Laleh Bakhtiar is the co-author of A Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture and author of Sufi Expressions of the Mystic Quest, God’s Will Be Done: Traditional Psychoethics and Personality Paradigm (three volumes), and fifteen other books on Islam. She has translated over thirty books on the Islamic movement into English and is the first American woman to translate the Quran. She travels around the world giving lectures on Muslim women’s rights. She is a leading authority on the Sufi origins of the enneagram and the psychology of spiritual chivalry—futuwwa and javanmardi. She directs her work towards Muslim women and youth. She currently is the director of the Institute of Traditional Psychology and an in-house scholar at KAZI Publications. She has taught Islam at the University of Chicago, has an online learning program at www.sufienneagram.com, and is a nationally certified counselor and Licensed Professional Psychotherapist in the State of Illinois. She earned a doctorate in educational psychology, two master’s degrees in counseling psychology and philosophy, and a bachelor’s degree in history.
Q. If you received $100,000, how would you spend it?
If God blessed me with this money, I would work on translating the Quran into different languages because it’s important for Muslims to understand that verse 4:34 does not say that husbands can beat their wives. I have had many discussions with Islamic scholars and none of them have been able to refute my argument. It is based on sound criteria I’ve developed. Since many in the Muslim world cannot read or write, I would create a CD or DVD of the translation that could be listened to and recited by both women and men. I would give these recordings away for free so that Muslim women could learn about the real meaning of this verse and others. This knowledge would help them gain consciousness of the word of God in the Quran.
Q. How can we in America best foster peace with Iran?
If we believe in democracy and peace (not that we always live up to this standard), then we should support the media in reporting what’s going on in Iran. Young Iranians, who make up over fifty percent of the population, are trying to establish democracy. We should not interfere with this process because that gives ammunition to the other side. However, our media can help us better understand Iranian culture. As Dr. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner points out, there are many different kinds of Iranians, each with a unique religion and way of life. So the Iranian people are not monolithically bad or good. We need to understand this and support those Iranians who speak out against injustice, even those from the other side.
For example, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a popular figure in the West because he says very disturbing things like, “The Holocaust is a myth.” However, what he says about the Palestinian plight is basically true. So here is a case in which someone from the other side is saying something true. In this instance, we should support him in gaining justice for the Palestinians.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.