`ILM AL-KALĀM, the term applied to theology in classical Islam, occupies an interesting place in our history. Much more than law (fiqh), its intellectual counterpart, theology became the locus of the nascent Islamic civilization’s conversation with the world around it. The term itself, which literally translates as “talk-ology,” carried with it mild sarcasm owing to the fact that it tended to produce tedious dialectic and excessive amounts of technical jargon. Although it’s difficult to imagine, the terms “tawḥīd” (Divine Oneness) or “`aqīdah” (creed) – so absolutely fundamental to our own articulation of belief – would have drawn nothing but blank stares from the Companions of the Prophet (upon him be peace) themselves. As a community which pre-dated the development of discursive theology and its distinct vernacular, their religious experience simply did not encompass these terms or the discourse which gave them meaning.