: William Montgomery Watt

16-09-2012, 07:10 AM
William Montgomery Watt (19-03-1909 - 24-10-2006)
He was an English historian and researcher, a lecturer of Arabic and its literature, specialized in academic studies as well as Islamic scholastic theology and history and the dean of Arabic Studies Department in Edinburgh University. He earned his Ph.D. in Islamic scholastic theology with a dissertation titled Earning, coercion and choice.
He studied Islam relentlessly for more than thirty years. He worked in the Anglican episcopate in Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis) and met a lot of Muslims from India and Pakistan. He visited some African states and deserved to describe himself as the one who was in contact with the heart of the Islamic world.
His most famous books include Mohammed at Mecca (1953); Mohammed at Medina (1956); Mohammed: Prophet and Statesman (1961); Islamic Philosophy and Theology (1962); Islamic Surveys: The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe (1972); Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions (1991); History of Islamic Spain (1996); Islam and the Integration of Society (1998) and others.
The tone of dialogue is clear in Watts writings. He was one of the advocates of co-existence and contact between the Islamic and Western civilizations. He contributed in removing the negative mental image of Islamic history, the Prophet and Sharah. But he sometimes gives arbitrary opinions in an attempt to please both Christians and Muslims.
From Islamic Surveys: The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe; Mohammed at Mecca; Mohammed at Medina; and Islamic Revelation In the Modern World:
The author states that it is proven that, in this period, Muslims, Christians and Jews freely lived and mixed together in the Arab state and each sect had a full share in the joint culture.[1] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn1)
Confident in their religion
There is in Christian missionary statistics a great concern with the number of converts to Christianity and new members of the local churches. This attitude contradicts that of Islam in this respect which, though like Christianity is a religion of calling people to believe in it, is less inclined to pride itself on the number of Muslim converts. The Islamic community accepts converts to Islam simply as brothers in the religion of Islam an attitude adopted only by men who have full and great confidence in their religion needless of being confirmed by statistics, unlike the Christians who suffer from a lack of self-confidence.[2] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn2)
When the Muslims conquered Syria and Egypt, they were received by the inhabitants as their liberators from the authority of the hateful Byzantines.[3] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn3)
A civilization of great achievements
Watt begins his introduction of The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe by talking about the influence of Muslims on the West saying: I shall not think of the Muslims as making yet another alien intrusion into Europe. I shall rather think of them as representatives of a civilization with great achievements to its credit over a large part of the earth's surface, whose benefits here overflow into a neighboring territory.[4] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn4)
Acknowledgement of indebtedness
It has been recognized for some time that Medieval Christian writers created an image of Islam that was in many respects denigratory, but through the efforts of scholars over the last century or so a more objective picture is now taking shape in the minds of occidentals. For our cultural indebtedness to Islam, however, we Europeans have a blind spot. We sometimes belittle the extent and importance of Islamic influence in our heritage, and sometimes overlook it altogether. For the sake of good relations with Arabs and Muslims we must acknowledge our indebtedness to the full. To try to cover it over and deny it is a mark of false pride.[5] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn5)
A fascinating story
There is something almost incredible and fascinating in the story of how the ancient cultures of the East became transformed into Islamic culture.[6] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn6)
They never fell as captives
About Islamic civilizations conscious assimilation of previous civilizations rather than falling in their captivity, Watt says: In this region of the world mankind has the experience of millennia of urban civilization, going back to Sumer, Akkad and Pharaonic Egypt, and all that had been retained as valuable from these millennia now came to be expressed in Arabic.
When the Romans annexed the Greek lands to their empire, the result was, as a Latin poet put it, that 'captured Greece took her fierce conqueror captive'. There were some translations into Latin, but on the whole Greek remained the language of learning. The Arab conquests, however, did not lead to the Arabs being 'taken captive' in this way. Instead, they imposed their language and something of their outlook on most of the peoples of the empire, although many of the latter were at a higher cultural level.[7] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn7)
The European prejudice
Watt condemns the prejudice of the Europeans in their talk about the contributions of the Arabs in human civilization, saying: In speaking of Arab achievements in science and philosophy, the important question to ask is: how far were the Arabs transmitters of what the Greeks had discovered and how far did they make original contributions? Many Europeans seem to approach the subject with some prejudice against the Arabs. Even some of those who praise them do so grudgingly. It is clearly difficult to give a balanced assessment of the scientific achievements of the Arabs when one becomes aware of the prejudice against them - which is doubtlessly linked to the distorted image of Islam.[8] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn8)
They were innovators
After Watt gives a brief presentation of Arab contributions in science and knowledge he confesses that, after a tour in Arab experiments, thought and writings, one could but admit the fact that European sciences and philosophy would not have developed at that time without the Arab accomplishment, because the Arabs were not mere transmitters of Greek thought in so much as carriers of the beacon and innovators who preserved and even extended the sciences they studied. When the Europeans, in about 1100, started to be seriously interested in the sciences and philosophy of their enemies, those had reached their peak and the Europeans had to learn from the Arabs all they could before they were able to make progress in those areas.[9] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn9)
They learnt much from the Arabs
Certainly, it was in the twelfth century that European scholars interested in science and philosophy came to appreciate how much they had to learn from the Arabs and set about studying Arabic works in these disciplines and translating the chief of them into Latin.[10] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn10)
They discovered a new world
Arabic thought provided European thought with new materials and brought within its purview a whole new world of metaphysics. All strands of European thought had to take cognizance of the translations from Arabic.[11] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn11)
A greater influence
When one keeps hold of all the facets of the medieval confrontation of Christianity and Islam, it is clear that the influence of Islam on western Christendom is greater than is usually realized. Not merely did Islam share with Western Europe many material products and technological discoveries; not merely did it stimulate Europe intellectually in the fields of science and philosophy; but it provoked Europe into forming a new image of itself. Because Europe was reacting against Islam, it belittled the influence of the Saracens and exaggerated its dependence on its Greek and Roman heritage. So, today an important task for us western Europeans, as we move into the era of the one world, is to correct this false emphasis and to acknowledge fully our debt to the Arab and Islamic world.[12] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn12)
Sheer ignorance and muddle
The enemies of Islam, more often as states Watt, confirm that Mohammed was epileptic and that, consequently, his religious message is incorrect. In fact, the symptoms of the divine revelation Mohammed had differ from those of epilepsy. Epilepsy leads to a mental and physical breakdown whereas Mohammed was in full possession of mental and physical powers and talents. But even if this allegation is supposedly true, the proofs for it are quite false and based on sheer ignorance and muddle.[13] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn13)
Wonderful combination
Had it not been for this wonderful combination of attributes given to Mohammed, as says Watt, it would have been quite impossible for this expansion to take place and those gigantic forces would have been used up in attacking Syria and Iraq with no significant outcomes. Anyways, Mohammed was endowed with three important gifts, each of which was necessary to complete his task. First of all, he was given a unique talent of seeing the future. He was also a wise statesman and brilliant administrator.[14] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn14)
The more we think about the history of Mohammed and the early Muslims, Watt says, the more we are astonished by the magnificence of his achievement. No doubt, the conditions were suitable to Mohammed and made available to him many opportunities of success which might not be made available to many. Nevertheless, the man was at the level of conditions. Had he not been a Prophet, a wise statesman and administrator, and had he not put his trust in God and believed that He sent him as a Prophet, he would have written no important chapter in the history of mankind. This study about the life of Mohammed is expected to help arouse the concern with one of the greatest sons of Adam.[15] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn15)
Very quickly
Mohammed was a brilliant administrator. He had a penetrating insight of choosing his deputies to important administrative matters. No doubt, of no effect would strong institutions and wise policies be if they are applied mistakenly. The state founded by Mohammed became, at his death, a flourishing institution and could withstand the absence of its founder to the extent that a short time later it accommodated itself to new circumstances and very quickly expanded.[16] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftn16)

[1] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref1) William Montgomery Watt, the Influence of Islam on the Medieval Europe, 49.

[2] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref2) William Montgomery Watt, Islamic Revelation In the Modern World, (Arabic translation), 225-226.

[3] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref3) Ibid. 183.

[4] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref4) the Influence of Islam on the Medieval Europe, 1.

[5] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref5) Ibid. 1-2.

[6] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref6) Ibid. 10.

[7] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref7) Ibid. 10.

[8] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref8) Ibid. [email protected]@.

[9] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref9) Ibid. 43.

[10] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref10) Ibid. 58.

[11] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref11) Ibid. 69.

[12] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref12) Ibid. 83.

[13] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref13) Mohammed at Meccka, (Arabic translation), 130.

[14] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref14) Mohammed at Medina, (Arabic translation), 510-511.

[15] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref15) Ibid. 512.

[16] (http://islamstory.com/en/node/36646#_ftnref16) Ibid. 511.