Abdu’l-Baha on the Influence of Education on Uncivilized Peoples

What follows is my provisional translation (in other words, not official or authorized; see here for more) of a passage from a Tablet of ʻAbduʼl-Bahá, addressed to a certain “Jináb-i-Salám” residing in China. The original text is published in Khiṭábát-i-Ḥaḍrat-i-ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, vol. 3, p. 48.

As certain passages from this Tablet have been presented both in isolation and in poor translation by those hostile to the Baháʼí Faith in an effort to stir up controversy, I felt it necessary to set the record straight by producing a more faithful translation of a larger selection from the Tablet that includes the proper context. 

Consider how the body of humankind becomes poisoned if it is deprived of an education, inasmuch as there is nothing whatsoever that distinguishes the wild peoples from the animals. For instance, what difference is there between the blacks of Africa and the blacks of America? The former are “bovines that God has made in the image of mankind,” while the latter are civilized, intelligent, and cultured. Even in the course of this journey [to the West], these blacks participated in extensive conversations in their gatherings, schools, and churches in Washington. They are like unto the intelligent ones of Europe, comprehending every point that is made. Apart from the matter of their education, what, then, is the difference between these two kinds of blacks? The one is sunk in the depths of ignorance; the other has reached the pinnacle of civilization. It is certain that education has led to the glory of the latter, while the lack thereof has resulted in the abasement of the former.

A typescript of the Persian text of this passage appears below.

… ملاحظه فرما که نوع بشر اگر از تربيت و تعليم محروم ماند جسم مسموم گردد چه که اقوام متوحّشه به هيچ وجه از حيوان امتيازی ندارند. مثلاً چه فرق است ميان سياهان افريک و سياهان آمريک؟ اين‌ها خلق اللّه البقر علی صورة البشرند آنان متمدّن و با هوش و فرهنگ حتّی در اين سفر در مجامع و مدارس و کنائس سياهان در واشنگتن صحبت‌های مفصّل شد مانند هوشمندان اروپ به تمام نکته‌ها پی می‌برند. پس چه فرق است ميان اين دو نوع سياه يکی در اسفل جهل و ديگری در اوج مدنيّت جز تربيت؟ يقين است تعليم و تربيت سبب عزّت آنان و عدم تربيت سبب ذلّت اينان می‌شود.