Sufi stages of the soul in The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys of Bahá'u'llah

By Julio Savi

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #14
Bahá'í Centre: Manchester, England
July 4–6, 1997
(see list of papers from #14)

republished in Bahá'í Faith and the World's Religions,, pages ?
© 2005, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys are addressed to two Sufi leaders and therefore their style and content are conceived according to the understanding of their addressees. If we want to have a better understanding of the two epistles, it is important also to understand the Sufi concepts Bahá'u'llah referred to. Both the Seven Valleys and Four Valleys seem to allude to the Sufi stages of the soul. The Sufis mention at least seven stages of the soul:
    1. Nafs-i-ammara (the depraved, commanding nafs)
    2. Nafs-i-lawwama (the accusing nafs)
    3. Nafs-i-mulhama (the inspired nafs)
    4. Nafs-i-mutma'inna (the serene nafs)
    5. Nafs-i-radiyya (the fulfilled nafs)
    6. Nafs-i-mardiyya (the fulfilling nafs)
    7. Nafs-i-safiyya wa kamila (the purified and complete nafs)

    Bahá'u'llah mentions in one His Tablets six of these stages: "concupiscence (ammarih), irascibility (lawwamih), inspiration (mulhimih), benevolence (mutma'innih), contentment (radiyyih), Divine good-pleaure (mardiyyih)". And in several of His Tablets, `Abdul-Bahá describes the same and other stages, like for instance the perfect soul, the soul of the Kingdom, the soul of the Dominion and the soul of the Heavenly Court.

    It is suggested that the seven stages of the Seven Valleys may correspond to the seven stages of the soul as described by the Sufis. At the beginning the soul is a slave of the world, and it commands to evil. But as soon as the soul becomes aware of its abased condition, it accuses itself and begins its journey towards the goal of higher spiritual degrees (the Valley of Search). In the Valley of Love the soul has become aware of the importance of obeying the spiritual laws out of love for the Beloved, and therefore it is inspired (mulhimih) by the Book. In the Valley of Knowledge the soul has become assured (mutma'innih) through its newly acquired capacities of inner perception. In the Valley of Unity, the soul has learnt how to look on all things with the eye of oneness and therefore it is satisfied with the will of God. In this stage the soul is very similar to the Islamic fulfilled (radiyyih) soul, which is pleased with whatsoever God ordains. In the Valley of Contentment, and even more in the Valley of Wonderment, the soul has become endowed with even subtler capacities of spiritual perception that make it completely submissive to the Will of God. It seems the condition of the Islamic fulfilling or well-pleasing (mardiyyih) soul. Finally the condition of the soul in the Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness seems to be similar to the condition of the Islamic perfect soul (nafs-i-safiyya wa kamila). The animal condition (rutbih hayvani) has been destroyed, the meaning of humanity (ma`ani insani) has come to light. But whereas the Sufis considered the perfect soul as having attained the station of perfection, Bahá'u'llah explains that this is only the beginning of a new spiritual growth which He says that will be described "should a kindred soul be found".

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