Translator of The Sublime Quran, and WISE Shura Council Member
Hijri 1357-Present (AH);
Common Era 1938-Present (CE)
Born to an American mother from Idaho and Iranian father in Tehran, Iran in 1938, Bakhtiar grew up in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. as a Catholic with her American mother. At the age of 19 she met Seyyed Hossein Nasr in Boston who told her that people would expect her to be a Muslim since her father was a Muslim. She said that having grown up in America she knew nothing about Islam. He said in a commanding voice: Well, learn. This was when her journey began. At the age of 24, she moved to Iran with her Iranian husband, an architect. She has three children and eight grandchildren. She began graduate work at Tehran University studying Quranic Arabic, Persian and Sufism. Divorced in 1976 while still living in Iran, she returned to the U.S. in 1988. She holds a BA in History, an MA in Philosophy, an MA in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Educational Foundations. She is also a Licensed Psychotherapist and Nationally Certified Counselor. As of 2020 Bakhtiar lives in Chicago, where she is president of the Institute of Traditional Psychology and Scholar-in-Residence at Kazi Publications.
She has translated and written more than 150 books on Islam, particularly many aspects of the Quran including how the Quran teaches critical thinking, Quranic psychology, Quranic commentaries and Sufism. Her translation of the Quran, published in 2007 and called The Sublime Quran, is the first critical translation of the Quran into English by a woman. Laleh Bakhtiar's translation takes on previous translations in presenting alternative meanings to many Arabic terms.
Where the context allows, she translates kāfirūn as "those who are ungrateful" instead of the common translations "unbelievers" or "infidels." She also translates the Arabic word ḍaraba in Chapter 4, Verse 34, concerning treatment of a husband towards a rebellious wife, as "go away" instead of the common "beat" or "hit." The English words "God" and "Mary" are used instead of the Arabic Allāh and Maryam. Bakhtiar believes these translations will bring greater interfaith understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.