Muir, William (1819-1905)

British colonial administrator in India, Islamic scholar, and advocate of Christian mission

Born in Scotland, Muir and elder brother, John (1810-1882), both served with the Indian Civil Service and were introduced to Oriental languages as part of their training. While John specialized in Sanskrit and Hinduism, William concentrated on Arabic and Islamic studies. Both put their learning to advantage as educators and supporters of Christian mission in India. William Muir’s postings included intelligence in Agra Allahabad, and the governorship of the Northwestern Provinces (1868-1874). During his years in India he befriended the CMS missionary Karl Pfander (1803-1865), who encouraged him to undertake his first major piece of academic writing, The Life of Mahomet (4 vols., 1858-1865). On retirement from political service, both Muirs returned to Edinburgh, where they continued their commitment to Oriental studies and comparative religion in the university. As Edinburgh University (1857), educational development in principal, William Muir produced further works on the Qur’an and Islamic history and wrote several studies of Christian-Muslim encounter that reflect his sympathy with the controversialist apologetic of Pfander and others.

David A. Kerr, “Muir, William,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 478-79.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Texts

Muir, William. Annals of the Early Caliphate. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1883.

_____. The Mameluke or Slave Dynasty of Egypt, 1260-1517 A.D. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1896.


Muir, William. The Apology of al Kindy. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1882.

_____. The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall. London: Religious Tract Society, 1891.

_____. The Coran: Its Composition and Teaching. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1878.

_____. The Early Caliphate and the Rise of Islam. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1881.

_____. The Mohammedan Controversy. Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1897.

_____. The Old and New Testaments, Tourat, Zabur, and Gospel: Moslems Invited to See and Read Them. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1899.


Bennett, Clinton. Victorian Images of Islam. London: Grey Seal, 1992.

Powell, Avril. Muslims and Missionaries in Pre-Mutiny India. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1993.

Troll, Christian. Sayyid Ahmad Khan: A Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1978.