A short biographical note on Richard J. McCarthy
This re-publication of Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of Al-Ghazali’s al-Munqidh min al-Dalal and other relevant works of Al-Ghazali by Richard J. McCarthy, S.J. evokes the memory of this dedicated Arabist and Islamic scholar who passed away in 1981.
His translation marked the culmination of a life of scholarship; it was completed during Fr. McCarthy’s last years despite illness and partial paralysis.
Fr. McCarthy’s initiation into Islamic theology began at Oxford University in 1947 with his doctoral studies of al-Baqqalani, and his academic life ended at Oxford in 1977 at St. Anthony’s. Those years at Oxford bracketed a life of teaching, research, and preaching in Baghdad at the Jesuit institutions of Baghdad College and al-Hikma University.
As President of al-Hikma, Fr. McCarthy saw his ambitious plans for an Oriental Institute thwarted by the reversal of the political leadership in Iraq in 1968 which led to the closure of al-Hikma and the expulsion of the Jesuits.
His contribution to Islamic and Arabic studies is remarkable. In addition to his works editing theological texts, he completed a two-volume work on The Spoken Arabic of Baghdad and also published a collection of his sermons in Arabic.
He was a familiar figure in both scholarly and popular circles in Baghdad. The expulsion of the Jesuits from Iraq, when Saddam Hussein and the Baath party came into power, was a very painful reversal of fortune for Fr. McCarthy. But with aid of colleagues like Albert Hourani, Ilsa Lichtenstader, and Annemarie Schimmel, Fr. McCarthy adapted to the change, first at Oxford and then later, after suffering a stroke, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he used his talents and acquired wisdom up to the very end. A model priest and a dedicated scholar.
– John J. Donohue, S.J.
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