What follows is a provisional translation (in other words, not official or authorized; see here for more) of a talk that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave in Budapest to the Turanian Society on 14 April 1913. A transcript of the original Persian text of this talk has been published in Khiṭábát-i-Ḥaḍrat-i-‘Abdu’l-Bahá, vol. 3, pp. 95–100, where it is erroneously noted as having been given on 15 April 1913 (two members of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s retinue at this time, Mirza Mahmud Zarqani and Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, both give the date as the 14th in their chronicles).
I have received confirmation from the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice (by way of the Department of the Secretariat, who sent me this letter on 3 January 2022) that a transcript of the talk itself, written in the hand of Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, is available in the Archives at the Bahá’í World Center, and that the text published in Khiṭábát, vol. 3, is an authentic record of the talk.
He is God
What a source of pride this is for humanity—that in Budapest, which is in the West, a society should be formed for the advancement and improvement of the condition of the Easterners. It can be likened to the birds of the Western meadow thinking of the nests of the Eastern birds. Hence, I thank God that I am present at such a gathering as this.
At one time, Túrán was the most prosperous of all nations. A large portion thereof is now under the control of the Russian government, and with the Russian railroad, that land can be crossed in the span of two days and two nights. Observe what a land this is! Its soil is potent to the utmost, its air is exquisite as can be, and it has many rivers. In former times, there were fourteen cities in that land, each of them comparable to Budapest or Paris. Among these were the cities of Nasaf, Termez, Nesa, Abivard, Gurgan, and Marv. All these lands flourished; all their villages were populous and their fields cultivated.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, civilization, science, industry, and commerce had progressed there to the utmost. Many Eastern writers came from that place. Now, however, it has become “a barren plain.” There is neither city nor town, neither lushness nor verdure. It is a desert which is home and haven to ferocious animals. All these ruins came about as a result of religious prejudices, as well as war and conflict between the Sunnís and Shí‘ihs. How grateful we must be that, in this city, a society has been convened for the advancement of the Turanians! There is no precedent for such a thing as this, that in Europe a society for the betterment of the condition of Asia should be formed. This is one of the wonders of this luminous age. Thus, I hope that complete success may be achieved and that great effects may be produced from the efforts of this society, that the mention of Budapest may endure eternally.
From the beginning of the world’s history till the present time, that which has conduced to reconstruction and progress have been love and fellowship among humanity. It is for harmony and unity that all the Prophets have appeared. It is for amity and oneness that all the heavenly scriptures have been revealed. All the philosophers have rendered service to mankind. The divine religions are the cause of fellowship and unity, inasmuch as the basis of all these religions is one. The foundations laid by Moses, Christ, and Muḥammad are all one and the same.
Every religion consists of two aspects. There is the fundamental aspect, which calls for service to the world of humanity and comprises the virtues of mankind. Included therein are the knowledge of God, divine philosophy, the oneness of the human race, spiritual developments, discovering the realities of things, and happiness and love among the human race. With regard to this aspect, there are no discrepancies; it consists [only] of the message of the religion of Moses, the basis of the teachings of Christ, and the root of the creed of Muḥammad.
As to the second aspect, which is peripheral and pertains to one’s dealings, this consists of subordinate matters which change according to the exigencies of time and place. For instance, in the time of Moses, the Israelites had no prison in the desert. If a crime was committed, it was necessary to inflict a punishment. In accordance with the exigencies of that place, the hand [of a thief] would be cut off for stealing [the equivalent of] five francs. Similarly, it was the law of the Torah that if one blinded the eye of another, his own eye was to be blinded in return; if one broke another’s tooth, his own tooth would be broken in kind. Now in Europe today, is it possible to cut off a hand for stealing [even] a million [francs]?
Since these circumstances were no longer applicable to the time of Christ, this second aspect was changed. There are ten laws in the Torah that are punishable by death. Is it possible to carry them out today? It is for this reason that Christ abrogated these sorts of laws. In the time of Moses, divorce was acceptable, but in the time of Christ it became unacceptable; hence, a change occurred, and it was this new way that became applicable. The point is that the differences lie in the secondary matters, while the root and foundation of the divine religions is one. Accordingly, every Messenger has foretold the Prophet who will succeed Him, and every Prophet affirmed the Messenger who preceded Him. All the Prophets were at peace with one another; they had [only] love for each other. Why, then, should their followers dispute? In San Francisco, I gave a talk at a synagogue; I said to them [the Jews], “There is misunderstanding between you and the Christians, and as a result you have suffered for two thousand years. You imagine Christ to be the enemy of Moses, notwithstanding that Moses had no greater friend than Christ. Christ uplifted the name of Moses; He spread the Torah throughout the world; He brought fame to the Prophets of the house of Israel. Were it not for Christ, how would the Torah have been spread in Europe or disseminated in America? Thus, Christ was the Friend of Moses. Now the Christians say that Moses was a Prophet of God. What harm is there in that? You, too, [should] say that Christ was the Word of God, that this two-thousand-year-long dispute may come to an end. For two thousand years you have suffered all this pain because of this one statement. If you were to say only that much, that Christ is the Word of God, you would live in perfect peace and fellowship.”
Likewise, Christ is mentioned in the Qur’án with the utmost sanctity. I speak not of history, rather the explicit [text of the] Qur’án stating that Christ was the Word of God, Christ was the Spirit of God, Christ was of the Holy Spirit. There is a Súrih in the Qur’án devoted specifically to Mary, where it is said that she was always at the Holy of Holies and engaged in constant worship. Eventually, a banquet-table was sent down to her from heaven, and as soon as Christ was born, He spoke. Truly, in the Qur’án there are praises of Christ which are entirely absent from the Gospel.
It has been made clear, then, that the Prophets of God were at the utmost peace with one another and that the foundation of the divine religions is one. Each and every one of the Prophets acknowledged the holiness of the other. Given that this was their conduct, why should we be at odds? This despite the fact that, if we were to investigate the truth, we would see that the foundations laid by Moses, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muḥammad were all one, and that these differences [we see today] stem from blind imitations. It is these blind imitations which have caused conflict and contention, and resulted in bloodshed and murder. Therefore, we must dispense with these imitations. We must investigate the foundation of the divine religions so we may become united, and this bloodshed be turned into fellowship and love—so that these darknesses may be changed into light, the instruments of death into the means of life, and this ferocious bestiality into peaceful humanity.
When you consider history, you will see what quantities of blood have been shed in the world of man. Every span of the earth has been caked with human gore. Such savageries have taken place in the world of humanity as have never occurred in the animal kingdom, for every beast preys on one animal a day [for its sustenance], but a group of animals does not kill another group all of a sudden. They do not plunder each other’s possessions; they do not destroy each other’s dwellings; they do not take the children and family of others as their captives. A ruthless person, however, can kill and rob a hundred thousand people or subject them to captivity in a single day. The wars that have broken out among people, from the beginning of history to the present time, have always resulted from religious prejudice, racial prejudice, national prejudice, or political prejudice, and all of these prejudices are sheer illusion, inasmuch as the religions are the foundation of fellowship and love, all humanity is of one race and belongs to one family, and the earth is one country. Thus, these wars, these sheddings of blood, are all born of prejudice.
When the horizon of the East was dark, and the gloom of prejudice and strife enveloped all religions and kindreds, the peoples shunned one another; they would not associate with each other at all. It was at such a time as this that Bahá’u’lláh, even as a sun, rose above the horizon of the East.
First, He proclaimed the oneness of humanity—that all mankind are the divine flock, and God is the True Shepherd, kind unto all. Since He is kind to everyone, why should we be unkind?
Second, He promoted universal peace, writing to all the rulers of the earth that war is the destroyer of the foundation of God, and that anyone who destroys this foundation will be accountable to Him.
Third, religion must be the cause of love and fellowship. If religion conduces to conflict and enmity, it would certainly be better not to have it.
Fourth, religion must accord with science and sound reason. If it runs counter to these, it is superstition, for reality is [made evident through] science. If any matter of religion is contrary to science and reason, it is an illusion. True knowledge is light, and its opposite is necessarily darkness. Therefore, religion, science, and reason must all accord, and it follows that, because these blind imitations current among the peoples run counter to science and reason, they have given rise to dissension and vain imaginings. Hence, we must independently investigate the truth, arriving at the fact of every matter by weighing spiritual questions against science and reason. Were this to be done, all the religions would become a single creed, for the basis of them all is the truth, and the truth is one.
Fifth, He declared that religious and sectarian prejudice, national prejudice, racial prejudice, and political prejudice lay waste to the foundation of humanity, and He addressed the kindreds of the earth [with these words]: “O peoples of the world! Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
Sixth, He spoke of the equality of men and women. It is mentioned in the Torah that God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,” and in a certain tradition the Apostle [Muḥammad] stated, “God created Adam in His image.” What is meant by this image is the divine image, which is to say that the human being is the image of God and the embodiment of His attributes. God is alive; people are also alive. God is seeing; people are also seeing. God is hearing; people are also hearing. God is powerful; people are also powerful. Hence, the human being is the sign of God, the image and likeness of the divine. This applies to everyone; it is not confined to men and exclusive of women, since in the estimation of God there is no distinction between men and women. Whoever is more perfect is closer [to Him], be they man or woman. Until now, however, women have not been educated as men have. Were they to be educated in that way, they would become like men.
When we look at history, we see how many renowned people were women, whether in the realm of religion or that of politics. Where religion is concerned, a single woman saved the Israelites and brought about their victories. In the world of Christianity, Mary Magdalene caused the Apostles to remain firm. All the Apostles became distressed after [the crucifixion of] Jesus Christ, but Mary Magdalene continued to persevere like a lioness. In the time of Muḥammad, there were two women who were more knowledgeable than the other women, and they became the promoters of Islám. It has been made clear, then, that there are people of great renown among women, too.
With regard to the realm of politics, you have certainly heard the account of Zenobia of Palmyra, who shook the Roman Empire [to its foundations]. When it was time to move, she would don her crown, put on purple clothing, tousle her hair, take hold of her sword, and command in such a way as to crush the opposing army. Eventually, the emperor himself had no choice but to personally participate in the war. For two years, he laid siege to Palmyra, but ultimately he could not conquer it with his courage. When [her] provisions ran out, she surrendered. Observe how brave she was, that in the span of two years the emperor was not able to defeat her [in battle]! Similarly, you have heard the story of Cleopatra and others like her.
In the Bahá’í Cause, too, there was Qurratu’l-‘Ayn [Ṭáhirih]. Her verses and writings, eloquent and articulate to the utmost, are available today. Many eloquent ones of the East have praised her. So impressive was she that she would always be victorious in her debates with the ‘ulamá; they did not dare dispute with her. Since she was a promoter of this Cause, the government imprisoned and persecuted her, but this did not silence her in the least. While imprisoned, she would lift up her voice and guide the people. Eventually, she was condemned to death, but she, evincing the greatest possible courage, did not falter in the slightest. She was confined in the home of the mayor of the city; it so happened that a wedding was taking place there, and that various implements for merriment and music-making, eating and drinking, had all been prepared. Qurratu’l-‘Ayn, however, unloosed her tongue in such a way that those present set aside all these instruments of revelry and gathered around her. No one paid any attention to the wedding, and she was the only person speaking. Although the Sháh had condemned her to death, she, who in her entire life had not once adorned herself, did so on that day. All were bewildered; they said to her, “What are you doing?”, and she replied, “This is my wedding.” She went to that garden with consummate dignity and composure. Everyone said that they were going to kill her, but she continued to cry out just as she had before, declaring, “I am that trumpet-call mentioned in the Gospel!” It was in this state that she was martyred in that garden and cast into a well.
In short, there are many of these teachings, and the objective and foundation of all the divine religions is one: love and unity among the human race. In a similar vein, the philosophers and all the well-wishers of humanity have been the promoters of the oneness of mankind and universal peace. Thus, we must strive to spread this oneness and peace among all humanity.
 The published original literally reads, “Hence, we thank God that I am present at such a gathering as this,” but the usage of shukr míkuním (“we thank”) in the transcript, rather than shukr míkunam (“I thank”), might be a typographical error. Another possibility is that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was, in fact, referring to Himself in the first-person plural as is common even among today’s speakers of Persian.
 With regard to statements like this one—as well as another attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “The Túrán once had a high and most developed culture, but, alas, in the course of time it was destroyed by religious disharmony and conflicts” (Alice Schwarz-Solivo, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Budapest”)—György Lederer writes, “Everyone—including the [Hungarian] press—took this statement as a reference to what was then supposed to have been a former Turanian state. However, according to modern Hungarian scholarship, no such state has ever existed” (György Lederer, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Budapest,” published in Peter Smith (ed.), Bahá’ís in the West (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 2004), p. 113). In reality, Turan, now an obsolete term, is a historical region that roughly corresponds to present-day Central Asia.
 Now Qarshi, a city in present-day Uzbekistan.
 A city in present-day Uzbekistan. In the published original transcript of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk, this reads “Termed,” but given the orthographic similarity of the letters D and DH (the latter often here rendered with a Z, as here) in the Arabic script, this is probably an error.
 Probably a reference to what is known in the Turkmen language as “Nusaý Gala,” the ruins of the old Parthian capital near Ashgabat (‘Ishqábád) in present-day Turkmenistan. In the published original transcript of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk, this reads “Tesa” or “Tasa,” but given the orthographic similarity of the letters T and N in the Arabic script, this is probably an error. Another possibility is that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was referring to Tasa, an area in the historical region of Khurásán (not to be confused with today’s Iranian provinces by that name) which is mentioned by the geographer Yáqút al-Ḥamawí. For more, see S.L. Volin and V.V. Struve, Материалы по истории туркмен и Туркмении, том 1 (Materials on the History of Turkmens and Turkmenia, vol. 1), Moscow: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1938-1939. The present translator is grateful to Aleksey Sopyyev for sharing this information on both the ruins of Nusaý Gala and the region of Tasa.
 An ancient Sassanid city in present-day Turkmenistan, located two days’ journey from Nesa.
 Now Mary, a city in present-day Turkmenistan.
 Refer to notes from a talk given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Temple Emmanu-El in San Francisco on 12 October 1912, published in The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
 Probably a reference to Esther, who has been credited with saving the Jews of Persia in the fifth century BC. See Esther 8.
 The identities of these two women are not clear. Possible candidates include Fáṭimih, daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad; Khadíjih, a wife of the Prophet Muḥammad; ‘Á’isha bint Abú Bakr, a prolific narrator of ḥadíths and a muftia in Medina; and Umm Salama, also a prolific narrator of ḥadíths and a political advisor to the Prophet Muḥammad. Another possibility, to quote Ismael Velasco, is that “the mystery may in fact be the point. Naming the two remarkable women would have led to sectarian controversy and distraction, or silly debates as to why this one is more meritorious than that one, among extraordinary beings, and lose the primary point. Saying instead two women distinguished themselves as murrawwij [promoter] of the Islamic revelation, means that every reader, including us, instantly tries to think of outstanding women from the heroic age of Islam, likely coming up with more than two. The result of this rhetorical device is we are left, not just with two incredible women, but with many, and are primed or encouraged to think of the capacities and distinction of women in Islam more generally. Rather than arrive at the two women, perhaps the point is to realize that many more than two women fit the mark, and think of the implications for our approach to Islam, women and history, in that perspective” (private correspondence dated 7 September 2021, shared here with permission).
 In the published original transcript of this talk, Zenobia’s name has been erroneously transcribed as “Renobia.”
 Aurelian (r. 270–75 CE).
A typescript of the original Persian text of this talk appears below.