By Harshana Ghoorhoo
John Kiser, the author of ‘The Commander of the Faith: The Life and Times of Emir Abd-El Kader’ in addition to three other well-acclaimed books, joined the School of Diplomacy last month on January 16 to meet members of the Abd-El Kader fellowship team at Seton Hall University.
During an interview, Kiser talked about his book which narrates the life of Abd-El Kader who was a warrior as well as a scholar. Kader combined religious faith with chivalrous humanism and intellectual openness bringing substantial change in the East and earning him praise from the West.
When asked about his inspiration behind writing his book, Kiser gave some insight into his journey leading him to pen-down the well-acclaimed book. Kiser felt that he had the ability to “bring a piece of cultural knowledge that is going to be important in the future and today,” to a broader audience. He went to monasteries atop the mountains outside Algeria to interview monks and learn about their relationship with the Algerians.
Kiser revealed that his connection to the Algerians goes further back to when he spent 1996 in the south of France, stating “it was during that time that I started to get more aware of my ignorance of Islam and what Muslims were all about.”
Since there were many Arabs living in the south of France at that time, Kiser had the opportunity to meet them and visit their homes and communities. As he learned more about the five pillars of Islam and what Muslims believed in, Kiser started to draw out similarities with the Christian faith. He pointed out that “even Jesus is a very revered figure in Islam.”
Therefore, Kiser developed a great interest in learning about the Christian presence in Algeria and its history. His personal interest in monastic life drew him to interacting with the monks and understanding them on a deeper level.
Turning his attention back towards the fellowship, Kiser encouraged all students to embody the teachings and actions of Abd El-Kader in their way of life and thinking of other traditions. He reminded everyone to “keep on reading, learning, and trying to expand your horizons because that can only lead to good things.”