March 11, 2006

The Bahá'í and Esperanto

Reading about the constructed language, Esperanto, created by L.L Zamenhof and first published in 1877, really opened many other doors of thought for me. It is today the most widely spoken constructed international language, and it is thought that up to 2 million speakers in mainly Russia, China, Japan and Eastern Europe speak the language either as native speakers or as a second language.

The objective of L.L. Zamenhof was basically to create a language, that happened to be influenced by Polish, German, French and Russian, that would work as a unifying force and international second language. The thought is inspiring, for indeed often lack of communication is the basis of unsolved differences.

However reading on, one is automatically lead to the Bahá'í faith founded by Baha'ullah in the early 1800's in Iran. The idea of unity of humanity being of great importance to Baha'ullah, he speaks of an international auxiliary language, basically one language that will work as a second unifying language learnt by everyone in addititon to their native tongue, as a means to create peace and understanding.

Could L.L. Zamenhof have been influenced directly by the Bahá'í faith whilst developing the Esperanto language? After all, his daughter Lidia Zamenhof later became a member of the Bahá'í faith.

Baha'ullah himself names three languages that could work as that one unifying language, and Esperanto is one of them, along with English and Arabic. Today however mainly Persian and English is used as a means of communication on a wider basis among the Bahá'í followers.

Zamenhof wrote a poem called "La Espero" (The Hope), and it is today often referred to as the anthem of Esperanto. A verse from it leads:

Sur neŭtrala lingva fundamento, ---On a neutral language basis,
komprenante unu la alian, ---understanding one another.
la popoloj faros en konsento ---the people will make in agreement
unu grandan rondon familian. ---one great family circle.

It is interesting, this idea of one language unifying the world. One could argue that English already works as such a language, being very often taught as a second language at schools all over the world.

When it comes to Arabic, it can't be equated to the standing of English in terms of being a language that has the same demographic stretch. Yet, on the other hand, many Arabic terms that were derived from the religious connotations that they held, such as alhamdolillah, insha'Allah and masha'Allah, are used from Bosnia to China to Mexico and Kenya, by Muslims (practicing or non practicing), and native Arabic speakers of whatever ideological affiliation.

This function of Arabic (for more than a billion people), is something that is unprecedented, linguistically, anywhere in the world even though many might argue that English has achieved a similar function. The Bahá'í followers however, are yet to announce the unifying language of their choice that will work as the second language of the world however I have my bets on Esperanto.

For those of you who wish to see the language used in an everyday fashion, there is an interesting blog by an Arab Emirati called Samawel, who learnt the language by studying it online.


BuJ said...

wow.. very interesting.. bas i don't understand why Samawel is described as an Arab Emirati.. surely either Arab or Emirati will do.. after all it's the United Arab Emirates :)

anyway.. it's an interesting language.. i never knew of this connection or projected connection.. but i am fascinated by Espiranto. I first heard about it from a geek from work, but later upon reading Samawel.. I started to take it seriously.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Na3m Buj you are correct. Either would have been fine by itself, Arab or Emirati, but there you have it. Nothing ill intended either way.

BuJ said...

i'm not complaining.. bas the window in which i am typing says "comment" :)

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

lol! tayyeb sho olt ana?

Samawel said...

Either is fine... But as my blog's title says: Freneza Arabulo... Crazy Arab... Yep, I only learnt so much about the Baha'i faith through Esperanto.

Another issue, a lot of Esperantists take an anational point of view--that is, they don't consider nationalism as a great way to do politics. (Yep, that's a bit of me in there.)

Well, I don't know much about how Baha'i influenced the creation of Esperanto. I do know that Zamenhof lived in Bialystok (probably another name, nowadays) Where Poles, Russians, Germans and Jews lived. And there was a lot of tension between the ethnic groups, particularly because of the language difference --at least in Zamehof's point of view. That's what got him to think, One Neutral Language would do.

After leading the Esperantists around the world for a while, Zamenhof stood down.. Some say because he didn't want anti-Semitic sentiment to destroy the language.

In fact, some people I know, with a bit of anti-semitism in them have this amusing distrust of Esperanto.. It's always a lot of fun to mix some Esperanto words into the discussion and saying that I can't really explain it... "It's hard to translate." Hehe. If you ever do learn Esperanto (16 rules only, honestly!) try it on some people who know Zamenhof was a Jew and hate that thought. :)

Yeah, so there's a bit of things to think about.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Welcome Samawel :)
And thank you for the valuable insight. And you can be sure I will be thinking about it! lol

It is very interesting though, the situation Zamenhof found himself in and what an original way to solve the problem he felt was at hand.

Language is a uniting factor, but I wonder still if it is enough or even half the key to open the door to understanding.

BuJ said...

it's all good SS.. :)

samawel.. interesting info.. i never knew ur blog had the word "Crazy" in its title :)
i wasn't aware either of the Jewish connection there is with the language.. oh and by the way I changed it from Es to Eo :)

Farrukh said...

Had seen some passing references to this language Shaykha, but after your post, I am getting interested in it.

copywriter, journalist, etc

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

I am glad it awoke your interest farrukh :) that is the aim of my posts, in general lol

BuJ said...


what exactly does a copywriter do?