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The Life and Work of W. Montgomery Watt

Edited by Carole Hillenbrand

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Celebrating the life and work of one of the most famous of all Western scholars of Islam

This commemorative volume discusses aspects of the life and work of the internationally famous scholar Professor W. Montgomery Watt (1909–2006). His writings on Islam and on Muslim–Christian relations gained him great prestige and respect, not only in the West but also – and perhaps more significantly – right across the Muslim world.

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Part 1: Lectures given on 23 October 2015 at the University of Edinburgh

Chapter 1: William Montgomery Watt: the man and the scholar, Carole Hillenbrand

Chapter 2: The Study of Islam’s Origins since W. Montgomery Watt’s Publications, Fred Donner

Chapter 3: Committed Openness: A Glance at William Montgomery Watt’s Religious Life, Richard Holloway

Part Two: Unpublished Writings of William Montgomery Watt

Chapter 4: A Diary

Chapter 5: The Testament of a Search

Chapter 6: William Montgomery Watt’s Inaugural Lecture - Islamic studies in Scotland: Retrospect and Prospect

Part 3: Reflections on the work of William Montgomery Watt

Chapter 7: Scottish Pioneers of Arabic and Islamic Studies, David Kerr


a) Some Reminiscences of Louis Massignon, William Montgomery Watt

b) Tribute to Professor Watt, Josef van Ess

c) The Last Orientalist: A Valedictory Interview with Professor Watt, Bashir Maan and Alistair McIntosh

d) A Tribute to Professor Watt, Hakim Mohammed Said

e) William Montgomery Watt and a Historicist Interpretation of Islamic History, Hasan Hüseyin Adalioğlu

f) Some obituaries of Professor Watt

i) Professor Hugh Goddard, The Scotsman

ii) Bishop Richard Holloway, The Guardian

iii) Professor Carole Hillenbrand, The Independent

iv) Charlotte Aldred, Edinburgh Middle East Report Online

A bibliography of the books published by William Montgomery Watt

About the Author

Carole Hillenbrand is Honorary Professorial Fellow, Professor Emerita at the University of Edinburgh and Professor of Islamic History at the University of St Andrews since 2013. In 2005 she became the first non-Muslim scholar to be awarded the prestigious King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies, reflecting her ‘revolutionary approach to the largely one-sided subject of the Crusades’. She is author of The Crusades (EUP, 1999), The Waning of the Umayyad Caliphate (Albany, 1989), A Muslim Principality in Crusader Times (Brill, 1990), and co-editor (with C. E. Bosworth) of Qajar Iran, (Edinburgh, 1984) and editor of The Sultan's Turret (Brill, 1999).


These autobiographical elements, never before published, amplify the range and importance of Watt’s contributions. His staggering honesty about theological/metaphysical queries reminds one of Arberry, but unlike Arberry, who found in Islam and especially Sufism a kind of surrogate faith, Watt seemed to relish being both an Anglican priest and a forthright, monumental scholar on Islam.

- Professor Bruce B Lawrence, Duke University

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