet Muhammad (s) had (as the result of keeping the door of his house open),
  3. Prophet Muhammad (s) gave him the flag of Muslims' army in the battle of Khaybar."

In addition, according to a narration from 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar: "'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) was given three privileges, which I strongly desired: 1) He was married to Lady Fatima (a), and then they were the parents of Hasan (a) and Husayn (a) 2) In the battle of Khaybar, Prophet Muhammad (s) said: "I will give the flag of Muslims' army to a person who is loved by God and his Prophet." and it was given to 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a); 3) God ordered to close all the doors of houses leading to Masjid al-Nabi except for 'Ali's house."

Referring to Sadd al-Abwab

A six-member council was held after the death of 'Umar in order to choose his successor. In the meeting, 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) mentioned the incident of Sadd al-Abwab and the others acknowledged it: "Is there anyone who is regarded privileged by the Holy book of God, so as Prophet Muhammad (s) closed all the doors of the Immigrants' houses leading to Masjid al-Nabi, but mine?"

Similar Hadith for Abu Bakr

However, in contrast to the hadith Sadd al-Abwab on 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a), a number of Sunni scholars have narrated a hadith from Prophet Muhammad (s), in which he ordered to close all the doors of houses leading to Masjid al-Nabi except for Abu Bakr's house.

Ibn Abi l-Hadid, Sunni Mu'tazila scholar, expressed that the hadith Sadd al-Abwab on Abu Bakr is a fake hadith which is created by Bakriyya (followers of Abu Bakr), as he said: "Bakriya are followers of Abu Bakr, who created hadiths for Abu Bakr in contrast to the hadiths which were narrated on Ali b. Abi Talib (a)."