The opening paragraphs of the Seven Valleys is a Khutbih (Praise
of God and His Messenger) in Arabic. This is the classical style,
in the Islamic literature, of starting a book or an epistle by
such praises. Bahá'u'lláh uses a number of expressions that have
very deep and rather long background in the Islamic and
particularly in the Sufi literature. Almost for every word of
this Khutbih there is plenty of materials in the commentaries on
Qur'an and Hadiths as well as in the mystical literature of
Persian and Arabic. Here is a very brief explanation of some of its symbols.
1. Why seven valleys? What's their order?
You have raised a question which is asked quite often: The number
and order of the valleys in the Seven Valleys and how they can be
passed through. May I offer some information in this respect:
The stages in the wayfarer journey towards ultimate object, God,
varies in number and names in various sources in Sufi and Bahá'í
Bahá'u'lláh in Jawahiru'l-Asrár (Jewels of Mysteries), revealed
prior to Íqán, in Baghdad, mentions six valleys. There is no
mention of the valley of Knowledge. Also the sixth valley in the
seven Valleys is the fourth valley in Jawahiru'l-Asrár and the
fifth valley in the Seven valleys is the last, sixth, valley in
Attar's Mantiqu't-Tayr which amongst the Sufi sources is the
closest to the Seven Valleys although having seven valleys but
the order of the valleys are not exactly the same as in
Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valleys. The number of stages or valleys in
Sufi literature varies from as few as five (e.g. Attar's Mosibat
Námih) to as many as ten in KHájíh 'Abdu'l-lah Ansári's
Manázilu'l-Sayerin (The Stages of wayfarers). This is because
some of these stages in some sources are considered to be the
same or having common characters, for example: Knowledge and Love
in Attar's Musibat Námih are presented in that manner. It is
interesting to know that Khájih 'Abdu'l-lah Ansári maintains
that the ten stages (that he calls them ten fields) contain one
It becomes clear that expressions such as valley, field, sea, and
station are common nouns not proper nouns. Bahá'u'lláh towards
the end of the Seven Valleys says' "These journeys have no
visible ending in the world of time, but the severed wayfarer — if
invisible confirmation descends upon him and the Guardian of the
Cause assist him — may cross these seven stages in seven steps,
nay rather in seven breaths, nay rather in a single breath, if
God will and desire it." And in the Hidden Words (Persian
section No.: 7) He says, "Thou art but one step away from the
glorious heights above and from celestial tree of love. Take thou
one pace and with the next advance into the immortal realm and
enter the pavilion of eternity. Give ear then to that which has
been revealed by the pen of glory."
This is an allusion to a famous saying of Halláj, an early and
highly renowned Muslim mystic, and to famous poem by Saná'i, a
leading Persian Sufi poet. Another renowned Sufi leader, Imám
Muhammad Ghazali, in his famous book, Bahru'l-Haqiqih (The Sea of
Truth), clearly mentions that these seven stages could be
traversed in seven steps or even in seven breaths or even in one
"Step" or "pace" has special spiritual connotation. Bahá'u'lláh
has stated that the meaning of step or pace in this context is
"Tavaj-joh", paying attention or concentrating (Má'idih Ásimáni,
Vol.8, p.22). In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, He says:
"O my brother! Take thou the step of the spirit, so that,
swift as the twinkling of an eye, thou mayest flash through the
wilds of remoteness and bereavement, attain the Ridván of
everlasting reunion, and in one breath commune with the heavenly
Spirits. For with human feet thou canst never hope to traverse
these immeasurable distances, nor attain thy goal. Peace be upon
him whom the light of truth guideth unto all truth, and who, in
the name of God, standeth in the path of His Cause, upon the
shore of true understanding."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitáb-i-Íqán, Page: 43)
Thus, it becomes clear that first of all referring to seven or so
stages in the Seven Valleys as specified by Bahá'u'lláh in the
same book is," the stages that mark the wayfarer's journey from
the abode of dust to the heavenly homeland are said to be seven."
In other words Bahá'u'lláh is using what has been said by others
as a vehicle to convey His message. Second, these stages are
beyond the realm of space and time. They are spiritual
conditions. Third, they do not have fixed number, name or order.
Fourth, one may be in any one of those stages when he/she starts
his/her journey. Fifth, one can start from any one of those
stages. Sixth one can do the whole journey in one breath.
I hope this brief explanation could clarify the point for you
that we should pay attention to the main message of the Seven
Valleys which is the necessity of absolute detachment and
complete dedication as recommended to the true seeker in the
Kitáb-i-Íqán rather than getting entangled in the labyrinth of
valleys and seas that Sufis have created!
2. LUMINOUS BOOK
Luminous Book is a translation for "Kitáb-i-Mubin". This
expression was first used in Qur'an (26:2 and 28:2) as a
reference to that book. However in the literature of mysticism in
Islam it means "the perfect man" (Insán-i-kámil) i.e.
Manifestation of God, and also "the Primal Wisdom" ('aql-i-avval).
Shoghi Effendi has translated this expression differently and has
used a variety of terms: the Unerring Book (Íqán), Lucid Book,
and distinct writing (ESW); luminous Tablet, and God's
perspicuous Book (Gleanings).
Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets calls the totality of
everything in this world as His Luminous Book (Majmu'i-ye
Luminous Book in the first page of Seven Valleys refers to the
"Perfect Man" or the "Manifestation of God".
3. SEA and OCEAN OF DIVINE ESSENCE
The term in the original Arabic text of this page which is
translated into "sea" and "ocean" is "BAHR" meaning sea. "Bahr"
in the literature of mysticism refers to the Essence and to the
infinite attributes of God. Sometimes "seven seas" is used
instead of "seven valleys" as the stages of the journey of the
wayfarer or seeker. The "Sea of Divine Essence"
(Bahru'l-Huviyyeh) refers to God. "The first sea which hath
branched from the ocean of Divine Essence" is a refernce to
Manifestation of God (Bahá'u'lláh). Bahá'u'lláh in one of His
Tablets uses the expression of "the Most Great Sea" as reference
to His own manifestation.(Athar-i-Qalam-i-A'lá, Vol.7 p. 46)
4. FIRST MORN
"The first morn which hath glowed from the Horizon Of Oneness."
Morn or morning is another expression in Sufi literature. It is
taken from Qur'an (XI:81 and CVIII: 1 & 2). In Sufi language it
refers to oneness or unity" or "the light of unity". This again
refers to the Manifestaion of God.
5. FIRST SUN
Bahá'u'lláh has revealed a Tablet as a commentary on the word SUN
(Tafsír-i-Súrah Vash-Shams). Amongst a number of connotations of
this word in the Scriptures He particularly identifies it as a
reference to the Manifestation of God.
6. THE FIRST FIRE
This is a reference to verses 35 and 36 of Súrah núr(Light) in
Qur'an. The difference is that in Qur'an the Lamp is mentioned
first and then fire but in the Seven Valleys Fire is "lit from
the Lamp of Preexistence." In Sufi literature the Manifestation
of God is referred to as the Lamp and the fire is the light which
emanates from that Lamp. In the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh fire
(náR) is used to convey a large variety of connotations almost
over thirty different meanings! is because of the limitation of
the language for conveying various concepts revealed to the
Bahá'u'lláh mentions the three names of AHMAD, MUHAMMAD and
MAHMUD in this order. These are the three stations Bahá'u'lláh
provides for the Founder of Islam. They are references to the
three levels or realms of existence as explained by Bahá'u'lláh
in His commentary on the word SHAMS (Sun) in His tablet,
Tafsír-i-Vash-Shams. According to Islamic tradition Ahmad refers
to the Promised One who follows the dispensation of Muhammad.
According to Islamic mysticism Ahmad leads to AHAD (the ONE which
is one of the names of God).
In short the first paragraph of the Seven Valleys is in praise of
God and the second paragraph is in praise of His Manifestation.
Seven Valleys was revealed before the open declaration of the
mission of Bahá'u'lláh and in response to the questions of a
great Muslim Sufi. Therefore Bahá'u'lláh has used an allegoric
language to present the station of the Manifestation of God and
indirectly alluding to His Own station.
: What is the significance of the FIRSTNESS and LASTNESS in
the Valley of Knowledge, and the four worlds and pathways and divine states
in the Valley of Unity?
"Knowledge" in the English translation is used to convey the
meaning of "Ma'refat". Ma'refat comes from the same root as Irfán
(inner or spiritual insight and understanding). The lover in the
story is the wayfarer whose final object, from the very beginning
is reaching the beloved. Therefore if the wayfarer has proper
spiritual insight, the first (the onset of difficulties and
tribulations) is the last (reaching the beloved) because a true
lover asks and desires tests and difficulties to prove the true
love for the beloved and getting to the presence of the beloved.
In other words enduring difficulties has the joy of achieving the
9. REALMS IN THE VALLEY OF UNITY:
The Valley of UNITY is the realm of ONENESS and is beyond the
realm of limitations. This is when one achieves an inner or
spiritual knowledge of the Supreme Being. It may have three
levels and the people, according to their level of awareness and
understanding, may be in four different worlds or states of
In order to appreciate what is meant by the three planes or
levels and the four worlds in the Valley of Unity a good example
is a lamp with multicolor lampshade. One can be conscious of and
attracted to the light itself, or to the radiation or shining of
the light which comes through the lamp, or the lamp, i.e., a
particular colored light coming through the multicolor lampshade.
These are the three different planes:
- Plane of Oneness: See nothing but the sun itself. The Light
- Realm of Limitations: Gaze upon the effulgence of the light
Radiance or illumination
- Grades of Self: See only the multi-colored globes. The light
through the lampshade.
Four worlds refers to the above three states of spiritual
insight plus the world of "ignorant people of the day who have no
portion of the radiance of Divine Beauty": i.e.,
They are Completely Veiled: See no light in the lamp.