Abdu’l-Baha: Indigenous Americans are wild savage animals who lack reason…

The most preached and most celebrated teaching of Baha’u’llah is the Oneness of Humanity. In this article we will show using quotes from Abdu’l-Baha how the Oneness of Humanity applies to the Indians of America.

The original Farsi speeches of Abdu’l-Baha which were uttered in America were published by the Iranian National Institute for Baha’i Publications in the Second volume of the book Khatabat (speeches) in the year 127 Badi`. The book can be found on the official Baha’i library at:

http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/ab/

and can be downloaded using the following links:

http://reference.bahai.org/download/ka2-fa-pdf.zip

http://reference.bahai.org/download/ka2-fa-doc.zip

On pages 112-113 Abdu’l-Baha is cited as uttering the following statements:

Abdu’l-Baha and native Americans

khatabat 2 112-113

“You must be very thankful to Columbus for discovering such a great country for you. It is the most strange thing that he discovered it but it became known as America. In reality, it must be called Columbus and this would be right and just.”

Abdu’l-Baha asks the audience to thank Columbus for discovering this country for them! Are the natives of America not regarded as humans and this land is only regarded as discovered when a white European first sets foot on it? Has Abdu’l-Baha forgotten the brutal massacre of the Indians by the white men and is only concerned that the white settlers should thank Columbus that he has discovered such a “great land” for them?!

Abdu’l-Baha speaks these words in a manner that one would be inclined to believe that no natives existed on this continent and if they did, they had no rights at all, not even the right to choose a name for the land they lived in and it is “right and just” to name this land after the first white man that Abdu’l-Baha believes set foot on it. Is this how the Oneness of Humanity is implemented in Baha’ism?

He then continues:

“Any creation from these earthly creations, no matter what benefits it has, will inevitably cause some harm, but we must see which is greater: the benefit or the harm. Even though by Columbus’ discovery (of America) the world apparently suffered from hardship and languishment-for instance if Columbus had not discovered America a great ship like the Titanic would not have been built and all these souls would not have drowned [!!!!]-but these harms compared to the benefits are nothing.”

Abdu’l-Baha claims that the discovery of America had benefits and caused some harm. We would expect Abdu’l-Baha to refer here to the hardships endured by the American Indians after white man plundered it, but no, Adbdu’l-Baha believes that a more suitable example is the drowning of a very small number of white Europeans and American settlers in the Titanic. And he believes this disaster was so great that it warrants him to refer to it as a hardship and languishment that the world suffered!

This is not all the story. In the same book on pages 236-7 he utters the following words:

khatabat 2 236-7

«اين قطعه زمين آمريک چه بود جنگل بود زمين خالی بود و اين به مقتضای طبيعت بود پس چه چيز او را آباد کرد عقول انسانی پس ناقص است عقول انسانی اين نواقص را کامل نمايد بعد از آنکه زمين بود جنگل بود حال شهرهای آباد شده پيش از آنکه کلمبوس بيايد امريکا چه بود عالم طبيعت بود حالا عالم انسان شده اگر عالم طبيعت کامل بود بايد همان طور باشد. حالا ملاحظه کنيد که اوّل تاريک بود حال روشن شده اوّل خراب بود حال آباد شده جنگل بود حالا بوستان شده اوّل خارستان بود حال گلستان گشته. پس ثابت شد که عالم طبيعت ناقص است و ظلمانی اگر طفلی متولّد شود او را تربيت نکنيم بر حال طبيعی بگذاريم چه می شود شبهه ئی نيست بی ادراک و جاهل می ماند و حيوان خواهد بوددر اواسط افريقا ملاحظه کنيد که مثل حيوانات بلکه پست تر از حيوانند پس ملاحظه نمائيم که تربيت الهی در عالم انسانی چه کرده. عالم طبيعت عالم حيوان است.»

“What was this piece of land (called) America? It was a jungle, it was an empty land. This was due to (the work of) nature. What caused it to flourish? The reasons of the people. Thus (nature) is imperfect and the reasons of the people make it perfect. Previously it was an (empty) land now it has become (full) of prosperous cities. Before Columbus came it was the world of nature now it is the world of humans. If the world of nature was perfect it should have been like that (from the beginning). Pay attention that first it was dark now it is illuminated, first it was ruined now it is prosperous, first it was full of thorns now it is full of flowers. Thus it is proved that the world of nature is imperfect and dark. If a child is born and we do not nurture him and we abandon him in his natural state what will happen? Without a doubt, he will remain ignorant and without cognition and he will be an animal. Look at (the inhabitants of) central Africa who are like animals and even inferior. Thus we can see how divine nurturing influences the world of humanity. The world of nature is the world of the animal.”

Pay attention how he explicitly states that America only became a world of humans after Columbus discovered it and it was after this discovery that this land flourished by the use of human reason! Apparently, the native Indians were considered non-humans that lacked any reason at all and reason only arrived on this continent when the white men set foot on it and then used it to make America flourish!

He states that before the arrival of Columbus, America was a “world of nature” and he claims at the end that “the world of nature is the world of the animal.” Do these statements show anything but Abdu’l-Baha’s beliefs that the native Indians that had not been nurtured in accordance with Abdu’l-Baha’s standards are animals. He explicitly utters this belief and even claims natives such as Africans are even inferior to animals: “If a child is born and we do not nurture him and we abandon him in his natural state what will happen? Without a doubt, he will remain ignorant and without cognition and he will be an animal. Look at (the inhabitants of) central Africa who are like animals and even inferior.”

He then claims that “Thus we can see how divine nurturing influences the world of humanity.” This is while Columbus did not bring any sort of divine nurturing to this land, rather he brought with him death, misery, and destruction for the natives. Furthermore, Columbus brought what we might refer to as modern civilization (albeit a modern civilization that held no value for the Indians and their culture). Civilization does not fall under the category of “divine nurturing” for there are many civilized countries today that are empty of divine teachings.

One is amazed how Abdu’l-Baha allows himself to divide American history into post- and pre-Columbus and state that as soon as Columbus discovered this land it was transformed from an animal world to a human world, from darkness to illumination, from ruins to prosper, and from thorns to flowers.

An official Baha’i translation exists for this quote in the Promulgation of world peace, p. 311:

“Before the coming of Columbus America itself was a wild, uncultivated expanse of primeval forest, mountains and rivers-a very world of nature. Now it has become the world of man. It was dark, forbidding and savage; now it has become illumined with a great civilization and prosperity. Instead of forests, we behold productive farms, beautiful gardens and prolific orchards. Instead of thorns and useless vegetation, we find flowers, domestic animals and fields awaiting harvest. If the world of nature were perfect, the condition of this great country would have been left unchanged. If a child is left in its natural state and deprived of education, there is no doubt that it will grow up in ignorance and illiteracy, its mental faculties dulled and dimmed; in fact, it will become like an animal. This is evident among the savages of central Africa, who are scarcely higher than the beast in mental development. The conclusion is irresistible that the splendors of the Sun of Truth, the Word of God, have been the source and cause of human upbuilding and civilization. The world of nature is the kingdom of the animal.”

Pay attention how a lot of the problematic statements have been left out of the translation or watered down .For example where Abdu’l-Baha uses the words “he will be an animal” it has been translated to: “it will become like an animal” or where Abdu’l-Baha says Africans are “like animals and even inferior,” the official translation is: “who are scarcely higher than the beast in mental development.”

The final quote we will mention is Abdu’l-Baha description of American Indians on page 19 of Some Answered Question:

“These Arab tribes were in the lowest depths of savagery and barbarism, and in comparison with them the savages of Africa and wild Indians of America were as advanced as a Plato. The savages of America do not bury their children alive as these Arabs did their daughters, glorying in it as being an honorable thing to do.”

So there you have it: Abdu’l-Baha views indigenous Americans as wild savage animals who lack reason and whose country should have been named after a white European. Baha’is call this the “Oneness of Humanity”!

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About imranshaykh
I am a student of comparative religion with a special interest in Islam and The Bahai Faith

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