Category Archives: Islam

Holy War, Holy Terror

The New York Times lies before me. Thin wisps of smoke rise from its front page with its vivid accounts of murder and mayhem committed in the name of Allah. The Children of Abraham explains that Allah is one and the same deity as the Yahweh worshipped by the Jews and the God the Father […]

I Think I’ll Pass on the Bulgarian Monastery 2012

I am sitting, this late November day in 2012, beside a pool in the Ritz-Carlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Yesterday, before I left New York, I received a phone call from my first wife. I almost didn’t pick up when the ID flashed, but since this was her first call in 40 years, I […]

Imitatio Muhammadi: Moral Modeling in Islam

The Imitatio Christi, composed by the German monk Thomas à Kempis (d. 1471), is a classic of Christian spirituality, widely read and translated from Latin into a variety of languages. It is not of course an instructional manual for the imitation of Christ—How does one imitate the Son of God?—nor is it, more plausibly, about […]

Spain as a Christian-Muslim Frontier

Let me begin rather abruptly with a paradox. One of the remarkable differences between Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain has to do with conversion. While the Muslims made no special efforts in that direction, they did manage to convert large numbers of Christians; the Christians, on the other hand who did try to proselytize […]

At the Tomb of the Prophet 1988

It’s 5 A.M. in Jedda when I touch down. The atmosphere here beside the Red Sea feels like the inside of a sauna, fiercely hot and dripping damp. I struggle through customs and look about for my guide. No foreigner wanders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia unaccompanied, Zayd al-Badawi, my former tutor, philosopher and guide […]

Habent sua fata libelli: The Gospels and the Quran in Mortal Hands

The Gospels and the Quran are the emblematic books of two of the world’s most widespread and influential religions, past, present and future. They have been read and heard by billions of people who have regarded their contents as a manifestation of God’s will, expressed in the Quran in God’s own words and in the […]

Echoes from Sinai: Looking Inside the Gospels and the Qur’an

In the capacious byways of Amazon.com you can probably discover–and perchance even purchase–everything I had to say on the subject of the Scriptures of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Or almost.  Authors do not normally hold back on their readers unless they are planning a sequel, a Son of Sinai, which I am not.  But […]

Religion, Tolerance and Violence

Religion we think we know and violence we know very well indeed, so let us turn directly to the troublemaker of the trio, tolerance, and save the easier notions for later. Literary critics are extremely fond of the figure of “unpacking” when it comes to explaining a word or a notion or a concept. I […]

Sufis and Jesuits: Religious Orders in Islam and Christianity

There are numerous scholastic tracts in Arabic on the theory and practice of Sufism (tasawwuf) or what would be called in Christian terms, Muslim ascetical and mystical theology, For most Muslims the reality  of Islam was, however, the tarîqa or brotherhood into which Islam’s ascetics, the Sufis, began to assemble themselves. As in Christianity, the […]

Bishops and Imams: The Magisterium in Catholic Christianity and Shi’ite Islam

God’s words to His Chosen Peoples are typically double-edged. On the one hand, the believer knows exactly where he or she stands. Give me a place to stand, a Greek once famously said, and I can move the world. Archimedes was talking lever and fulcrum, but God was talking prescription: stand right there, the Bible […]