Name of Tablet in Arabic or Persian:
Translation into English:
This is one of the most widely-available and earliest-translated of the
works of Bahá'u'lláh. It was first translated into English by Alí Kuli Khán
in 1906 and reprinted frequently. A revised trans. published in 1945, done
by Khán and his daughter Marzieh Gail, is to this day the standard trans.
Hippolyte Dreyfus also trans. it into French directly from the Persian a
year before Kuli Khán's English version, in 1905, with Julie Chanler then
re-translating it from the French into English in 1936.
There is a small but growing amount of material on the Seven Valleys.
After Taherzadeh, the most complete treatment is Stephen Lambden's "The
Seven Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh: A Provisional Translation with Occasional
Notes, pt. 1," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin
6:2-3 (Feb. 1992), pages 26-74,
where the first paragraph is translated literalistically. As this article
consists of only one paragraph of trans. and 48 pages of notes, it can be
seen that a full annotated treatment of the Seven Valleys could be over
1,000 pages! The second most complete discussion is by John Walbridge in
Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time
, 150-157 and 287-288.
Bahá'u'lláh: King of Glory
treats it only briefly, on pages 161-163.
Many other texts and essays are online at Bahai-library.com
General readings on Bahá'í mysticism, with occasional reference to the
Seven Valleys, include the following. The only full study of mysticism,
though a basic one, is Glenn A. Shook's Mysticism, Science, and
. Rúhi Afnán compared Christian and Islamic mysticism with
the Bahá'í approach to the subject in Mysticism and the Bahá'í Revelation:
. These are both rather old works. More recently, Farnaz
Ma'sumian wrote a short introduction to Bahá'í mysticism, "Mysticism and
the Bahá'í Faith," in Deepen
, 6.3 (1995), online at http://bahai-library.com/articles
. Moojan Momen presents some
findings of medicine and psychology on the mystic state and their relation
to Bahá'u'lláh's mysticism in his "The Psychology of Mysticism and its
Relationship to the Bahá'í Faith," in Bahá'í Studies Bulletin
, 2.4 (1984).
Jack McLean discusses the mystical aspects of spirituality in
Dimensions of Spirituality
, especially 82-88. A work of fiction which
may be of interest is Bruce Wells' From Discontent: the Biography of a
. William S. Hatcher presents some philosophical aspects of
mysticism in "Myths, Models, and Mysticism," in Logic and Logos: Essays
on Science, Religion, and Philosophy
Significance of Name:
In the words of the preface by Robert Gulick, in `Attar's Mantiqu't-Tayr
(Language/Conference of the birds), "the journey of the soul is traced
through Seven Valleys: Search, Love, Knowledge, Detachment, Unification,
Bewilderment, and Annihilation," and "Bahá'u'lláh employed a similar,
although not identical, pattern in His Persian Seven Valleys which
delineates the seven stages of progress of the soul toward the object of
Tablet was revealed in:
Name of Recipient
Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din, a Sufi of the Qadiri order and religious judge (Qadi)
of Khániqi, a town on the southern edge of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Reason for Revelation of the Tablet:
Walbridge writes that Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din had written to Bahá'u'lláh
asking about the meaning of certain Persian mystical poems. From the
context of the Seven Valleys, one can glean that Muhyi'd-Din had also given
"his own views on the classical Sufi topics of the stages of mystical life
and the hidden meanings of the letters of the Arabic alphabet," esp. in the
word "sparrow." Since the Seven Valleys contains two postscripts, one on
steadfastness and the other on "sparrow," it is possible that the Shaykh
may have asked his questions of Bahá'u'lláh in two or three different
Date of Revelation:
Since all we know is that the Tablet was revealed "after His return from
Sulaymaniyyih," all we know for certain is that it was between 1856-
Place of Revelation:
Other Tablets revealed at about the same time:
In God Passes By
, pages 140-141, Shoghi Effendi writes that the "Four
Valleys... the Tablet of the Holy Mariner...the Tablet of the Maiden...the
Súrih of Patience...a commentary on the Letters prefixed to the Súrihs of
the Qur'an...His interpretation of the letter Vav...the Tablet of the City of
Hu...Javáhiru'l-Asrár...and a host of other writings, in the form of epistles,
odes, homilies, specific Tablets, commentaries and prayers...poured forth
from the 'Abode of Peace' [Baghdad]."
Style, subject, and genre of the Tablet: [?]
Style: This tablet seems to contain both tones, that of "command and
authority" and also that of "servitude, meekness and supplication." While
it is mostly in written in the former, there are places in which Bahá'u'lláh
speaks with the tone of servitude, as in p. 26: "...this Servant regardeth
Himself as utterly lost and as nothing..."
Subject: This tablet seems to contain many subjects, such as "Writings
dealing with interpretation of the old Scriptures, religious beliefs and
doctrines of the past"; Mystical Writings"; "Tablets dealing with subjects
of learning and knowledge, divine philosophy, mysteries of creation,
medicine, alchemy, etc."; and "Tablets exhorting men to education, goodly
character and divine virtues."
Genre: "Essay or book revealed as a letter to an individual."
Voice of Tablet
Outline Contents of Tablet:
Invocation: Praise of God and Muhammad, allusions to the Báb
Introduction: Acknowledgment of the Shaykh's letter and discussion of the
Sufi notion of multiple stages through which one must pass to reach God.
Valley 1: One must search and purify the heart from distracting desires.
Valley 2: Love (here, "`ishq," or "passionate, maddening love") focusses
desire on God and burns away the self.
Valley 3: Knowledge, or understanding, teaches one to see God's guiding
hand — providence — everywhere.
Valley 4: The correct perception of God's unity (Tawhíd) teaches one to see
God's being everywhere, but reject monism and pantheism.
Valley 5: In the station of contentment one needs nothing but God.
Valley 6: Here the mystic is rendered "insane" (majnun) by the awareness
of God: this relates to the state of bewilderment and amazement
experienced by many mystics, what New Age thought terms "crazy
Valley 7: This is the state of annihilation of self (fana') in God, but not an
existential union: the essences of God's self and the mystic's self remain
distinct, in contrast to what appears to be a complete union at the end of
Conclusion: One must obey the law: this relates to the split in Sufism
between the Sufis who believe that, having "experienced" God directly, one
did not need the outward trappings of divine law (shari`ah), vs. the Sufis
who taught that no one, not even the mystic, can disregard the law.
Postscript 1: Bahá'u'lláh alludes to the dangers He is in and exhorts the
Shaykh to remain steadfast.
Postscript 2: Bahá'u'lláh gives an acronymic reading of "gunjishk,"
Comment on relation of Tablet to other Tablets:
While this bears many similarities to the Four Valleys, the two works
are distinct and do not bear any direct relation.
Biography or bio
note of the recipient of the Tablet:
A one-paragraph bio of Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din can be found in John Waldbridge, Sacred
Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time
The Seven Valleys was written in Baghdad in response to the questions of Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din, a Sufi of the Qadiri order. He was the son of Shaykh Hasan of Gilzarda and became Qadi (religious judge) of Khániqin, a town on the southern edge of Iraqi Kurdistan. Later, Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din succeeded to his father's position as a religious leader in Gilzarda. Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din had written books on Sufism and, at about the time that he wrote to Bahá'u'lláh, he gave up his position and set out wandering from place to place until his death in Kirkuk in 1877. He may have been one of the Kurdish Sufis whom Bahá'u'lláh had met in Sulaymaniyyih.