Letter to the Distributor of Laleh Bakhtiar's Translation of the Holy Qur'an By Zahir Ebrahim

To: Kazi Publishers and Distributors Chicago info@kazi.org
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
Subject: Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran By Zahir Ebrahim
Date: Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Dear Kazi Publishers,
Assalaam Alekum. Ramadan Mubarak.
I noted that you are featuring the beautiful cover of The Sublime Quran on the front page of your website and you are also listed as Distributors on its copyright page. Therefore, I would like to draw your kind attention to my detailed critique of the translation. Its URL for online and PDF are listed below. The critique was sent to Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar and an excerpt of the critique is reproduced below. It was also shared with many Muslim mosque boards and Muslim organizations with an introduction letter prefacing it which is what I am sending you. Thank you for your time. Zahir Ebrahim. California
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org <humanbeingsfirst@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 5:39 PM
Subject: Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran By Zahir Ebrahim
To: Muslim mosque boards, Muslim organizations, and Muslim friends and colleagues
AsSalaam O Alekum.
I have written a very detailed critique of an English translation of the Holy Quran called The Sublime Quran using my standard for evaluation, inter alia, Surah Al-Asr.
This English translation is written by a very famous American Muslim woman scholar who has translated dozens of inaccessible Eastern Muslim scholarship into English, including from Farsi, some of which I have greatly benefited from myself. Her name is Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar and she is (or was) a protégé of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor, The George Washington University, when Nasr was teaching at Tehran University in 1964.
If you are into reading books, or browsing books in your mosque book store, you would be quite familiar with the name Laleh Bakhtiar. That is what first prompted me to pick up her translation of the Holy Qur'an in my local bookstore just a few days ago as I went to purchase a copy to read and study during this blessed month of Ramadan. The Preface of her translation fascinated me, so instead of purchasing what I intended to purchase, a big print copy of Shakir's translation which I find easiest to read in English, I purchased her's. I brought it home and said to myself, let me see how she has translated Surah Asr, my favorite Surah, before I spend my time reading the rest.
And that's when I immediately wrote her my first inquiry letter. She graciously replied the very next day. And that has led to this 36 page critique which I wrote between the 4th of Ramadan and today, the 8th of Ramadan, August 8, 2011. I am only copying the beginning excerpt from the letter I sent to Laleh Bakhtiar containing my critique. If you are interested in perceptively understanding how religion and empire politically intersect, why we are suddenly seeing new translations of the Holy Quran in English by people not fully equipped to undertake such a momentous burden, why we have the "reform Islam" mantra being taken up from Left to Right by even pious holy men and holy women to complement no-religion friends like Pervez Hoodbhoy, Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis, et. al., then you might click on the Read more link below. You will surely not be disappointed at the heavy overdose of intellectual vitamins it shall offer you for reflection. To swallow or not is as always, your own choice.
Thank you for your time, with best wishes, Zahir Ebrahim
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org <humanbeingsfirst@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 4:30 PM
Subject: Your translation of verse 103:3 عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ in The Sublime Quran
To: Laleh Bakhtiar laleh@bakhtiar.org
Cc: Seyyed Hossein Nasr University Professor The George Washington University msirat@gwu.edu

Kazi Publisher's Reply
To: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org humanbeingsfirst@gmail.com
From: Kazi Publications info@kazi.org
Subject: Re: Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran By Zahir Ebrahim
Date: Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 5:20 AM
Alaykum salam.
Ramadan mubarak to you and your family as well.
Thank you for your email. I will respond once I have a chance to go through it.
Liaquat Ali

Zahir's Response
To: Kazi Publications info@kazi.org
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
Subject: Re: Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran By Zahir Ebrahim
Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM
To: Kazi Publications
Dear Mr. Liaqat Ali, Manager,
Assalaam Alekum. Thank you for your quick reply and good wishes. Once again same to you and your family. I look forward to: “I will respond once I have a chance to go through it.”
By way of this letter I would just like to take the time to advise Kazi Publications, the distributor of Laleh Bakhtiar's The Sublime Quran, of the fact that I returned my purchase of the same to the bookstore (Barnes and Noble). The reason for this return is stated in the Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran : “I plan to return the 6th Edition, 2009 I purchased back to the bookstore as a totally unsatisfactory product.”
Below are some comments on what I discovered browsing your excellent website in relation to this subject.
I found it revealing that kazi.org has featured this translation of the Holy Quran on its front page with glowing recommendations from reviewers none of whom appear to be Muslim scholars of the religion of Islam. The fact that the only named review Kazi publications could put up for this translation of the Holy Quran, Product ID: 3288, is by this academic: William O. Beeman, Professor and Chair of Anthropology and specialist in Middle East Studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota, formerly of Brown University ---- is telling. [ William O. Beeman's own description of his erudite qualifications to judge an English translation of the Holy Qur'an is revealing: “I am a specialist in Middle East Studies, Japanese Studies, Central Asian Studies, linguistics, performance studies, and I am also a professional opera singer.” ]
I am actually not surprised that no well known Muslim scholar of the religion of Islam in the West or the East could be found to write a positive review good enough to sell this book by its own distributor.
In fact, the omission of any endorsement from the most famous person that Laleh Bakhtiar cites and credits for getting her started on the path to Islam back in Tehran in 1964, S. H. Nasr, speaks volumes.
She draws association to this most prominent and respected scholar of Islam continually, including in the Preface “Seyyed Hossein Nasr for his spiritual presence in the life of this translator”. His name is even mentioned in the very second sentence of her wikipedia entry: “Born to an American mother and Iranian father in New York, Bakhtiar grew up in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as a Catholic. At the age of 24, moved to Iran with her Iranian husband, an architect, and their three children, where she began to study Islam under her teacher and mentor, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr at Tehran University, studying Quranic Arabic, eventually converting in 1964.”
Having such a distinguished scholar as “teacher and mentor” surely must be Allah's great blessing. One should feel honored to mention their teacher. But the innocent public name dropping also sets public expectations. And we see that even though the same "teacher and mentor" who is Alhamdolillah still living, teaching, mentoring, as University Professor at The George Washington University ( http://www.gwu.edu/~religion/faculty/index.cfm#nasr ), does not seem to have his review posted on kazi.org. A pretty strong indictment I should say, if silence itself is permitted to speak.
There are at least 41 English Translations of the Holy Quran which I can list, not counting all the new ones being introduced in America to “bring reform to Islam”. That is Laleh Bakhtiar's own quote from her interview with Salem News. Some of these translations are quite inimical to Islam, like Sale's – I am sure he also wanted to “bring reform to Islam”. And some just incredible enduring works of service to all mankind, like Shakir's and Yusuf Ali's. No Muslim ever reads Sale's translation to inform themselves of what's in the Arabic Holy Qur'an, for if they have any knowledge of imperialism, they well understand its “orientalism”. I should say that Laleh Bakhtiar's translation reeks of “occidentosis”.
If that new English word sounds unfamiliar, one can gain familiarity with it by reading the book: “Occidentosis – A Plague From The West By JALAL AL-I AHMAD” [ PDF ], Translated by R Campbell, Introduction by Hamid Algar, written 1961 in Iran and banned until published after the Iranian Revolution. Mizan Press 1984. Evidently, a majority of Iranians in Iran have inoculated themselves well against this infestation of the mind which once plagued their entire society before the Iranian Revolution. Today, its few mutated strains sadly still continue to infect many of Iranian heritage living in Diaspora.
The very first introductory statement for The Sublime Quran, Product ID: 4607, carried on the very front page of kazi.org reads : “Laleh Bakhtiar This is the first edition of the Quran translated by an American woman. This modern, inclusive translation refutes past translations that have been used to justify violence against women.” I am not sure who has the capacity to evaluate reviewer comments at Kazi.org, no name is mentioned under that review, but it is an ignorant lede statement. The Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran goes into the specifics of why it is ignorant. And my new article: Hijacking the word 'Islam' for Mantra Creation situates that calculated ignorance in the global context in which the war on terror is being fought, Muslims maligned, and Islamophobia spread, precisely to demand “bring reform to Islam”.
With continued best wishes for this blessed month of Ramadan,
Zahir Ebrahim
Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

Zahir's Followup Letter
To: Kazi Publications info@kazi.org
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst.org
Subject: Re: Critique: Laleh Bakhtiar and The Sublime Quran By Zahir Ebrahim
Date: Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 1:19 AM
Dear Kazi Publishers, Mr. Liaqat Ali,
Assalaam Alekum. Eid Mubarak,
This is regarding your featuring The Sublime Quran as a bookseller and distributor. I just wanted to let you know that I sent multiple letters to various Muslim scholars to review Laleh Bakhtiar's The Sublime Quran. It is unsurprising that none have responded thus far. You may find these letters here:
My previous letter to you concerning the absence of Muslim Qur'anic scholar reviewers on your own website is here:
Just for completeness, my two cents worth of critique is here:
And the political science which contains both Laleh Bakhtiar's translation of the Holy Qur'an, as well as her gratuitous mantra of “bring reform to Islam” in synchronicity with the rise of Islamophobia and neo-cons calls for "moderate Islam", is here:
The latest two reports on the rise of Islamophobia in America, from CAIR, and from Americanprogress, both play in the same cesspool of political science and this can be gleaned respectively in the following two letters to them:
And like yours, their only response to challenge is silence. Islam is big business in America and salesmen and scholars alike peddle in its wares.
This is my last self-initiated correspondence to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to write.
Best wishes,
Zahir Ebrahim
Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

Link fix November 11, 2016

Letter to the Distributor of Laleh Bakhtiar's Translation of the Holy Qur'an By Zahir Ebrahim