Tunisia bids adieu to Islamic thinker who rejected prohibition of alcohol, prostitution

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Mohamed al-Talbi, the Tunisian who passed away on Monday at the age of 96, may have been infamous for his controversial remarks but was indeed one of the leading thinkers of his time.

A leading researcher of Quran and Islam, al-Talbi was the first Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Tunis University. He also taught history and published a series of books on subjected related to diligence and emancipation in Islam.

In recent years, Mohammed Al-Talabi was in the news for opposing former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali when he defended freedom for the Tunisian people. However, it was his direct approach toward interpretations of the Quran, different from jurisprudence practiced by well-known scholars, that kept him in the headlines.

Views on the Shari’ah

He also came to be known for his views on Shariah, which he rejected as it was not developed until the sixth century. Several of his controversial views came in for criticism from scholars of Islam in and outside Tunisia.

Mohammed al-Talabi once said that prostitution is allowed in Islam and is the same as alcohol. He also said that if a woman did not wear hijab, and even if she goes out naked, this would not lead to punishment.

Al-Talabi also said that the punishment of stoning (in case of adultery committed by married people) does not find mention in the Quran and that the same applies to apostasy or abandonment of Islam.