Biography of Laleh Bakhtiar, Ph.D.

As I am unlettered, so to speak, in modern Arabic, I relied upon my many years of
tutoring in classical Quranic Arabic grammar. It was at that time that I had become
familiar with the al-Mu jim al-mufahris: al-lafad al-quran al-karim (Arabic
Concordance). The Arabic Concordance lists every Arabic root and its derivative(s)
found in the Quran as verbs, nouns and some particles (adverbs, prepositions,
conjunctions or interjections). Each time a specific word appears, the relevant part of the
verse containing that word is quoted with reference to Chapter and Sign (verse). They are
listed under their three-letter or four-letter roots. I transliterated the words according to
the system of transliteration developed by the American Library Association/ Library of
Congress 1997 Romanization Tables in preparing an accompanying Concordance. I then
found a viable English equivalent that I would not repeat for another Arabic word. I
found that there are 3600+ different Arabic verbs and nouns, excluding most
prepositions, that appear at least one time in the Quran. Only in some 50+ cases was it
necessary to use the same English word twice for two different Arabic words. For
example, there are two different Arabic words for parents, or the number “three,” or the
word “year,” and three for the word “time.”

At this point I should say that there will be those who see me as a person having a
particular Muslim point of view. Let me assure the reader that I am most certainly a
Muslim woman. I have been schooled in Sufism which includes both the Jafari (Shia) and
Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafii (Sunni) points of view. As an adult, I lived nine years
in a Jafari community in Iran and have been living in a Hanafi community in Chicago for
the past fifteen years with Maliki and Shafii friends. While I understand the positions of
each group, I do not represent any specific one as I find living in America makes it
difficult enough to be a Muslim, much less to choose to follow one sect or another.
However in this translation I have not added any indication of differences in
interpretation between the sects so that it does represent the majority view. At the same
time, I have chosen to continuously engage in the greater struggle of self-improvement.
This is the beginning stage of the Sufi path and I cannot even claim that I have moved
beyond that. God knows best.

I grew up in the United States with a single parent, a Christian, American mother.
My father, an Iranian, lived in Iran. I was an adult before I came to know him. He was
not religious, but spiritual, devoting his life as a physician to help to heal the suffering of

My mother was not a Catholic, but she sent me to a Catholic school. At the age of
eight I wanted to become a Catholic, to which she had no objection. When I was twenty-
four, I went to Iran for the first time as an adult, not speaking a word of Persian, with my
former husband and our children. I began taking classes taught in English at Tehran
University. The classes on Islamic culture and civilization were being taught by Seyyed
Hossein Nasr. One day he asked me what religion I followed, and I said that I had been
brought up as a Christian. He said: Well, now that you are in Iran and your father is
Muslim, everyone will expect you to be Muslim. I said: I don’t know anything about
Islam. He said: Well, learn! And that was the beginning of my journey culminating in this

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Laleh Bakhtiar’s books