Islam is a burning topic in modern scholarship and contemporary world affairs. It is a subject poorly understood by Western observers, and in this book Professor Montgomery Watt takes a significant step towards its demystification.
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.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The Traditional Self-image of Islam 1.1 The unchanging static world 1.2 The finality of Islam 1.3 The self-sufficiency of Islam 1.4 Islam in history 1.5 The idealization of Muhammad and early Islam Part 2: The Religious Institution and its Decline 2.1 The religious institution at the zenith of its power 2.2 Totalitarian strategies of the religious institution 2.3 The loss of legislative and judicial responsibilities 2.4 Changes in education 2.5 The present position Part 3: The Beginnings of Islamic Resurgence 3.1 Responses to the European impact 3.2 The erosion of the traditional self-image 3.3 Conservative reformers and activists (a) Muhammad ‘Abduh (b) Hasan al-Bannā’ (c) Mawdudi (d) Colonel Qadhafi (e) The Ahmadiyya sect (f) Concluding remark Part 4: The Liberal Search for a New Identity 4.1 The early liberals 4.2 Contemporary liberal thinking Part 5: The Self-image and Contemporary Problems 5.1 The recovery of a truer self-image 5.2 Intellectual reconstruction (a) The linguistic expression of religious truth (b) The human element in revelation (c) The uniqueness of Islam (d) The acceptance of historic-critical methods (e) the acceptance of Western science 5.3 The linking of religion and politics (a) The changing shape of the Islamic polity (b) The legitimation of rule (c) The relation of religion to politics 5.4 International politics (a) The perception of a hostile world (b) Islam in the world of nations 5.5 Social issues (a) Opening the gate of Ijtihād (b) Some particular social problems (c) Human rights (d) The position of women 5.6 Islam and other religions 5.7 Towards a truer self-image Part 6: The Iranian Experience 6.1 Shi’ism in Iran 6.2 The Iranian religious institution 6.3 The preparation for revolution 6.4 The revolutionary self-image Part 7: Epilogue Glossary. Notes. Bibliography. Index.