The word usually used for scholastic theology--kalām--is, like sharī’a, the common term for the Law, late in making its appearance. This does not mean that there was no early Islamic theology. Rather, both Law and theology were at first comprised in the term fiqh (in-sight), which embraced right action and right belief. Fiqh contrasted with ‘ilm (knowledge), which applied chiefly to the gathering of Ḥadīth, biography and history. When it was desirable to make a distinction between fiqh as theology and fiqh as law, the expressions fiqh fi-al-dīn (insight in religion) and fiqh fi-al-‘ilm (insight in knowledge) were used. The latter term recognizes the close bond between right action--the Law--and Ḥadīth, the vehicle of the sunna.
The elaboration of theology was greatly accelerated in Islam, as in other religions, by political and social history. During the first two centuries, more than one segment of the Islamic community separated from the main body, at times taking up arms against those who differed. Thus made intensely aware of boundaries, it became necessary for Islamic thinkers to state what the boundaries were.