Wilfred Cantwell Smith was a major contributor to interfaith dialogue and field of comparative religion. He established an Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill, where he was a professor from 1949-63. He then moved to Harvard University to take up the directorship of the Center for the Study of World Religions which he had helped start. In 1973 he went to Nova Scotia to found the Department of Comparative Religion at Dalhousie University, and then returned to Harvard to oversee the creation of a religion program within the faculty of arts and sciences. When he retired in 1984 Harvard made him Professor Emeritus of the Comparative Study of Religion . He was appointed Senior Research Associate to the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College, University of Toronto in 1985.

In his various writings Smith proposed a view of religion that stresses the living vibrant faith of individuals, rather than any abstract set of ideas and doctrines. This idea argues that in order to truly understand a religious tradition an "outsider" needs to find a way to relate to the experience rather than just using critical and historical analysis. In The Meaning and End of Religion he traces the evolution in the meaning of the word religion through out the seventeenth century as religion appears in the plural form for the first time.

Smith's books are
Modern Islam in India.
Islam in Modern History.
Towards a World Theology.
The Meaning and End of Religion.

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