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The Four Layers 13 February 2006

Posted by MOZAFFAR in MOZAFFAR, Philosophy, Politics.


There are four layers to our existence. As you can gather, they overlap with each other. Further, the elements at the top influence the elements below them, and — to some degree — vice versa.

These are the four layers:

1- WORLDVIEW – As its name implies, this layer lies at our core. It defines for us how we look at the world around us, and all that is and is not in this world. It defines the way we look, or not look at God. Only a few people are able to develop their own worldview. For everyone else, they take up the worldview of their society.

2- ETHOS – This layer includes ethics, moralities, virtues, and priorities. These elements may be influenced by the person’s worldview, but instead, they tend to define and solidify the worldview.

3- SOCIAL INTERACTION – This layer includes culture (meaning culture in the anthropological sense), law and non-governmental organizations.

4- SYSTEM – This layer includes the Political, Social, and Economic system (and its institutions) of the particular society. While the law may find itself in the “Social Interaction” layer, the constitution of a society rests in this layer.

We will, God-willing, explore each of these layers in detail in the future.

Almost all Muslim reform efforts fit into three categories:

a- Reform of law.

b- Reform of culture.

c- Reform of the political system.

There are a few academics and intellectuals who are working on developing an Islamic ethical system, answering Fazlur Rahman’s call. And, there are very, very few who are working on developing an Islamic worldview.

The academic study of Islam, aside from the above mentioned efforts in Islamic ethics, places focus on elements in layers 3 & 4. In layer 3, it seems that the vast majority of work is on law and sufi movements. In layer 4, the vast majority of work is on the dynasties of the past and on today’s Political Islam.

Consider your own Islamic activities. What layer do they fall in? It’s probable that they are found in layer 3. Most Islamic activists are doing (excellent) work in developing Islam-oriented (or service-oriented) organizations, like soup-kitchens and relief organizations. Some are (rightly) focused on developing American-Islamic law, and American-Islamic culture.

May Allah bless you.



1. talib - 16 February 2006

Unfortunately, efforts in the World View category are generally discouraged or treated as a non priority as they are not seen as practical or conducive to ‘real’ change. People want immediate results, gratification.

2. MOZAFFAR - 16 February 2006

Salams talib,

Indeed. I had to give this separation, in part to show that certain important ideas are distinct from each other. Related to that, issues that address the worldview and ethos tend to be overlooked, when they are in fact of paramount importance.

Thanks for your post.

May Allah bless you.

Omer M

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