ABSTRACT

Mohamed Talbi is a twentieth-century Tunisian historian of N o r t h Africa and writer on Islamic religious thought and affairs. As a religious writer particularly concerned with Islam's views on and relations with other religions — especially the religions of the Ahl al-Kitab — Talbi has written extensively on the traditional Islamic foundations (as he sees them) for the theory and practice of inter-religious dialogue. 1 For Talbi this is itself part of a larger effort towards the construction of a modern Islamic thought which would reconsider, among other things, the nature of, and proper approaches to, traditional sources and ideas. There is an integration, then, of Talbi's ideas on inter-religious relations and his general Islamic religious thought . 2

Talbi's outlook is, I believe, an important part of Islamic religious thought in the latter part of the twentieth-century, particularly in his discussions of relations between religions, religion and politics, religion and history, and the interpretation of traditional religious texts. Still largely unstudied by students of modern Islam, Talbi's original w o r k in Islamic thought requires analysis of his ideas and methods in historical and intellectual context . 3 I shall at tempt to do this in small part in this chapter through discussion of a piece by Talbi on inter-religious dialogue. This piece is titled "For Dialogue Between All Rel igions". It is part of the third (final) chapter of a b o o k of interviews wi th M o h a m e d Talbi on various questions concerning Islam in the modern world. Titled Families of God (lyal Allah), the b o o k is a vehicle for Talbi to express his views and opinions on a number of (mainly Islamic) intellectual and religious issues. T h e possibilities and Islamic theoretical foundations of inter-religious dialogue and understanding are Talbi's main concerns here, in the context of his general Islamic thought . Although my interest is mainly in Talbi's theory of inter-religious relations, I shall first highlight certain aspects of his general thought in this book as background for an understanding of Talbi's specific arguments concerning the inter-religious issue. This may, one hopes, also help to elucidate that integral connect ion be tween Talbi's general thought and his ideas on the inter-religious affairs.4