This is the very limited purpose of this book: not conversion, not polemics, but asimply deeper understanding of what Christians believe and how our religion leadsus to live. I would consider my efforts successful if this book might inspire otherMuslims and Christians to write their own works and explain their faith to each otherin a spirit of friendship. I certainly do not consider this little book to be “the lastword” on Christian faith and I, along with many other Christians, would welcomethe opportunity to learn more about Islam from Muslim friends who are committedbelievers.An oft-repeated saying holds: “the more thoroughly we understand the faith of another, the better we come to understand our own.” In my own life, this hascertainly been the case. I consider it to have been a great blessing from God that forthe past 30 years, I have lived among Muslims, have had the opportunity to study theQur’an and the works of the Islamic tradition, and have been able to spend manyhours discussing with Muslims questions of Christian and Islamic faith.B.
Introducing the author
At this point, I should introduce myself. I am a Catholic priest, originally from St.Louis, Missouri, in the U.S.A. As a priest, I do not have a wife or children. Myparents died some years ago, but I have a brother and two sisters, who are marriedand have children and grandchildren.In order to become a priest, I studied philosophy for four years and then Catholictheology for four years. The theology studies included the Bible; dogmatic theology,which is a systematic presentation of Catholic faith; moral theology or Christianethics; history of the Christian church; patristics, which is the study of the earlyChristian thinkers; and spiritual theology or the practice of trying to follow JesusChrist perfectly.After working for two years as a parish priest in America, I went to Indonesia toteach English in a teachers’ college. Many of my students were Muslims, andthrough them I became interested in learning more about Islam. Some Muslimstudents suggested that I do Islamic studies, so that as a teacher I could serve as abridge between the Christian and Muslim communities, helping Christians to knowmore about the faith of Islam, and helping Muslims to come to a betterunderstanding of the Christian faith. Thus began the work I have been engaged in forthe past 30 years.In 1971, I went to Lebanon to study Arabic. After a year there, I entered theUniversity of Chicago in order to study under Professor Fazlur Rahman, whosewritings on Islam had greatly impressed me. In the course of my studies, I spent twoyears in Cairo deepening my knowledge of Arabic and attending lectures on Islamicthemes at universities in the city.I returned to the University of Chicago to work on the topic of my doctoraldissertation, which was Ibn Taymiyya’s great critique of the Christian religion,
Al- jawab al-sahih li-man baddal din al-Masih
. This required extensive reading in themany writings of Ibn Taymiyya and other great Muslim thinkers. Having completedmy studies, I spent a year teaching Arabic language and Islamic philosophy atColumbia University in New York.