Without losing themselves in detail and without sacrificing complexity, the authors discuss the political, social, and economic continuity in Islamic Spain, or al-Andalus, in light of its cultural and intellectual effects upon the rest of Europe. Medieval Christianity, Watt points out, found models of scholarship in the Islamic philosophers and adapted the idea of holy war to its own purposes while the final reunification of Spain under the aegis of the Reconquista played a significant role in bringing Europe out of the Middle Ages. A survey essential to anyone seeking a more complete knowledge of European or Islamic history, the volume also includes sections on literature and philology by Pierre Cachia.
This series of "Islamic surveys" is designed to give the educated reader something more than can be found in the usual popular books. Each work undertakes to survey a special part of the field, and to show the present stage of scholarship here. Where there is a clear picture this will be given; but where there are gaps, obscurities and differences of opinion, these will also be indicated. Full and annotated bibliographies will afford guidance to those who want to pursue their studies further. There will also be some account of the nature and extent of the source material. The series is addressed in the first place to the educated reader, with little or no previous knowledge of the subject; its character is such that it should be of value also to university students and others whose interest is of a more professional kind.
Islamic philosophy and theology are looked at together in a chronological framework in this volume. From a modern standpoint, this juxtaposition of the two disciplines is important for the understanding of both; but it should be realized at the outset that it is a reversal of the traditional Islamic procedure. Not merely were the disciplines different, but in the earlier centuries the exponents were two different sets of persons, trained in two different educational traditions, each with its own separate institutions. There was little personal contact between philosophers and theologians, and the influence of the two disciplines on one another was largely by way of polemics. Eventually while philosophy died out as a separate discipline in the Islamic world, many parts of it were incorporated in theology.
This work is designed to give the educated reader something more than can be found in the usual popular books. The work undertakes to survey a special part of the field, and to show the present stage of scholarship. Where there is a clear picture this will be given; but where there are gaps, obscurities and differences of opinion, these will also be indicated. This work is brilliant in its design, style, and intimate understanding. It is a must read for specialists and policy makers alike.
W. Montgomery Watt (1909-2006) was professor emeritus of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of numerous books, including Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions, Islam: A Short History, Muhammad's Mecca, and Islamic Surveys: The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe.
Montgomery Watt examines the crucial questions of traditional world-view and self-image which dominate the thinking of Muslims today. This traditional self-image causes them to perceive world events in a different perspective from Westerners – a fact not always appreciated by the foreign ministries of Western powers. Professor Watt presents a brilliant and critical analysis of the traditional Islamic self-image, showing how it distorts Western modernism and restricts Muslims to a peripheral role in world affairs. In a scholarly and incisive way, he traces this harmful image to its origins in the medieval period and then to the traumatic exposure of Muslims to the West in modern times. He argues that Muslim culture is suffering from a dangerous introspection, and in his closing chapters presents a constructive criticism of contemporary Islam, aimed at contributing to a truer, more realistic Islamic self-image for today.
First published in 1988.