In his review, Dr. Ferguson explores the book's thesis, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of Watt's analyses. An overview is included.
"Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman" by W. Montgomery Watt. Oxford University Press, 1961. pp. vi, 250. Reviewed by Dr. Paul-Thomas Ferguson
With the possible exception of Jesus Christ, perhaps no figure has had a greater impact on the course of human history than the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. The life of this influential figure is the subject of W. Montgomery Watt's "Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman", a distilled abridgement of two earlier, more detailed and scholarly volumes, "Muhammad at Mecca" and "Muhammad at Medina". By looking at the life of the Muslim leader, Watt has placed himself in a difficult position. Muhammad's story and legacy are both jealously guarded by strict Muslim traditionalists, so much so that even artistic images depicting the prophet are forbidden, lest the image of the man obscure his message. As such, Watt's task necessarily entails rooting out the historical Muhammad, at the risk of either offending the devout through excessive criticism, or alienating historical purists through excessive promotion of Muslim doctrines. In the end, the author rises to the challenge, presenting the life of Muhammad with an even-handed dexterity which neither condemns nor promotes Islamic tradition.
"Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman" covers the years of the prophet's life only. Beginning with Muhammad's birth, Watt carefully depicts the world of Arabia circa 600 CE. This tendency to drop back and paint a larger picture for context is one of the great strengths of the work. The reader is made aware of the circumstances surrounding Muhammad's life, as well as how the physical and political environment guided and determined his actions. Much is made of the significance of Muhammad's early life as an orphan. As Watt points out, being an orphan was a significant problem in Arabia, where family ...
A summary of a book review of W. Montgomery Watt's "Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman." is listed.