Muir's later Annals was received with fewer reservations by the Times reviewer and other newspapers of the day. It was the Annnals that established Muir's reputation as a leading scholar on Islam in Britain. Nevertheless, his earlier hypercritical Life of Mahomet was used as a poster child by contemporary Muslim commentators—especially by Indian ones connected to the movement of Syed Ahmed Khan—to dismiss all criticism of their society emanating from Western scholars. Syed Ameer Ali went as far as to declare Muir "Islam's avowed enemy".
An illustrative aspect in the evolution of Muir's positions is his stance on the Crusades. In his writings of the 1840s, he goaded Christian scholars to verbal warfare against Muslims using aggressive crusader imagery. Fifty year later, Muir redirected the invective hitherto reserved for the Muslims to the crusading leaders and armies, and while still finding some faults with the former, he praised Saladin for knightly values. (Muir's anti-Catholic animus may have played a role in this too.) Despite his later writings, Muir's reputation as an unfair critic of Islam remained strong in Muslim circles. Powell finds that William Muir deserves much of the criticism laid by Edward Said and his followers against 19th century Western scholarship on Islam.
Muir had strong Evangelical views and was invited to preface many missionary biographies and memoirs, speak at conferences and to publicize Zenana missions. He wrote "If Christianity is anything, it must be everything. It cannot brook a rival, nor cease to wage war against all other faiths, without losing its strength and virtue." In his official capacity as principal of Edinburgh University, Muir chaired many meetings of Evangelists at the university, organized to support overseas missionary efforts, and addressed by speakers such as Henry Drummond. In India, William Muir founded the Indian Christian village Muirabad, near Allahabad. Muir was impressed with the discovery of the Apology of al-Kindy; he lectured on it at the Royal Asiatic Society, presenting it as an important link in what he saw as a chain of notable conversions to Christianity, and later he published the translated sources. A proselytizing text, Bakoorah shahiya (Sweet First Fruits) was published under his name as well, but this work had actually been written by a convert to Protestantism from Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Daniel Pipes investigated the origin of the phrase "Satanic Verses", and concluded that despite Salman Rushdie's claim that he had borrowed the phrase from Tabari, the earliest traceable occurrence is in Muir's Life of Mohamet (1858) in a passage discussing "two Satanic verses". The phrase does not appear in the revised edition of 1912 though.
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