His focus shifted more towards writing the biography of the Prophet Muhammad using scientific lenses in what has been described as a bold approach to Islamic history that breaks away from the sacralization that permeates the work of many Arab scholars on the subject. His goal was to rewrite prophetic tradition in a scientific way that combines comparative history with anthropological insight.
In this respect, he made it clear that a distinction should be made between historical thought, historiography and the philosophy of history. This book was written in three parts and puts the genesis of Islam in its historical context. (See a related article, “A New Perspective on the Last Days of the Prophet.”)
The place of Islam in the contemporary world was a major concern for Djait in his later life. In an interview with the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi in March 2018, he rejected the discourse of political Islam and urged a proper reading of Islam’s history.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, Djait insisted that democracy is an uphill battle that should be won. “Tunisia should safeguard its democratic asset whatever the social and economic costs, which can only be resolved with time. Democracy should go hand in hand with economic growth,” he told Al-Quds.
In an official statement, Tunisian President Kais Saied expressed deep respect for Djait and deplored the passing away of a “great thinker” who left a lasting imprint on Tunisia’s cultural scene.
Djait received a constellation of distinctions and prizes, including being named Arab Cultural Personality of the Year by the Arab Institute for Research and Publishing in Beirut in 2016, and being honored in 2018 by a group of Arab researchers who dedicated to him a book that sheds light on his rich academic and intellectual journey.