[Chapter 39] Why Theory?

Dec 23, 2010

Chapter 39
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

Why Theory?

Because theory is where the action is – at least where the understanding, prediction and management of action is.

Islam and theory, you say. What kind of nonsense is that, you ask. To which my respectful reply is, life without theory? What kind of ignorance and foolishness is that? What world do you live in? What school did you go to?

Life – and everything in life – comes at two levels or in two forms: at the level or form of theory and at the level or form of action, application and practice.

Theory is what we think things are – or they should or aught to be. Application is how we turn that theory into reality – or it is the reality based on which we infer or formulate our theory. That is how Allah’s world operates. For humans there is no escaping this divinely ordained pincer formation.

Then there is the strangest of all bridges that connects the two – error. When humans move between theory and reality, or when they wander within different forms or types of theory or reality, they must deal with a certain amount of error that dogs their every move.

I wish I had more time to get into the Qur’anic aspect of this discussion in greater depth. But Islam, you may say, how do you fit Islam into this? To which I would say: Easy! It is the easiest thing to do.

Because Islam is Deenul Fitrah – it is the real thing. It is the natural order of things. It is the way the world exists and works. The entire creation, the universe and its functioning, is nothing but a practical, global, space-time manifestation of Islam.

Islam, therefore, is reality – different levels of it. At one level, it is perfect reality – reality that has no error component attached to it. This, you may say, is an impossibility, to which I would say, yes, you are right – in human terms it is.

But Islam, as you know, is not a human artifact at that level. Therefore, at that level, Islam is perfect. That is the level at which Allah designed it, that is the way it is in the Qur’an; and that is the way it is in Allowhul Mahfuz; and that is the way it works in Allah’s universe. That is the level of Innaddeena Indallahil Islam.

But at a different level – at the more human level – Islam is what you and I and all other Muslims make of it. At that level, the perfection of Islam is modulated through our imperfect understanding and practice. This is the level at which it is fair to talk about Islam plus – the plus generally being the error component that we load on to Islam in the form of our assorted distortions and inadequacies.

And then there is the other level: the level of theory – what we think Islam really is or should or ought to be – in each place and at each point of time.

The millions upon millions of questions Muslims – and non-Muslims – have asked over the years as what Islam really is are generally theory questions. These are questions such as what is Islam? What is the nature of worship or social service or inheritance in Islam? What is the role of human relations and peace and war in Islam?

These are all theory questions.

Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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