The Mobile Minaret movement aims to build mobile content to teach and to promote Quranic critical thinking.
We Need You
The word minaret means “lighthouse.” The Mobile Minaret moves the minaret from its time based architectural structure to the open mobile space teaching Muslims throughout the world to awaken, to become active Quranic thinkers! It is not our faith that has been seized, but the radical interpretation of the Quran.
Forced into being passive Quranic thinkers, we no longer interact with it. We memorize it and hear its beautiful recitation without knowing how it teaches us to think. Over one-sixth of the verses or signs (ayat) are questions. How many of us stop and reflect on its questions? How many of the “Say” (qul) verses can we recite? How many of the “Say” verses do we follow?
Critical thinking is known as discernment (furqan) in the Quran. Quranic thinking becomes critical when it evaluates the reasoning of a verse or sign (ayah): Such evaluation must, however, as Islamic scholar, Mohammad Hashim Kamali points out, “be carried forth in a constructive manner. The purpose of critical thinking is to achieve understanding, evaluate viewpoints, ask questions and solve problems. In general, our thinking is likely to become critical when concrete learning experiences precede abstract thought, that is, when there is thinking wedded with wisdom (hikmah).”
We best develop Quranic critical thinking skills through dialogical learning, learning that takes place through dialogue with others or with our “self.” Through dialogue with the Quranic text with neighbors, with classmates, with a teacher or mentor, through a Facebook page, through a Twitter message or SMS text message, our goal is to achieve a genuine sense of justice and fair-mindedness, actively bridging any gap that may be present between our beliefs and our practice.
The Mobile Minaret Quranic critical thinking platform can be a game changer in the quest for us to become active thinkers. It can pave the way for us in our quest for Quranic critical thinking. We will be able to free our faith from being held hostage in a puritanical, literalist view.
The Mobile Minaret, with a profound message at its core, is vital to counter what is currently dominant in cyberspace on the Quran. It is best suited to carry the message of understanding HOW the Quran itself teaches critical thinking and we need your help to do it.
About Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar
My journey to Islamic scholarship
I grew up in the 1950s at the edge of the district line in Washington D.C mostly curled up reading books like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Jo’s Boys. My mother, Helen Jeffreys, struggled to give all six of my siblings and I the time and attention we demanded while also making a living as a single parent. So she decided to send my two brothers and I to Catholic school. The nuns gave us some much-needed discipline. These early Christian roots helped nurture a profound closeness with God that I carry with me to this day.
A few years later, Holton Arms provided me with the basis for critical thinking. It was there that I developed my self-esteem playing sports, excelling in academics and learning to be “lady-like” among Washington debutantes. I had this deep sense of morality that must have come across because the yearbook committee chose this quote to describe me: “his horse on high, his flag unfurled, he rode away to right the world.” It seemed as if I had something in common with St. George.
But high school was also the time I moved from Catholicism towards my Iranian and Islamic heritage. In 1957, on a trip back to Iran to see my father, a tribal elder chose a Persian name for me—so Mary Nell became Laleh— or the wild, red poppy—in Persian. From there, I became fascinated with Islam, the religion of my father.
Years later, in the early 1970’s I came to know the great poet Rumi for the first time. I found myself sympathetic to his message of universal love. The teachings of Rumi brought me closer to the concept of spiritual chivalry and moral goodness. While we have seen that God has given each individual human being the tools within to be able to move towards moral goodness on their own, we know that for some people, the journey is made much shorter with the presence of a guide to walk them through critical thinking.
Eventually, under the mentorship of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, I would study Sufism, the mystical dimension of this uncompromising belief in the Oneness of God, which speaks of the journey from outer to inner oneness. The intellectual test came for me when I was asked by Thames and Hudson Publishers in London to write an introductory work on Sufism. I called it SUFI Expressions of the Mystic Quest and used art forms to describe the Sufi journey to God, in God, through God.
I have written twenty-books to date as the Resident Scholar at Kazi Publications in Chicago including works on Islamic Psychology, Law, Natural Medicine and the Sufi Enneagram. Most recent works include The Chronological Quran as Revealed to Prophet Muhammad and The Quranic Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. The English translation I did of the Quran, The Sublime Quran, was the first critical translation of the Quran by a woman. My latest book is a Teacher’s Manual called Critical Thinking: Quranic Perspective.
My journey in Islam has been the richest part of my life. In 2016, as I continue searching for moral goodness, I can say with conviction that the Islam I believe in, is a religion of peace, fully compliant with western principles of morality.
H.R.H. Prince Ghazi
On Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s interpretation of the Holy Qur’an (‘The Sublime Qur’an’)
Those who read ‘translations’ of the Qur’an—and there are no completely accurate ‘translations’ of the Qur’an in English and only a few adequate ones (these being arguably Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s; Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall’s [including the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute’s reworking of it]; and the new ‘Study Qur’an translation’; Laleh Bakhtiar’s ‘translation’ is arguably the most internally consistent)—are not reading the Qur’an, but rather mere subjective individual interpretations of it: the Qur’an is God’s Word in its Arabic form only.
The work Dr. Bakhtiar has put into her interpretation—the consistency, the method, the attention to tense, root, case and detail—is second to none. I have never seen its like before. The English reading of it is also lovely and smooth. This is clearly a blessing God has blessed her with, ma sha Allah.
H.R.H. Prince Ghazi
REZA ASLAN: January 4, 2010
Nice to hear from you. I am quite a fan of your mother and routinely talk about her Quran translation in my speeches and in my classes. Here's a quote for you: "For 14 centuries the translation and interpretation of the Quran has been the sole purview of men. Only men have been empowered to define the meaning and message of the Quran, and it is no coincidence that their interpretation has often been misogynist or worse. Your incredible achievement has changed all that. For the first time a woman has been able to reengage the scripture from a different point of view, thus producing a gender neutral translation that is far more consistent with the message and spirit of the Quran than any previous translation. " REZA ASLAN
SHAIDA KHAN: January 7, 2010 Executive Director of the Domestic Harmony Foundation, a non-profit organization working against domestic violence within Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities (based in Long Island, NY) Thanks for being the keynote speaker at their Annual Fundraising Gala on April 17, 2010 in Long Island, NY www.dhfny.org
It was 2006 and I was at the WISE (Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity) conference in New York City amidst Muslim women of all nationalities, when I first heard about you and your pioneering work as a Muslim, as a Woman and as an American. You had done something not done before, which was to accurately and relevantly compile the interpretation of the Holy Quran with a non-chauvinistic approach. There are numerous reasons for the importance of your translation of the Holy Quran, the least of which is that her Sublime Quran provides a sensible and humanistic interpretation for the holy book. As the Executive Director of the Domestic Harmony Foundation, a non-profit organization working against domestic violence within Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities, this interpretation of yours is particularly significant. We are often faced with individuals who are victimized by their partners' usage of Quranic verses to further their abusive gains, citing the controversial verse 4:34. Her interpretation provides a more Islamic minded approach—that when all else fails, to “go away from” the wife should be the last resort, and not to hit. This meaning is particularly important in our field of work when the victims and the abusers need to be educated as to the real nature of Islamic teachings. Equally as important as your interpretation is the very fact that as a female scholar, you are considered a knowledgeable and meritorious persona in the annals of Islamic literature. You are an exemplary individual particularly for women who have been victimized by domestic violence, and also for all Muslim women to look up to.
JOHN ESPOSITO, January 3, 2010 Georgetown University Center for Muslim/Christian Understanding
I am very familiar with her writings and her recent translation of the Quran. Sublime Quran is a major translation that, in contrast to many other translations, in clear and direct language, effectively makes the message of the Quran accessible to English speaking audiences. It is one that I often recommend.
ASMA BARLAS, PHD - January 2, 2010 Ithaca College - Director Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity
As to my thoughts on the Sublime Quran, since I am not a scholar of Arabic, I can't talk about its linguistic accuracy, etc. However, what I think is significant about her translation is that it opens up new interpretive possibilities for Muslims. As I always point out, the Quran says that those who read it for its best meanings are the ones whom God has guided (39:18). This suggests that we can—and should—have more than one reading/ interpretation/ translation so that we can find the best among these. Of course, notions of “best” are likely to differ over time but that is to be expected. Besides, what makes the Quran a universal text, by which I mean a text that is always integral to our lives, no matter the age in which we live, is that each generation can continue to find new meanings in it. In contributing to that endeavor, She has opened new doors for Muslims; whether someone wants to walk through these or not is, naturally, up to them.
DAVE EGGERS - American Novelist on Oprah.com
MARCIA HERMANSEN - Director of the Islamic World Studies Program and Professor in the Theology Department at Loyola University Chicago
One of things that strikes me about the translation is how its reception in the "mainstream" Muslim community—at least in North America, made it less acceptable or even unacceptable for Muslim community leaders to simply repeat misogynistic interpretations. I refer specifically to the ISNA representative in Canada who wanted to ban the book—and the response from US leadership that ISNA supports women's rights and allows expression of a variety of opinions on Islam. It is clear that this pioneering project opened up conversations about gender relations in the community that needed to take place, and provoked a productive re-examination of assumptions about interpretation and authority.
YORIYOS - son of Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)
We love and appreciate the work you have done and continues to do, Alhamdullilah. "MashAllah, Thank you for your work Laleh. My father (Yusuf Islam) and I have been reading your books in admiration. We champion you and pray you are eternally blessed. With Peace and Much Respect Yoriyos"
SCOTT ALEXANDER, Ph.D. Director, Catholic-Muslim Studies Chair, Department of Intercultural Studies and Ministry Catholic Theological Union
It is an honor to be asked to comment on your contributions to scholarship on Islam. Here's what I can say: You are an extraordinary woman. Although, to the best of my knowledge, you have never held a position in Islamic studies at any college of university in the U.S., your contributions to the study of Islam in the West have been in a stunning array of different of capacities and have resulted in a legacy that is truly monumental.
As an author, you have written a number of books that stand as landmarks in the writings of Sufi masters and especially Sufi women in the late twentieth and early twenty-first/early fifteenth centuries. Perhaps most significant among these are your pioneering work on the "spiritual chivalry" as Sufi "psychoethics" in The Moral Healer's Handbook and its sequel, as well as her spiritual biographies of Sufi women in America (Angels in the Making).
In these books, you present some of the most important elements of classical Sufi teaching into within the framework of modern spiritual psychology, along what might be described as a neo-Jungian trajectory. As a translator, you have helped put many classical Arabic and Persian texts within the reach of non-specialists.
Your most important effort in this regard has been your translation of the Qur'an. In you we have a translator whose faith in the revelatory power of the Quranic corpus is so deep that you approach the text as living, divine word that speaks as vibrantly to those who receive it in the present as it did to those who first heard it in the early seventh-century Hijaz.
Consequently, you are not afraid to make bold moves in your translation--moves which roots as deeply in the breadth of historical Muslim scholarship as you do in your own experience as a modern Muslim woman striving tirelessly to live a life shaped by, and in profound dialogue with, the Quranic word.
One may not always agree with each and every one of your translational decisions, but in almost every case one cannot help but admire the spirit of wise ijtihad that undergirds the entire project.
As an editor, you--along with your teacher and mentor, Dr. Sayyid Hossein Nasr--have been the driving force and guiding hand of the Great Books of the Islamic World series, establishing Kazi publications as one of the world's premier publishers of Islamic classics in English. Countless undergraduate and graduate students in Islamic studies programs throughout the English-speaking world have gained access to the work of such seminal medieval Muslim thinkers as Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali because of the prodigious output of the Great Books of the Islamic World series.
In sum, let me say that I count myself among literally thousands of students of Islam who owe a profound debt of gratitude to you for all you have done for the field of Islamic studies. In fact, I would dare say that your contributions to the study of Islam—and especially Sufism—in the West are in a class with those of my own beloved teacher, may God sanctify her secret, Prof. Annemarie Schimmel.