A relevant Islamic philosophical theology should not be purely theoretical or historical. It should address intellectual problems actually faced by the general public. The main intellectual problems facing the general Muslim public, in my view, fall under two categories. On the one hand, there are the apparent and real contradictions between Islamic values and those of the globally dominant liberal culture. On the other, there are the apparent and real contradictions between postulates of Islamic theology and those of modern science. These are, of course, inseparable. They are only various aspects of the whole tension between moral and metaphysical reality according to Islam, and that according to the dominant cultural narrative. Here, however, I intend to examine the problems on the moral side of this equation. These problems present themselves to the individual Muslim at various degrees of depth and breadth, depending on how far she goes in the process of thinking through their philosophical roots and implications. The treatment of a problem, in the way of an intellectual resolution, should be proportional to the degree at which such a problem is experienced.
If the purpose of Islamic philosophical theology is, as I have proposed, to treat such problems, then the Muslim theologian in the required role of public intellectual needs to present her ideas in various manners, as appropriate to the various types of audience and their various needs. Contemporary Islamic thought cannot be allowed to remain an exclusively ‘ivory tower’ exercise, relevant only to a few intellectuals, and therefore irrelevant to most of the general public. For this reason, I propose to describe these issues, somewhat ‘phenomenologically’, in order of the depth at which they might pose themselves at different levels of reflection.