John Renard is Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. His many books include Seven Doors to Islam: Spirituality and the Religious Life of Muslims, Windows on the House of Islam, and Friends of God: Islamic Images of Piety, Commitment, and Servanthood, all from UC Press. His most recent endeavor was writing Tales of of God's Friends: Islamic Hagiography in Translation, which was published by UC Press in April 2009. Below, he shares the inspirations for his books.
By: John Renard
One of the best ways to get to the heart of a religious or cultural tradition other than your own is to encounter, in person or in stories, truly exemplary characters from that religion or culture. Six or seven years ago, I began searching for material I could use to teach a university course on popular and influential religious personalities in Islamic history and tradition. There were plenty of studies on individual characters from specific cultures and times. To my surprise, I could not find – in any language – a single broad global thematic overview of the immense subject of the kind of religiously important Muslims that some other traditions call "saints." As I worked on Friends of God: Islamic Images of Piety, Commitment, and Servanthood, published by UCPress in 2008, it was equally apparent that no single volume provided English translations of classic stories of Friends of God from across the world and through Islamic history. Tales of God's Friends: Islamic Hagiography in Translation offers a collection of marvelous stories, from the ninth to the twentiety centuries, and from Morocco to China. It is my hope that these stories will put readers in touch with the "human" dimension of Islam so often missing in the daily blare of negative stories about Islam and Muslims.