From Maṣābīḥ al-Anwār fī Ḥall Mushkilāt al-Akhbār written by al-Sayyid ʿAbdullah Shubbar (d. 1242 AH / 1827). Slight edits have been made to the original text for greater readability.
What we narrate from the three Muḥammads – may Allah sanctify their souls – in al-Kāfī and al-Tahdhīb with an authentic chain, and in Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh with a disconnected chain, from al-Ṣādiq (a) who said:
الصلاة لها أربعة آلاف حد
Ṣalāt has four-thousand limits (rules).1
Al-Ṣadūq narrates with a broken chain in al-Faqīh, al-ʿUyūn, and al-ʿIlal with a chain connected to al-Riḍā (a) who said:
الصلاة لها أربعة آلاف باب
Ṣalāt has four-thousand doors.2
These two reports are from the most challenging reports and the righteous scholars have differed on its meaning as follows:
1) The limits and doors are a reference to the related laws of Ṣalāt, such as the obligatory and recommended acts. Al-Shahīd – may Allah have mercy upon him – has exerted effort to outline them in two of his treatises al-Alfīyyah and al-Naflīyyah, as he says:
When I came across these two traditions, and Allah (swt) granted success in completing the treatise of al-Alfīyyah on the obligatory acts, I further added the recommended acts which happened to be just over three-thousand, having been inspired by the number mentioned in the tradition, and seeking proximity to it.
2) What al-Muḥaddith al-Kāshānī has said in al-Wāfī: What is meant from it are the obligations, the Prophetic practices, and the etiquettes – both those that are to be done and those that are to be avoided. However, the number mentioned is a metonymy for abundance, because the reference to abundance using the word “thousand” is very common. Since the Ṣalāt has obligatory and recommended acts, likewise it has prohibited and detested acts, and these are its limits and doors. As such it has four-thousand limits due to the abundance in each of these four categories.3
3) What al-Muḥaddith al-Taqī al-Majlisī has said: It is a reference to all the related issues of Ṣalāt. These reach four-thousand issues very easily.4 This, in reality, can be reverted back to the first meaning.
4) It is a reference to the ways that enable one to connect to Allah, and He is not hidden from a gnostic when he turns his attention towards Allah (swt); from the moment he begins the preliminaries of the Ṣalāt until he has completed it, the doors of knowledge – which cannot be enumerated except by Allah – open up for him.
5) It is a reference to the doors of emanation and bounty because the Ṣalāt is the ascension of a believer. It has been transmitted, “Allah has seventy-thousand veils (in another tradition it says ninety-thousand) of light and darkness. If He were to remove them, the radiant splendours of His Face would burn up anyone other than Him.”5 The Ṣalāt has the ability to remove certain types of veils which are not hidden from the gnostics, hence there are merits mentioned for Ṣalāt that are not mentioned for anything else, as it is the most meritorious of acts after knowledge.6
6) The doors are a reference to the doors of the skies towards which the Ṣalāt ascends, every door follows another subsequently, and every Ṣalāt passes through each of those doors.
7) The minimum number of obligations are a thousand, and the recommended acts are a thousand. The first is followed by a thousand prohibitions and the second is followed by a thousand detested acts, at which point the number adds up to four-thousand. This is what has been attributed to al-Sayyid al-Dāmād.7
8) The number of issues in the different acts of worship such as Ṭahārah, Ṣalāt, Zakāt, Ṣawm, Ḥajj, al-Amr bil Maʿrūf and al-Nahī ʿan al-Munkar and their details add up to that number, in fact perhaps they go beyond that number. However, the acceptance of all these acts of worship is connected to the acceptance of the Ṣalāt. One whose Ṣalāt is accepted, the rest of their actions are also accepted, and one whose Ṣalāt is rejected, the rest of their actions are also rejected. As such, all of those, in essence, return back to the Ṣalāt. This meaning has been attributed to al-Sayyid al-Dāmād as well.8
9) The doors of Ṣalāt are the doors towards which it ascends, and the paths taken by the angels assigned over it, accompanying it, and these go up until the fourth heaven. There are heavenly angels in every heaven, who are gatekeepers and assigned to reject or accept the Ṣalāt. They are too many in number, and cannot be enumerated except by Allah, as he says [74:31] And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him. So the doors of Ṣalāt is a reference to the angels in every level of heaven, they are the gatekeepers who check and inspect the quality of the ascending prayer. They have been called as such due to their very large number, not because they are actually four-thousand. This view is also attributed to al-Sayyid al-Damād.9
10) It is a reference to the recommended practices and etiquettes as per what al-Sayyid b. Ṭāwūs has reported in Falāḥ al-Sā’il from al-Ṣādiq (a) in a sentence belonging to a long tradition which says, “The Ṣalāt has four-thousand limits which you are not accountable for.”10
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.
- Al-Kāfī, v. 3, pg. 272; Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām, v. 2, pg. 242; al-Faqiḥ, v. 1, pg. 195.
- ʿUyūn al-Akhbār, v. 1, pg. 255; the tradition is not found in the current published edition of ʿIlal al-Sharāʿi.
- Al-Wāfī, v. 8, pg. 827-828.
- Rawḍa al-Muttaqīn, v. 2, pg. 6.
- Biḥār al-Anwār, v. 55, pg. 45.
- See al-Kāfī, v. 3, pg. 264.
- Al-Majlisī attributes this to him in Biḥār al-Anwār, v. 79, pg. 304.
- Al-Majlisī also attributes this to him in Biḥār al-Anwār, v. 79, pg. 304.
- Biḥār al-Anwār, v. 79, pg. 305.
- Falāḥ al-Sā’il, pg. 23.