ISNA President’s message of support

In an article in the Toronto Star on Oct. 21, a leading Islamic figure said he was considering banning Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s translation of the Quran. As a result of that statement, ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America through it’s President Ingrid Mattson, issued a statement supporting Dr. Bakhtiar’s translation:

October 24, 2007: The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has asked ISNA Canada Secretary General to retract his statement that he would consider “banning” Laleh Bakhtiar’s translation of the meaning of the Qur’an and his questioning of Bakhtiar’s authority to undertake such a translation.

ISNA is an umbrella organization that strives to represent the diversity of North American Islam. ISNA has long recognized the validity of different schools of Islamic thought, theology and doctrine. We have affirmed this recognition as an original signatory of the “Amman Message” ( and by offering the platform of our conferences and conventions open to representatives of our diverse community. We do not recognize any particular scholar, school of thought or institution as necessarily authoritative for all Muslims. Further, we support the right of scholarly inquiry and intellectual discussion on issues related to Islam.

ISNA supports and encourages honest debate and scholarship on issues affecting the Muslim community. In particular, we have long been concerned with the misuse of Islam to justify injustice towards women. ISNA held its first domestic violence conference over ten years ago, and has since that time, has held numerous training and education seminars to promote domestic harmony and prevent violence against women.

It should be noted, in fact, that Bakhtiar’s interpretation of Qur’anic verse 4:34 is not new, although we do not deny that she arrived at her position independently. A similar interpretation was offered by Dr Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman, Rector of the International Islamic University of Malaysia, in a 2003 special edition of “Islamic Horizons,” ISNA’s flagship publication. It is unfortunate that many Muslims are unaware of the depth and sophistication of Qur’anic exegesis. ISNA is committed to rectifying this lack of knowledge and expects our administrators to promote ISNA’s values and mission.

Read the Press Release on the ISNA website

4 Responses to “ISNA President’s message of support”

  1. Ahmad Abdul-Awwal Says:

    Salaamun Alaykum:
    I am pleased to see your support of Dr. Bakhtiar’s Sublime Quran. After reading excerpts from the English Edition I am eagerly awaiting the Arabic-English Edition, intend to purchase it as well as Dr. Bakhtiar’s Concordance. For too long my brothers and sisters have had their heads in the sand, have blindly followed persons with narrow-minded mentalities, and have suffered intellectually because of this posture. Additionally, I question the authority of this “leading Islamic figure” who proposes banning our sisters’ work. If this person were intellectually capable of being a “leading Islamic figure” then they would be supportive of Dr. Bakhtiar’s efforts in the path of Allaah and Al Islaam. Al Islaam should be producing great minds, great thinkers, and groundbreakers, in all arrears of positive human endeavors, rather than stifling them.
    Ahmad Abdul-Awwal

  2. Lori Says:


  3. Ustadtha Says:

    I have been studying and reading the Quran for over 15 years. As I am non-Arabic speaking Muslimah, I have had to rely on the various English translations. Every verse in the Quran rang true in my heart and through my personal experiences except when I came to verse 4:34. It was as if someone place a big rock in the middle of a smooth and even path. The translation of “beat them” is completely out of place from what the rest of the Quran instructs about fairness, justice and love and what I knew of beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) through his Seerah. It was also out of place from the verses themselves. Allah says to men that you are the protectors and maintainers of women, and then follows it by saying it’s okay to beat them. And after having beaten them, then you should find arbitrators to make amends between the two quarreling parties. Even Caliph Umar (ra) said who can be worse than someone who strikes a woman, while he was himself a person who was very strict with his people. Dr. Bakhtiar, thank you for taking away this big rock that had always been an obstacle to my belief in the sublimeness of the Quran.

  4. Lejla Says:

    I cannot agree more with Ustadtha’s statement! Even though I am born and raised in a Muslim family, Arabic not being my mother tongue, I had to rely on different translations. In the beginning, whenever I read the ayah authorizing husbands to beat their wives I felt humiliated and sad in a strange way. Moreover, I even feared that someone who is not a Muslim might ask me to explain to him or her how this injuction should be in concordance with the Qur’anic message of peace, tolerance and justice. Allah forbids force and violence when it comes to a person’s faith (deen) and, on the other hand, gives husbands the right to use violence and force against their wives if those should show signs of disobedience to them! For me it was a huge riddle and a deep contradiction. Eventually, as I got older I began to sense that there was something wrong with the translation of this ayah. I simply knew that sooner or later I will find some explanation to it. And I did! I investigated, read different interpretations, discussed the issue with my fellow-Muslims, asked Muslim scholars and finally came to the conslusion that “daraba” in this instance has to mean something else than “beat”. Lelah Bakhtiar’s rendering does not only make more sense in terms of the Qur’anic exegesis and the sunnah of our beloved Prophet, pbuh, it is also more logical in terms of sociology and psychology. As Amina Wadud points out in her book Inside the Gender Jihad, violence in family most often comes as the first, impulsive, uncontrolled act of rage on behalf of one member and almost never as a final step after calm and sensible verbal warnings and practical steps to solve a crisis.