Bahá'í Faith and auxiliary language

Bahá'í Faith and auxiliary language

Auxiliary language in the Bahá'í Faith focuses on a particular teaching; that the world should adopt an international auxiliary language, and everyone should have to learn this language. The aim of this teaching is that the adoption of an international auxiliary language will improve communication and foster unity among peoples and nations.


The principal teaching of the Bahá'í Faith is the Unity of humanity, and Bahá'u'lláh called for the adoption of a universal auxiliary language as a means to promote unity.The Bahá'í writings state that the lack of communication between peoples of different languages undermines efforts towards world peace due to misunderstandings of language, and that adopting an international auxiliary language would help reduce the number of misunderstandings, and would facilitate the transition to a global society.

The use of an international auxiliary language specified by Bahá'u'lláh is not a mandate for cultural uniformity, since the Bahá'í teachings value and promote cultural diversity. Instead, each land would keep its own mother-tongue, thus protecting their cultural identity, and would learn in addition an international auxiliary language.

ource from Bahá'í writings

Adopting a common auxiliary language is viewed as integral to world peace and prosperity.

:The sixth Ishráq [Splendour] is union and concord amongst the children of men. From the beginning of time the light of unity hath shed its divine radiance upon the world, and the greatest means for the promotion of that unity is for the peoples of the world to understand one another's writing and speech. In former Epistles We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice either to choose one language from among those now existing or to adopt a new one, and in like manner to select a common script, both of which should be taught in all the schools of the world. Thus will the earth be regarded as one country and one home. The most glorious fruit of the tree of knowledge is this exalted word: Of one tree are all ye the fruit, and of one bough the leaves. Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind. Concerning this We have previously revealed that which is the means of the reconstruction of the world and the unity of nations. Blessed are they that attain thereunto. Blessed are they that act accordingly.::Bahá'u'lláh, "Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh", pp. 127-128 [emphasis added]


:The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home."::Bahá'u'lláh, "Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh", pp. 166-167 [emphasis added]

:In the coming ages, two languages will be taught in the schools, one the native tongue, the other an international auxiliary language.::`Abdu'l-Bahá, "Divine Philosophy", p. 145 [emphasis added]


None of the various Bahá'í authorities have ever specified what language should be used as the international auxiliary language. Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá have mentioned virtue in Arabic, Esperanto and English. It is understood by Bahá'ís that the language will be selected in the future, by an appointed committee whose members are invested with this authority by the world's governments.


While Bahá'u'lláh has written about the virtues of Arabic, `Abdu'l-Bahá has assured Bahá'ís that the eventual international auxiliary language will not be Arabic. Bahá'u'lláh wrote:

:"That proposition which is especially beloved, when presented before the Heavenly Throne, is that all should converse in the Arabic language. This, inasmuch as it is the most comprehensive of all languages ("absat az kull al-lughat").

:If a person were to become truly aware of the comprehensiveness and the broad scope of this most eloquent language, they would assuredly select it.

:The Persian language is extremely sweet. The tongue of God in this dispensation has revealed in both Arabic and Persian. Persian, however, does not, and will never have, the magnitude of Arabic. Indeed, relative to it, all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed. This is the most-gracious state of affairs which has been mentioned."::From an unofficial translation by Dr. Stephen Lambden at ['-ALLAH/Int-Language.htm]

Mírzá Maḥmúd-i-Zarqání relates that:

:"He [`Abdu'l-Bahá] was invited later to the Golden Circle Club where He was asked whether Arabic might become the universal language. He said that it would not."::Golden Circle Club, Boston 24 July 1912 "Mahmúd's Diary" pp. 179-180.


Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international language which was first published by L. L. Zamenhof in Unua Libro in 1887. Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy and flexible language as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding.

In 1912 when `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, started on his public-speaking tour across Europe and America, `Abdu'l-Bahá encouraged the learning and use of Esperanto, and alluded to the possibility of it as the international auxiliary language. Many of the same people who were interested in the Bahá'í Faith were also interested in Esperanto, and women's suffrage, racial equality and various other currents of the day.

Also, while pointing to the benefits of Esperanto, `Abdu'l-Bahá said that it is too difficult and needs to be perfected. The specific reforms he mentions have not been incorporated into any existing reform of Esperanto, though other constructed language projects have come close. `Abdu'l-Bahá said:

:"We must endeavour 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."::Washington, 25 April 1912. "Promulgation of Universal Peace", p. 61. []

:"Esperanto has been drawn up with this end (universal language) in view: it is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people. "::Paris, 13 November 1911 "Paris Talks", p. 156. []

:"Thou hast written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal."::"Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá", Vol III. p. 692. []

:"The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost", he `Abdu'l-Bahá answered, "but 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 Arabic there are hundreds of names for the camel! 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. []

Shoghi Effendi commenting on the above has written:

:"Regarding the subject of Esperanto; it should be made clear to the believers that while the teaching of that language has been repeatedly encouraged by `Abdu'l-Bahá, there is no reference either from Him or from Bahá'u'lláh that can make us believe that it will necessarily develop into the international auxiliary language of the future. Bahá'u'lláh has specified in His writing that such a language will have either to be chosen from one of the existing languages, or an entirely new one should be created to serve as a medium of exchange between nations and peoples of the world. Pending this final choice, the Bahá'ís are advised to study Esperanto only in consideration of the fact that the learning of this language can facilitate inter-communication between individuals, groups and Assemblies throughout the Bahá'í world in the present stage of the evolution of the Faith."::From letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, June 4, 1937: Bahá'í News, No. 109, July 1937, Page. 1, republished in "Directives from the Guardian." []

Today there exists an active sub-community of Bahá'í Esperantists. The Bahá'í Esperanto-League was founded in 1973 and as of 2005 had 410 members in 64 countries. Lidia Zamenhof, daughter of Esperanto founder L.L. Zamenhof, was a Bahá'í.


The Universal House of Justice commissioned the following statement on linguistic unity, which recognizes an (at least) "ad hoc" role for World English:

:The need for it [a universal auxiliary language] is now recognized on all sides, as reflected in the circumstances that have compelled the United Nations and much of the non-governmental community to adopt several "official languages". Until a decision is taken by international agreement, the effect of such developments as the Internet, the management of air traffic, the development of technological vocabularies of various kinds, and universal education itself, has been to make it possible, to some extent, for English to fill the gap.::The Universal House of Justice, "Century of Light" (2001), p. 128

Unity in diversity

The Bahá'í teaching on an auxiliary international language does not in any way envision the decline of any living language or culture, and does not mandate cultural uniformity. The Bahá'í teachings value and promote cultural diversity by stating that there should be "Unity in diversity". The term "auxiliary" means that the international language will be thought in addition to one's own mother tongue:

:"In the coming ages, two languages will be taught in the schools, one the native tongue, the other an international auxiliary language."::`Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 145.

Language is strongly attached to culture and the prospect of the extinction of languages to non-dominant languages and cultures is undesirable, such as Uyghur or Cornish, which are struggling for distinction. American Indian languages and cultures were suppressed in boarding schools in the United States and Canada much to the detriment of these peoples. The effects of the suppression of Irish can still be felt today.

The Bahá'í writings appear to envision an auxiliary international language that is willingly supported and learned, in addition to the mother tongue, and thus cultural diversity would remain. The possibility, however, that over time one language will be used by the majority of the peoples has been written about in the Bahá'í writings. Shoghi Effendi writes about the voluntary adoption of a single language in the distant future:

:What Bahá'u'lláh is referring to in the Eighth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise ["Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh", p. 68, above] is a far distant time, when the world is really one country, and one language would be a sensible possibility. It does not contradict His instruction as to the need immediately for an auxiliary language.::From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1946::republished in "Lights of Guidance", p. 340

The previous passage also clears up the mistaken understanding among some Bahá'ís that their Faith teaches that an international auxiliary language is to be something for the distant future.

Current working languages

Within the Bahá'í international structure, two languages have become dominant for international communication: English and Persian; while Bahá'ís are told to conduct local and national meetings and correspondence in their local language, international correspondence is carried on mostly in these two languages.

The choice of English and Persian was made for obvious practical considerations. English has become the most dominant international language for business and travel, and most Bahá'í communities around the world have some Persian speaking believers, due to the Faith's origin in Persia.

The predominance and use of these two languages is not meant to imply any promotion of them as the international auxiliary language.

ee also

* "Characteristica universalis"
*International auxiliary language


*cite book
title=`Abdu'l-Bahá in London
publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust: 1982
location=London, UK
id=ISBN 0900125500

*cite book
title=`Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy
publisher=Tudor Press
location=Boston, USA

*cite book
title=Paris Talks
publisher=Bahá'í Distribution Service: 1995
id=ISBN 1870989570

*cite book
title=The Promulgation of Universal Peace
publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust: 1982
location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA
id=ISBN 0877431728

*cite book
title=Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas
publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Committee
location=Chicago, USA

*cite book
title=Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust
location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA
id=ISBN 0877431744

*Novas de Interlingua, "Panorama in Interlingua", 2005, Issue 3

*cite book
author= Universal House of Justice
authorlink= Universal House of Justice
year= 2001
title= Century of Light
publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust
location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA
id= ISBN 0877432945

*cite book
author=Zarqáni, Mírzá Mahmúd-i-
title=Mahmúd's Diary: Chronicling `Abdu'l-Bahá's Journey to America
publisher=George Ronald
location=Oxford, UK
id=ISBN 0853984182

External links

* [ This thread] from baha' for an exhaustive discussion, including many other quotes from the Bahá'í writings.

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