Universal Language

A certain person bestowed a coin upon five beggars. They resolved to spend it for food. The Englishman said, “Buy grapes.” The Turk wanted uzum, the Arab anab, the Greek stafi‘li, the Persian angur. Not understanding each other’s language, they quarreled and fought. A stranger came along. He was familiar with all five languages. He said, “Give me the coin; I will buy what you wish.” When he brought them grapes, they were all satisfied. They wanted the same thing but differed in the term only. Briefly, when reality dawns in the midst of the religions, all will be unified and reconciled.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 247)

A universal language would make intercourse possible with every nation. Thus it would be needful to know two languages only, the mother tongue and the universal speech. The latter would enable a man to communicate with any and every man in the world! A third language would not be needed. To be able to talk with a member of any race and country without requiring an interpreter, how helpful and restful to all!
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 156)

An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation in the world, Eastern as well as Western. This Congress should form a language that could be acquired by all, and every country would thereby reap great benefit.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 156)

And among the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh is the origination of one language that may be spread universally among the people. This teaching was revealed from the pen of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh in order that this universal language may eliminate misunderstandings from among mankind.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith , p. 288)

At an Esperanto banquet given in Paris in February 1913, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: — Today one of the chief causes of the differences in Europe is the diversity of languages. We say this man is a German, the other is an Italian, then we meet an Englishman and then again a Frenchman. Although they belong to the same race, yet language is the greatest barrier between them. Were a universal auxiliary language in operation they would all be considered as one. His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh wrote about this international language more than forty years ago. He says that as long as an international language is not adopted, complete union between the various sections of the world will be unrealized, for we observe that misunderstandings keep people from mutual association, and these misunderstandings will not be dispelled except through an international auxiliary language. Generally speaking, the whole people of the Orient are not fully informed of events in the West, neither can the Westerners put themselves in sympathetic touch with the Easterners; their thoughts are enclosed in a casket —the international language will be the master key to open it. Were we in possession of a universal language, the Western books could easily be translated into that language, and the Eastern peoples be informed of their contents. In the same way the books of the East could be translated into that language for the benefit of the people in the West. The greatest means of progress towards the union of East and West will be a common language. It will make the whole world one home and become the strongest impulse for human advancement. It will upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity. It will make the earth one universal commonwealth. It will be the cause of love between the children of men. It will cause good fellowship between the various races.
(Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 165-166)

At present, a new language and a new script have been devised. If thou desirest, We will communicate them to thee. Our purpose is that all men may cleave unto that which will reduce unnecessary labor and exertion, so that their days may be befittingly spent and ended. God, verily, is the Helper, the Knower, the Ordainer, the Omniscient.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 138-139)

Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the adoption of a universal language. A language shall be agreed upon by which unity will be established in the world. Each person will require training in two languages: his native tongue and the universal auxiliary form of speech. This will facilitate intercommunication and dispel the misunderstandings which the barriers of language have occasioned in the world. All people worship the same God and are alike His servants. When they are able to communicate freely, they will associate in friendship and concord, entertain the greatest love and fellowship for each other, and in reality the Orient and Occident will embrace in unity and agreement.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 300)

I am an Oriental and on this account I am shut out from your thoughts and you likewise from mine. A mutual language will become the mightiest means toward universal progress, for it will cement the east and the west. It will make the world one home and become the divine impulse for human advancement. It will upraise the standard of oneness of the world of humanity and make the earth a universal commonwealth. It will create love between the children of men and good fellowship between the various creeds.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 144)

I repeat, the most important thing in the world is the realization of an auxiliary international language. Oneness of language will transform mankind into one world, remove religious misunderstandings, and unite East and West in the spirit of brotherhood and love. Oneness of language will change this world from many families into one family. This auxiliary international language will gather the nations under one standard, as if the five continents of the world had become one, for then mutual interchange of thought will be possible for all. It will remove ignorance and superstition, since each child of whatever race or nation can pursue his studies in science and art, needing but two languages—his own and the International. The world of matter will become the expression of the world of mind. Then discoveries will be revealed, inventions will multiply, the sciences advance by leaps and bounds, the scientific culture of the earth will develop along broader lines. Then the nations will be enabled to utilize the latest and best thought, because expressed in the International Language.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 339)

If the International Language becomes a factor of the future, all the Eastern peoples will be enabled to acquaint themselves with the sciences of the West, and in turn the Western nations will become familiar with the thoughts and ideas of the East, thereby improving the condition of both. In short, with the establishment of this International Language the world of mankind will become another world and extraordinary will be the progress.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 339)

In like manner the activities which are trying to establish solidarity between the nations and infuse the spirit of universalism in the hearts of the children of men are like unto divine rays from the sun of reality and the brightest ray is the coming of the universal language. Its achievement is the greatest virtue of the age for such an instrument will remove misunderstandings from amongst the peoples of the earth and will cement their hearts together. This medium will enable each individual member of the human family to be informed of the scientific accomplishments of all.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 142)

In one of His Tablets revealed in ‘Akká, Bahá’u’lláh emphasizes the importance of adopting the auxiliary international language ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. He states that its implementation will provide a means for safeguarding the unity of the human race and will facilitate intercourse and understanding among the peoples of the world. In this Tablet Bahá’u’lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language. But He does not require humanity necessarily to adopt it as the international language; rather He leaves the choice to the appropriate institutions.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 4, p. 159-160)

In the coming ages, two languages will be taught in the schools, one the native tongue, the other an international auxiliary language. Consider today how difficult is human communication. One may study fifty languages and travel through a country and still be at a loss. I myself speak several Oriental languages, but know no western tongue. Had this universal language pervaded the globe, I should have studied it and you would have been directly informed of my thoughts and I of yours and a special friendship would have been established between us.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 145-146)

May it be promulgated rapidly; then the world of humanity will find eternal peace; all the nations will associate with one another like mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, and each individual member of the community will be fully informed of the thoughts of all.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 145-146)

Misunderstandings keep people from mutual association and these misunderstandings will not be dispelled except through the medium of a common ground of communication. Every intelligent man will bear testimony to this.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 142)

Mr. ... also asks whether the Khatt-i-Badí’ is connected in some way with the following statement of Bahá’u’lláh found in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf: “At present, a new language and a new script have been devised. If thou desirest, We will communicate them to Thee.” We have been unable to find any direct reference in the Bahá’í Writings to a connection between Bahá’u’lláh’s statement above and the Khatt-i-Badí’ ; however, we do know that Bahá’u’lláh did not commission Mírzá Muhammad ‘Alí to devise this alphabet, nor did He subsequently approve it. Furthermore, we have the following statements taken from letters in Persian written on behalf of the Guardian concerning Bahá’u’lláh’s statement in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf:
"The nature of the new language and of the new script remained concealed and hidden. No seeker was found nor did anyone inquire about them; therefore, He [Bahá’u’lláh] left them undisclosed and undivulged.
(12 January 1929; provisional translation)
"A new language and a new script were hidden in the treasury of His knowledge. No seeker was found; therefore, they were not disclosed”.
(29 December 1930; provisional translation) (Universal House of Justice, Questions about Aspects of the Bahá’í Teachings, 6 August 1997)

No doubt you are aware that in the past ages a common language shared by various nations created a spirit of solidarity amongst them. For instance, thirteen hundred years ago there were many divergent nationalities in the Orient. There were Copts in Egypt, Syrians in Syria, Assyrians and Babylonians in Bagdad and along the rivers of Mesopotamia. There existed among these peoples rank hatred; but as they were gradually brought nearer through common protection and common interests, the Arabic language grew to be the means of intercommunication and they became as one nation. They all speak Arabic to this day. In Syria, if you ask any one of them, he will say, “I am an Arab,” though he be a Greek, an Egyptian, Syrian or Jew. We say “this man is a German, the other an Italian, a Frenchman, an Englishman,” etc. All belong to the great human family yet language is the barrier between them. The greatest working basis for bringing about unity and harmony amongst the nations is the teaching of a universal tongue. Writing on this subject fifty years ago, His Holiness BAHA‘O‘LLAH declared that complete union between the various nations of the world would remain an unrealized dream until an international language was established.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 143)

O members of parliaments throughout the world! Select ye a single language for the use of all on earth, and adopt ye likewise a common script. God, verily, maketh plain for you that which shall profit you and enable you to be independent of others. He, of a truth,
is the Most Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. This will be the cause of unity, could ye but comprehend it, and the greatest instrument for promoting harmony and civilization, would that ye might understand! We have appointed two signs for the coming of age of the human race: the first, which is the most firm foundation, We have set down in other of Our Tablets, while the second hath been revealed in this wondrous Book.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, #189)

One day, while in Constantinople, Kamal Pasha visited this Wronged One. Our conversation turned upon topics profitable unto man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: “You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world. They would, in this way, be acquiring only two languages, one their own native tongue, the other the language in which all the peoples of the world would converse. Were men to take fast hold on that which hath been mentioned, the whole earth would come to be regarded as one country, and the people would be relieved and freed from the necessity of acquiring and teaching different languages.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 137-138)

One of the great steps towards universal peace would be the establishment of a universal language. Bahá’u’lláh commands that the servants of humanity should meet together, and either choose a language which now exists, or form a new one.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 155)

Oneness of language creates oneness of heart. It sweeps away all misunderstandings among peoples. It establishes harmony among the children of men. It gives to the human intellect a broader conception, a more commanding point of view.
(Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 337)

Praise be to God, that Dr. Zamenhof has constructed the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of universal adoption. All of us must be grateful and thankful to him for his noble effort, for in this matter he has served his fellow-man well. He has done a service which will bestow divine benefits on all peoples. With untiring effort and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees it holds a promise of universal acceptance.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 145-146)

Regarding the whole question of an International Language and its relation to the Faith: We, as Bahá’ís, are very anxious to see a universal auxiliary tongue adopted as soon as possible; we are not the protagonists of any one language to fill this post. If the governments of the world agree on an existing language, or a constructed, new tongue, to be used internationally, we would heartily support it because we desire to see this step in the unification of the human race take place as soon as possible.
Esperanto has been in wide use, more so than any similar language, all over the world, and the Bahá’ís have been encouraged by both the Master and the Guardian to learn it and to translate Bahá’í literature into it. We cannot be sure it will be the chosen language of the future; but as it is the one which has spread most, both East and West, we should certainly continue to cooperate with its members learn to speak it, and translate Bahá’í literature into it.
(Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 40-41)

The basis of knowledge and the excellencies of endeavor in this world are to teach and to be taught. To acquire sciences, and to teach them in turn, depends upon language, and when the international auxiliary tongue becomes universal it is easily conceivable that the acquirement of knowledge and instruction will likewise become universal.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 142-143)

The people of the Orient are not fully informed of the events in the west and the west cannot put itself into sympathetic touch with the east. Their thoughts are enclosed in a casket. The universal language will be the master key to open it. Western books will be translated into that language and the east will become informed of the contents; likewise eastern lore will become the property of the west. Thus also will those misunderstandings which exist between the different religions be dispersed. Religious prejudices play havoc among the peoples and bring about warfare and strife and it is impossible to remove them without a common medium.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 144)

Therefore every one of us must study this language and make every effort to spread it, so that each day it may receive a wider recognition, be accepted by all nations and governments of the world and become a part of the curriculum of all the public schools. I hope that the business of the future international conferences and congresses will be carried on in Esperanto.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 145-146)

Today the greatest need of the world of humanity is discontinuance of the existing misunderstandings among nations. This can be accomplished through the unity of language. Unless the unity of languages is realized, the Most Great Peace and the oneness of the human world cannot be effectively organized and established because the function of language is to portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts. The heart is like a box, and language is the key. Only by using the key can we open the box and observe the gems it contains. Therefore, the question of an auxiliary international tongue has the utmost importance. Through this means international education and training become possible; the evidence and history of the past can be acquired. The spread of the known facts of the human world depends upon language. The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium. As long as diversity of tongues and lack of comprehension of other languages continue, these glorious aims cannot be realized. Therefore, the very first service to the world of man is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication. It will become the cause of the tranquillity of the human commonwealth. Through it sciences and arts will be spread among the nations, and it will prove to be the means of the progress and development of all races. We must endeavor with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language throughout the world. It is my hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organize an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 60-61)

Until such a language is in use, the world will continue to feel the vast need of this means of intercourse. Difference of speech is one of the most fruitful causes of dislike and distrust that exists between nations, which are kept apart by their inability to understand each other’s language more than by any other reason. If everybody could speak one language, how much more easy would it be to serve humanity!
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 156)

… no one person can construct a universal language. It must be made by a council representing all countries and must contain words from different languages. It will be governed by the simplest rules, and there will be no exceptions, neither will there be gender, nor extra and silent letters. Everything indicated will have but one name… in the schools of each nation the mother tongue will be taught as well as the revised universal language.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 94)