The invitation to deliver five lectures at Essex University in November 1988 encouraged me to give some shape to research which might otherwise have been put to one side indefinitely. I am indebted to Dr Andrew Linzey, Director of the Centre for the Study of Theology, both for the invitation and for other kindnesses. It also gives me pleasure to thank Drs Peter and Margery Wexler for their stimulating hospitality. In addition I must gratefully acknowledge permission to use extracts from
the following preparatory studies:
'Fakhr al'Dîn alRâzî
and the Virginal Conception', Islamochristiana, XIV, (1988), pp. 116.
'Creating Birds from Clay: A Miracle of Jesus in the Qur'an and Classical Exegesis', The Muslim World, LXXIX, (1989), pp. 113.
'Jesus and Mary in the Qur'an: Some Neglected Affinities', Religion (Lancaster) XX (1990), pp. 16175.
The lectures themselves needed considerable revision and amplification to transform them into a book. While carrying out this work I have appreciated the patience and good will of Sophie Lillington of Macmillan and of Anne Rafique.
I would like to thank the staff of the Bibliothèque Nationale Paris and the Bodleian Library Oxford for their helpfulness and Maggie Wheel of the Library of the College of St. Paul and St. Mary for her cheerful persistence in applying for rare books and articles on interlibrary loan. If I were to mention by name the many friends and acquaintances who have helped and encouraged me the list would be embarrassingly long. I cannot, however, refrain from mentioning Geoffrey Paul. Although he died before the work was begun, I have thought of him throughout. Quotations from the Qu'ran Throughout the text quotations from the Qur'an are enclosed within guillemets (« »), to distinguish them from other quoted matter.