While writing this book, I have become indebted to many people who inspired me with their knowledge, wisdom, and insights. As this book is a revised version of my Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Boston College, I am grateful for the supervision of Prof. James W. Morris. His guidance and wisdom helped me to navigate Ibn ‘Arabī’s thinking. Prof. Catherine Cornille’s meticulous analysis of comparative theology method has allowed me to construct better arguments. Prof. Shawn Copeland guided my study of saints from a Christian perspective and graciously agreed to become a dissertation reader. Through his insights on Rahner and sainthood, Prof. Harvey Egan helped me to formulate this project’s foundation. Among my friends and colleagues at Boston College, who shaped my arguments in this book, I need to mention Michael VanZandt Collins for introducing me to the late Frans van der Lugt, SJ, whose life provided the impetus for thinking about saintly figures whom both Christians and Muslims respect.
Collegeville Institute supported me in writing this book by granting me a residential fellowship and the Bishop Thomas Hoyt Fellowship in 2019/2020. In addition, both staff and fellow resident scholars provided a community of support who contributed in various ways to this book, including through feedback to the draft chapters I presented to them. In particular, Kathy Snyder’s heart-rending presentation about her ministry in a Guatemalan village vividly illustrates my point, and she graciously permitted me to include it in one of the chapters.
As a postdoctoral fellow of Louisville Institute, I value greatly the institute’s generous support and the opportunity to serve as a visiting assistant professor at Hartford International University (HIU) for Religion and Peace (formerly Hartford Seminary), Hartford, Connecticut, which is also my alma mater. The wonderful colleagues who have surrounded me on this campus and who share the same concern to cultivate interreligious relations, both in an academic setting and in the public arena, urged me to complete this book. When I presented a draft chapter in the faculty collegial sharing, their critical comments and suggestions helped me write better. I offer special thanks to Dean David Grafton, who gave me a semester without teaching to focus on completing the book. In addition, he read and offered constructive comments on Chapter Two. I am thankful to Ms. Emily Holcombe for her exceptional editing skills, which helped to bring this book into its present form, and to Ms. Ulrike Guthrie for copyediting the manuscript.
Along the way, certain people nurtured my interest in Islam and Christian-Muslim comparative theology. These include my teachers at HIU: the late Prof. Mahmoud Ayoub, Prof. Yahya Michot, and Prof. Najib Awad. Prof. Joas
I also want to thank Prof. Klaus von Stosch, Dr. Irfan Omar, and Prof. Peter C. Phan, for reading the book manuscript and writing the blurbs. I am particularly grateful to Prof. Marianne Moyaert and Ms. Ingrid Heijckers-Velt as editors of Brill’s Currents of Encounter Series for their tremendous help, starting from the beginning until its publication.
Finally, my heartfelt gratitude goes to my parents, Hendrawan Saputra and Sukisastuti, for their continued support and love. Lastly, my wife Rita Regina deserves my deepest gratitude for her companionship and compassion during these arduous journey years. Countless hours of conversation and sharing ideas with her have sharpened my arguments and increased the accessibility of this book to non-specialists.