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TAGS: Chahar Vadi (Four Valleys); Interfaith dialogue; Islam; Mysticism; Philosophy; Theology
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Comparison of stages in The Four Valleys with three approaches from Islam: Theologians, Muslim Philosophers, and Mystics.
Presented as a homework assignment for the Wilmette Institute's "Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" Course, year one.

See also Dianne Bradford's personal homepage

Comparison of Islamic Religious Modes with the Four Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh

by Dianne Bradford

In Islam three groups have adopted three separate ways which they claim brings them closer to God, that mystic Truth. They are: Theologians, Muslim Philosophers, and Mystics.

For theologians Religious Law is the proper way. For philosophers Reason is the right vehicle. For mystics Love is the correct means.

In the Four Valleys, Bahá'u'lláh makes mention of these methods as well as the Bahá'í perspective which is a unification of these approaches. Can one see similarities between the above methods and the Valleys and identify which Valley corresponds to which method and what is the Bahá'í perspective? The theologians, with their emphasis on Religious Law, corresponds to some degree to the first Valley of The Four Valleys of Bahá'u'lláh. This is made evident by the Hadith quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in reference to this Valley: "the Self of God standing within Him with laws".[F1]

Here Bahá'u'lláh stresses that the self is not to be shunned but beloved and is to be well-pleasing. Here the seeker strives towards his Goal by replacing the evil qualities within him with good qualities, thus becoming "well-pleased, and pleasing unto Him."[God] To unravel the Divine mysteries, one needs only to look inside his own self, the self which is "the Self of God standing within Him with laws."[F1] Though this plane begins with conflict, "yet it endeth in attainment to the throne of splendor."[F1] The importance of the Self of God standing within us is further supported by the following passage from The Hidden Words: "Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."[F2] In regards to this passage, the Master stated in a Tablet addressed to Thornton Chase: 'This is the statement to which His Holiness the Christ, referred to His apostles in the Gospel, saying, "The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in you."'[F3]

The philosophers, with their emphasis on Reason and the powers of the mind, correspond to the Second Valley of The Four Valleys. This is made evident by Bahá'u'lláh's statement regarding the Second Valley: "Here reason signifieth the divine, universal mind, whose sovereignty enlighteneth all created things..."[F4]

Like the First Valley, this realm also presents challenges to the traveller, as he "meeteth with many a trial and reverse."[F5] Bahá'u'lláh stresses, however, that this does not "refer to every feeble brain";[F4] rather, it is at God's pleasure who shall be so blessed, and who is not. Bahá'u'lláh in quoting from the Quran, states: "Guided indeed is he whom God guideth; but for him whom He misleadeth, thou shalt by no means find a patron."[F5] Also, these tests will not continue indefinitely, for, as Bahá'u'lláh clearly states: "This station conferreth the true standard of knowledge, and freeth man from tests."[F5] It also stresses again God's role in conferring this knowledge upon whomsoever He wishes, and states that man must prepare his heart so asto be worthy to receive it.

The mystic path, with its emphasis on Love, corresponds to the Third Valley of the Four Valleys. This is made manifest by the very first statement made by Bahá'u'lláh concerning the Third Valley: "If the loving seekers wish to live within the precincts of the Attracting One, no soul may dwell on this Kingly Throne save the beauty of love."[F6]

This Valley seems to negate the first two Valleys, since the self of the first Valley must be entirely left behind and the reason of the mind so treasured in the Second Valley is replaced by the insanity of love. "On this plane, neither the reign of reason is sufficient nor the authority of self."[F7] Indeed, like the Valley of Unity, nothing can even be distinguished one from the other. "They see but the inner reality of the Beloved."[F7] In a later work, however, Bahá'u'lláh does link the First and Third Valleys when, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, He states: "Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty."[F8] The secrets of this realm cannot not be taught or learned, except from the Beloved Himself to the heart of the seeker.

The Fourth Valley of the Four Valleys seems to be reserved only for the Manifestation of God, as Bahá'u'lláh reveals the following: "...this is the station of God's immutable decree, His foreordained mystery."[F9] This statement, to me, seems to indicate that only God's Chosen Ones can attain this Valley, since only His Chosen Ones are endowed with "God's immutable decree,"[F9] and are privy to "His foreordained mystery."[F9] Righteousness (indeed, Religious Law is defined by the Manifestation), Knowledge and Love are all inherent qualities (even from birth) of the Manifestation. Thus, the Fourth Valley encompasses and includes the other three Valleys--and, therefore, all three mystic paths. However, though the first three Valleys seem to be attainable to us mere mortals (singly or possibly in combination), this does not imply that we can attain to the Fourth Valley. The Fourth Valley encompasses the other three, but is not itself encompassed by any or all of the other Valleys. Therefore, we cannot reverse the relationship by saying that the first three Valleys can lead to or include the Fourth.


    F1. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 50.]
    F2. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, # A13.]
    F3. ['Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Star of the West, Vol. II, No. 7-8, pp.
    F4. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 52.]
    F5. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 53.]
    F6. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 54.]
    F7. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 55.]
    F8. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, par. 4.]
    F9. [Bahá'u'lláh, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, p. 57.]
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