The Seven Valleys

One of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh which was revealed after His return from Sulaymáníyyih is The Seven Valleys. This work stands out as a masterpiece of mystical composition. It was written in response to the questions of Shaykh Muhyi'd-Dín, the judge of the town of Khániqayn, who was a Súfí.* Although not a Bábí, he was an admirer of Bahá'u'lláh and had written a letter to Him, expressing certain thoughts and posing some questions in mystical terms.

The theme of The Seven Valleys is the journey of the soul from its abode in this world to the realms of nearness to God. The seven stages in the journey were already familiar to the Súfís, having been described by Farídu'd-Dín-i-'Attár, an outstanding exponent of Súfism in its early stages. Bahá'u'lláh elucidates the profound meaning and significance of these seven stages.

First comes 'The Valley of Search', wherein is described the path which a true seeker must take to attain his object, which is the recognition of the Manifestation of God for the age in which he lives. Before everything else he must 'cleanse the heart--which is the well-spring of divine treasures--from every marking', must turn away from following 'the traces of...forefathers and sires' and must 'shut the door of friendliness and enmity upon all the people of the earth' 1 He must sacrifice 'whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood...' 2 Ardour, zeal and patience are the necessary qualities for him on this plane.

Next is 'The Valley of Love'. Here the wayfarer is like a moth which has found a flame and, longing to reach it, circles


* A member of a Muslim mystical cult.

1. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 5.

2. ibid., p. 7.

around, coming closer and closer until finally it is burnt in a blaze of sacrifice.

This is a stage in which the heart of man is touched by the glory of the Manifestation of God Whom he has sought and found. Here, the believer understands neither reasons nor proofs. His heart is attracted, for he has fallen in love with his Beloved. Indeed, the story of every religion is written in the language of love. In the early days of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, for instance, of the thousands who came in contact with the Manifestation of God and were attracted to Him, some, knowing little of the history, teachings, proofs or laws of His Cause, adored the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. They were so intoxicated with the wine of Their utterances that, when occasion demanded it, they willingly gave their lives. So intense was their love that some believers who attained Bahá'u'lláh's presence begged Him to accept them as martyrs. Others were so magnetized by His supreme power that they could not bear the thought of separation from Him.

For example, when the news of Bahá'u'lláh's approaching departure for Constantinople reached His companions in Baghdád, they were plunged, one and all, into sorrow and consternation. On the first night none of them would eat or sleep, and many decided to take their own lives if deprived of accompanying Him on His journey. Without a shadow of doubt these companions who were the lovers of His beauty would have carried out their intention, had it not been for the words of counsel and exhortation which Bahá'u'lláh addressed to them, words which consoled them and enabled them to resign themselves to the will of God.

No greater story can be found to demonstrate this consuming love for Bahá'u'lláh than that of Hájí Muhammad-Ja'far-i-Tabrízí. He was a devoted believer who first attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, recognized His station and devoted his life to the service of his Lord. When Bahá'u'lláh established His residence in Adrianople, Hájí Ja'far travelled with his brother (who was also a believer) to that city and


resided there. He was so magnetized by Bahá'u'lláh that when he discovered that the authorities had not included his name among those who were to accompany Bahá'u'lláh to 'Akká, he attempted to cut his own throat. Some friends arrived just in time to save him.

As a result of this the authorities, who were at first adamant in not allowing any of Bahá'u'lláh's followers to accompany Him to 'Akká, changed their minds and permitted most of His companions to travel with Him. Hájí Ja'far's condition, however, was serious. His throat was bleeding profusely and he was taken to hospital for treatment. The authorities promised him that when his wounds healed, he would be allowed to proceed to 'Akká with his brother. Two months later they both arrived there and joined Bahá'u'lláh in the Most Great Prison.

The third stage of the journey is 'The Valley of Knowledge'. The word 'knowledge', however, can be misleading as it does not convey the full meaning of the original word 'Ma'rifat' used by Bahá'u'lláh. It is difficult to find a single word in English which can faithfully impart its full significance, a combination of true understanding, recognition and knowledge.

The knowledge referred to in this valley is not primarily based on learning. The knowledge of God dawns upon man through his heart. Pride in one's learning and accomplishments often deprives the heart of the light of true understanding. The soul in this valley recognizes the truth and reaches the stage of certitude. 'His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with his Beloved.' 3 He acquires a new vision and begins to understand the mysteries of God's Revelation and creation. He will not be despondent when faced with pain and calamities. Rather, he will approach them with understanding and resignation, for he will 'see the end in the beginning' 4 and will discover that suffering and tribulations are eventually realized to be God's mercy and blessing. In everything he finds a wisdom. 'He in this station is content with the decree of God, and seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting


3. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 11.

4. ibid., p. 15.

life...In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.' 5

The next stage is 'The Valley of Unity' where the wayfarer is uplifted from the plane of limitation into that of the absolute. Here he no longer sees the world of creation subjectively, restricted by the limitations of his own eyes, but sees it objectively through the eyes of God. He discovers that each created thing manifests, according to its capacity, some of the attributes of God, and that the degree of such manifestation differs in each kingdom of creation.

Like a man who soars into outer space and looks down upon the earth with an all-encompassing vision, the wayfarer, freed from the cage of self and passion and released from the bondage of limitations, enters upon the plane of universality. His vision has widened to such an extent that no longer is he concerned with his own self or attached to this world. He sees in everything the signs and tokens of God. 'He looketh on all things with the eye of oneness, and seeth the brilliant rays of the divine sun shining...alike on all created things, and the lights of singleness reflected over all creation.' In this valley there is no place for ego; here the soul 'steppeth into the sanctuary of the Friend, and shareth as an intimate the pavilion of the Loved One...He seeth in himself neither name nor fame nor rank, but findeth his own praise in praising God.' 6

Having attained to this lofty station of detachment from the world, the wayfarer becomes independent of all created things and enters 'The Valley of Contentment'. Although outwardly he may be poor, inwardly he is endowed with wealth and power from the world of spirit.

The history of the Faith has recorded many moving episodes in the lives of early believers who held high positions and enjoyed riches and luxury. On embracing the Faith, however, they were stripped of their rank and earthly possessions by the enemies of the Cause. Yet many of them, who had not focused their affection on the things of this world and had ascended to the 'plane of contentment', remained unaffected by poverty and


5. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 12.

6. ibid., p. 18, for the quotations in this paragraph.

destitution, persecution and suffering. The changes and chances of this world were powerless to weaken their faith or disturb their serenity and peace of mind.

Happiness is one of the attributes of the true believer, but this cannot be achieved by a life founded on the delights and pleasures of this world. For such happiness is only transitory and can indeed be sorrow in disguise. Only those who have entered the valley of contentment have experienced true joy, even though their lives be subjected to affliction and suffering. Bahá'u'lláh states that the wayfarer in the valley of contentment burns away the 'veils of want...From sorrow he turneth to bliss, from anguish to joy. His grief and mourning yield to delight and rapture.' 7

The life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Exemplar of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, stands out as a shining example of what real happiness is. From the age of nine He shared the sufferings and persecutions inflicted upon His Father, spending forty years in 'Akká as a prisoner of two Turkish despots. Yet during those dark years, He remained the most cheerful of the companions of Bahá'u'lláh, and poured out His love on all whom He met. A few years after His release, He said:

Freedom is not a matter of place, but of condition. I was happy in that prison, for those days were passed in the path of service.
To me prison was freedom.
Troubles are a rest to me.
Death is life.
To be despised is honour.
Therefore was I full of happiness all through that prison time.
When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed freedom! For self is the greatest prison.
When this release takes place, one can never be imprisoned. Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, not with dull resignation, but with radiant acquiescence, one cannot attain this freedom. 8


7. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 29.

8. Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 166.

Having attained contentment, the traveller comes to 'The Valley of Wonderment' and 'is...struck dumb with the beauty of the All-Glorious...' 9 Like a person who, diving into the ocean, suddenly becomes conscious of its enormous size and fathomless depth, the wayfarer in this valley beholds the vastness of creation and its infinite range. With unclouded vision and clear insight he now discovers the inner mysteries of God's Revelation, and is led from one mystery to a thousand more. 'At every moment he beholdeth a wondrous world, a new creation, and goeth from astonishment to astonishment, and is lost in awe at the works of the Lord of Oneness.' 10

The last valley towards which the wayfarer can strive is 'The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness'--'the furthermost state of mystic knowers, and the farthest homeland of the lovers'.11 'This station', Bahá'u'lláh affirms,

is the dying from self and the living in God, the being poor in self and rich in the Desired One. Poverty as here referred to signifieth being poor in the things of the created world, rich in the things of God's world. For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover's heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. Yea, all he hath, from heart to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the Friend.12

Siyyid Ismá'íl of Zavárih (Dhabíh)

Some believers who attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh had reached this lofty station. They saw a glimpse of that inner light which was concealed within His person. They were dazzled by it and could no longer bear to stand in the darkness of this world.

One such was Siyyid Ismá'íl of Zavárih surnamed Dhabíh (Sacrifice) by Bahá'u'lláh.* He was a devout man highly es-


* He should not be confused with Hájí Muhammad-Ismá'íl of Káshán, also entitled Dhabíh, to whom reference will be made in the next volume.

9. Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 32.

10. ibid.

11. ibid., p. 41.

12. ibid., p. 36.

teemed for his piety and rectitude of conduct, his learning and knowledge. He was converted to the Faith in the early days of the Báb's ministry, attained His presence in the house of the Imám-Jum'ih of Isfahán, and was present when the Báb revealed a commentary on the Súrih of V'al-'Asr. The rapidity with which the Báb penned that lengthy epistle and the power of His utterance as He chanted some of its passages, in the presence of a number of distinguished divines, captured the imagination of Dhabíh who became one of His devoted followers. Over a decade later, Dhabíh came to Baghdád and attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. In that city he stayed with a believer whose home was in the same neighbourhood as Bahá'u'lláh's house. This man, Áqá Muhammad-Ridá, had invited Bahá'u'lláh to his home, begging Him for the inestimable privilege of acting as His host. Bahá'u'lláh accepted his invitation and a few days later, in the afternoon, honoured Áqá Muhammad-Ridá by going to his house.

In the Kitáb-i-Badí', revealed a few years later in Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh Himself has described His meeting with Dhabíh on that occasion. As was customary at that time of day, their host had provided several trays of various fruits and sweetmeats. Dhabíh was invited by Bahá'u'lláh to partake of the food but he begged most humbly and earnestly to receive instead, through Bahá'u'lláh's bounty, a portion of spiritual food from the unseen treasury of His divine knowledge. Favourable to his plea, Bahá'u'lláh summoned Dhabíh to sit before Him and hearken to His words--words of incomparable power and awe which were filled with spiritual significance and which, according to Bahá'u'lláh's testimony, no one is capable of describing.

By hearing the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh on that day, Dhabíh was transformed and worlds of spirit were opened before his eyes. After this meeting he remained in a state of spiritual intoxication, wholly devoted to Bahá'u'lláh, his love for Him intensifying with the passing of each day.

In order to pay homage to his Lord and to express his inner feelings of humility and self-effacement towards Him, Dhabíh


took upon himself the task of sweeping the approaches to the house of Bahá'u'lláh at the hour of dawn. In those days one of the duties of a servant in any household was to sweep a small portion of the path leading to the entrance of the house. As a token of humility and lowliness, however, Dhabíh would, instead of using a brush, unwind his green turban, the ensign of his holy lineage, and with it would sweep the approaches of the house of Bahá'u'lláh. He would then place in the fold of his cloak the dust on which the feet of his Beloved had trodden and, unwilling that others should tread on it, would carry it all the way to the river to throw it into its waters.

The story of Dhabíh is that of a passionate lover. The object of his adoration was Bahá'u'lláh, Who had ignited within his breast the fire of the love of God, a fire so intense that it began to consume his whole being. Eventually he reached a state where he would neither eat nor drink. For forty days he abstained from food. Unable, at last, to check the crushing force of love which pressed upon his soul, he came one day, at the hour of dawn, to the house of Bahá'u'lláh and for the last time swept its approaches with his turban. After performing this task, he paid a visit to the home of Áqá Muhammad-Ridá where he met some of the friends for the last time. Later he obtained a razor, went to the bank of the Tigris and there turning his face towards the house of Bahá'u'lláh, took his life by cutting his throat.

Bahá'u'lláh has extolled Dhabíh as the 'King and Beloved of Martyrs'. He is reported to have said that 'No blood has, till now, been poured upon the earth as pure as the blood he shed'.13*


* Dhabíh should not be confused with the brothers Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan and Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn, who were designated by Bahá'u'lláh the 'King of the Martyrs' and the 'Beloved of the Martyrs', respectively. Dhabíh took his own life because he was intoxicated by the wine of the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Who had enabled him to witness the glory of the spiritual worlds of God. This cannot be compared with ordinary suicide, nor can this episode be taken to mean that Bahá'í belief condones the taking of one's own life. On the contrary, suicide is strongly condemned in the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and is clearly against His Teachings.

13. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 136-7.
The Four Valleys

Another one of Bahá'u'lláh's mystical Writings which was revealed in Baghdád is The Four Valleys. This, too, is an epistle in which Bahá'u'lláh describes the journey of the wayfarer to his ultimate goal. He has divided wayfarers into four groups.

The highest station, the fourth valley, is for 'those who have reached to the beauty of the Beloved One...' 'This is the realm of full awareness, of utter self-effacement...Here love becometh an obstruction and a barrier, and all else save Him is but a curtain...The exalted dwellers in this mansion do wield divine authority...On the high seats of justice, they issue their commands...' They 'abide in the high bowers of splendour above the Throne of the Ancient of Days, and they sit in the Empyrean of Might within the Lofty Pavilion...' 14

Although Bahá'u'lláh's approach in this epistle is somewhat different from The Seven Valleys, basically it conveys the same truth. The Four Valleys was written for Shaykh 'Abdu'r-Rahmán-i-Karkúkí, a learned man and the leader of the Qádiríyyih Order,* who came in contact with Bahá'u'lláh in Kurdistán. He was a devoted admirer of Bahá'u'lláh, who used to sit at His feet in Sulaymáníyyih and hear His discourses. He also corresponded with Bahá'u'lláh in Kurdistán and, later, in Baghdád.


* A sect of Sunní Islám.

14. Bahá'u'lláh, The Four Valleys (published with The Seven Valleys), pp. 54 and 57-8, for the words quoted in this paragraph.