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Islam: Principles or Precedents?

In science, the infinitude of phenomena and the multitude of precedents are explained by a few basic principles. Thus, scientists worked and thought throughout the centuries about different natural phenomena and found commonalities in their patterns. Not differences, but commonalities. Not separate law for each phenomenon, but common principles for all phenomena. For example, there is Noether’s theorem that describes the symmetry of space and time.[i] In this theorem, the symmetry of time gives the law of conservation of energy, and the symmetry of space gives the laws of conservation of linear and angular momentum. For example, the second law of motion (F=Δp/Δt) describes the motion of falling apple, orbiting Moon, moving car, flying bird, etc.; thus, there is no need to invent new law for each case.

The minds of current Muslims are bogged down in details, minutiae, trivia, precedents, persons, practices; Muslims become scatterbrained; their minds are filled with unconnected facts; their minds are like a pile of garbage without order, sorting, priorities, and classification. For example, Muslims debate to death the importance, absence, and presence of beard as adherence to Sunnah. Beard is Sunnah, but the beard is not an obligation, the beard is not the priority, the beard was not the priority, the beard will not be the priority. There is a quote about great, average, and small minds who discuss ideas, events, and people.[ii] So, Muslims nowadays are very small minds who discuss people and events, but not ideas. Ideas, events, and people might be rephrased as principles, precedents, and persons.

Principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge are called Islam.[iii] Principles are timeless, universal, and global. Principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge are linked to the Names of God: Just (‘Adl), Lord (Rabb), Compassionate (Rahīm), Knowing (‘Alīm).[iv]

Precedents are the history of Muslims, but precedents aren’t the history of Islam. Persons are Muslims, and persons are not Islam. So, let us draw a clear and thick line between Islam and Muslims: Islam is principles, map, and plan; Muslims are precedents, persons, practices of use of map, and actions of application of the plan. Islam is not equal to Muslims; Muslims are not equal to Islam. Islam is equal to Justice plus Freedom plus Compassion plus Knowledge. Muslims are equal to flawed and faulty persons who try or seem to be trying to apply the principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge.

At the beginning of the article, the idea of a limited set of laws that explain the unlimited number of phenomena was mentioned. Similarly, the partial or total absence or presence of four principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge explains the unlimited social phenomena and the infinite number of human interactions. Therefore, in the aforementioned case of the beard, we have to ask the question: “Does presence or absence of beard make the person more just, freer, more compassionate, more knowledgeable?” Then we have to answer the question and put the idea of beard in the hierarchy of priorities.

People have to design their lives by applying general principles to particular situations, specific places, and concrete times, but not by copying precedents and imitating persons.

Precedents and persons point to principles; it is an example of inductive reasoning; going from particular to general; Nursi explained it in the Sixth Quality of Eloquence of the Twenty-Fifth Word.[v] All stories of prophets in the Quran are not mere historical precedents; they are showing the universal principles of belief, knowledge, movement, activity, justice, compassion, freedom, perseverance, dialogue, forgiveness, etc.

For example, the stories of four birds (2:260) and mountain crumbled to dust (7:143) show the principle of belief, when belief should be tested and strengthened by examining natural phenomena. The stories of learning the names (2:31), languages (27:16), arts and technology (34:10) show the principles of knowledge and learning. The stories about exodus (2:50), emigration (2:218), and traveling (12:109, 22:46, 30:9, 30:42, 32:26, 35:44, 40:21, 40:82, 47:10) show the principles of movement, activity, and freedom.[vi]

The stories about opposition to oppression and cruelty of dictators like Pharaoh (7:104, 7:105, 7:106) and Nimrod (2:258) show the principle of justice. The story about the imprisonment of Yusuf (12:3) shows principles of perseverance, forgiveness, compassion, knowledge, and freedom. Forgiveness of Yusuf is his freedom because revenge is the prison of the past, but forgiveness is the freedom, and forgiveness is the future. All verses that have the orders and words “say” and “said” are telling about principles of dialogue, listening, and speaking; they tell us that civilization and culture are possible only through and by dialogue.

Therefore, names and places do not matter; what matters is the principles, mindsets, mentalities, attitudes, characters, and habits. Quran was not revealed to teach history; Quran was revealed to transform mindset[vii]; Quran was revealed to establish principles of Justice,

Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge. Quran does not tell what was done in the past and there; Quran tells what I should do now and here.

In science, there is a way to represent, analyze and understand the data; it is called a graph or scatter plot.[viii] On a graph, data points are plotted, then the best-fit line is drawn[ix], and this best-fit line is used to derive and define laws, rules, and principles, to interpolate and extrapolate[x], to open new horizons and novel perspectives, to ask new questions and seek new answers. These data points are precedents and persons, and the best-fit line is the principle.

Each data point has its coordinates; each precedent and every person have their own significance and importance. However, one or two data points are not enough to draw the best-fit line, and similarly, one or two precedents and persons are not enough to derive and define principle. In science, the quantity and quality of data points have paramount importance for the best-fit line, and in the same way, the persons and precedents that we choose to derive and define our own principles are of the utmost importance.

All data points have their uncertainty[xi] that is represented by error bars[xii]; similarly, precedents and persons have their error bars and uncertainties that can be thought of as their historicity and embedment in the particular and local social, cultural, economic, and political context. What I am trying to say here is that data points are important, but the best-fit line is more important; precedents and persons are significant, but principles are more significant.

The best-fit line must be extrapolated to predict new phenomena, and similarly, principles must be adapted and extrapolated to current circumstances and future situations. Blindly copying previous data points is foolish, stupid, ignorant, and very dangerous because it does not reflect and describe reality. Current data points must come from reality and the present, not from virtuality and the past. Muslims nowadays do not live in reality; they exist in virtuality designed by treacherous political leaders and treasonist religious scholars.

The current reality of the Muslim world is that there is no Muslim world; there is no Muslim civilization; there is no Muslim culture; but there are ruins of the past world, civilization, and culture that passed away at the beginning of the twentieth century. Muslims now live in ruins, and they have to leave the ruins.[xiii] How? By adhering to and following principles, not precedents, not persons.

Precedents and persons do not show the full picture; they are just pixels. Precedents and persons do not allow interpolation and extrapolation. Precedents and persons are past histories; they are not present and not future. Principles show the full picture; principles allow interpolation and extrapolation. Principles govern the present and design future.

The human brain has limited capacity and a low work rate; it cannot work with large numbers of precedents and persons; it needs a limited number of principles.[xiv] Too much information results in paralysis by analysis, and that is why simple and actionable principles were the way and method of religions. Expansion, explosion, and inflation of knowledge of precedents and persons to unmanageable volume do not lead to concrete and positive actions, but they lead to stalemate and unproductive passivity. Contraction, condensation, compression, and concentration of knowledge to few and simple principles, to manageable volume and actionable level, leads to activity, production, and development.

The ability to act without having complete knowledge is dependent on knowing and applying principles; in real and non-idealized life, people never have complete knowledge; there is always uncertainty and vagueness. Novel situations and new problems cannot be understood and solved by copying precedents and imitating persons; principles must be applied to get understanding and arrive at the solution.

When Nursi wrote, in the Third Degree of Second Radiance of Twenty-Fifth Word and in the Fourth Element of Gleams, that Quran is eternal and that Quran is becoming younger as the world is becoming older, he, most probably, referred to the eternity of principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge.[xv] These principles are best-fit lines from the totality of six-thousand-two-hundred-thirty-seven (6237) data points of verses. Becoming younger means that principles come to the foreground, and precedents and persons shift to background.

The letters “h, t, r, e, m, o” are senseless and meaningless if they are separated, unconnected, and unordered. However, when we put them in order and establish connections between them, “m, o, t, h, e, r,” then they become sensible and meaningful. Thus, it is the totality of parts, connections between the parts, and order of the parts that bring meaning, sense, and purpose.

In the same way, precedents and persons have little meaning and sense by themselves and in themselves. It is the totality of precedents and persons, the connections between them, the ordering and classification that makes them meaningful, and this meaning and pattern are called principle. Single letters, single data points, single precedents, single persons are not enough to make meaning. Therefore, those, who select and confine themselves to approximately two hundred verses about warfare, are getting a skewed and unbalanced picture because they ignore other six thousand data points. They are stupid enough to discard, ignore, and neglect 97% of data points; woe to them.

In astronomy, there are stars and constellations. Stars are physical and material objects, and constellations are imaginary lines, figures, and connections that assign them meaning. In the same way, the verses of the Quran, precedents and persons of history are like stars and dots; we have to make connections between them; we have to arrange and order them in order to get the best-fit line and meaning.

Depending on the choice of intellectual reference point and moral system of coordinates (polar coordinate system[xvi], Cartesian coordinate system[xvii]); depending on the geometry of mindset (non-Euclidean geometry[xviii], Euclidean geometry[xix]); depending on the topography of mentality of society and individual[xx], the straight best-fit line in one projection might be curved in another projection (Mercator projection[xxi]). This means every individual and each group are going to be different and diverse. Similar maybe, but certainly different and diverse. And differences and diversities should not be seen as a threat, but differences and diversities should be understood as richness (30:21, 30:22, 49:13).

However, the multiplicity of persons and precedents do not defy and deny the unity of principles. For example, Sun is made of protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons. We are also made of protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons. The differences in size, structure, and function between Sun and we do not change the fact that both of us are made of protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons. Similarly, all mental and social structures and organizations, starting from the scale of individual and family and going up to the scale of global organizations, must be designed by few and simple principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge.

Principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge have to be present at all levels of social organizations. For example, when the picture is broken and torn up, then each piece holds only its own part of the information, but pieces of broken mirror and pieces of a hologram show the whole picture.[xxii] This means each pixel holds information about the whole picture.[xxiii] In the same way, each individual should hold principles of Justice,

Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge, and individuals comprising social organizations should take an equal part in the development of the organization. Individuals and organizations should be like mirrors and holograms when each part and pixel contain the information of the whole, not pictures, because pictures lose information after disintegration. In this sense, principles are like holograms, not pictures; principles cannot be fragmented; principles must be present in every part and all particles of social organization.

The average span of the conscious life of a person is about fifty-sixty years, which approximately equals twenty thousand (20000) days. This means there are twenty thousand versions of a person; there are twenty thousand data points. Although day-to-day changes in a person are small and unobservable, the cumulative change over twenty thousand days is drastic and monumental. Therefore, judging and evaluating someone on the basis of tens or hundreds of days is not smart because the majority of data points are absent. There have to be at least thousands of data points to make evaluation, judgment, and decision.

Scientists who make early and uncooked conclusions and decisions from incomplete data are labeled as frauds, and that is why they have to honestly point out the deficiencies and weaknesses in their own data and methods. Similarly, marriages, friendships, relationships, societies, and organizations that are built on incomplete and opaque data frequently prove themselves to be fragile and unproductive. Therefore, sharing of information and power, establishing the free and transparent flow of data both in vertical and horizontal directions, constructing clear, accountable, and controllable fiscal arteries and financial veins for the circulatory system of organization, honest and detailed explaining of the deficiencies and weaknesses in their own data and methods are the conditions of the survival and homeostasis of micro-organizations like families and macro-organization like nations.

Each best-fit line on a graph has a slope (gradient), and this gradient can change from positive to negative or vice versa. The days in the life of the person are data points, and these data points are used to construct the best-fit line of destiny and character. Let us assume that if the gradient (slope) of the best-fit line is positive, then the person is good, and she deserves

 Paradise, whereas if the slope is negative, then the person is evil, and she deserves Hell. In order to make the gradient positive, each new day must be better than the previous day. If each new day is worse than yesterday, then the slope becomes negative.

Now let us use this idea to look at the lives of Maslamah ibn Habib[xxiv] (also known as Musaylimah) and Ikrima ibn Amr ibn Hisham[xxv]. For Maslamah, the gradient of the best-fit line was initially positive, but then it turned negative. For Ikrima, initially, the gradient was negative, but later it became positive.

From these and similar graphs, we can extrapolate the best-fit line and tell the vector of the development of the person. Thus, as Nursi explained in the Second Fruit of the Twenty- Fourth Word, the seed of infinite and eternal Hell and Paradise is this finite and temporal life because our intentions (the first tradition in Bukhari[xxvi]), habits, and characters are extrapolations to the future of Paradise or Hell.

The last part of the best-fit line is extremely important because, throughout the twenty thousand days, habits are formed, and the totality of these habits forms the character and destiny of a person. The gradient (slope) of the best-fit line might be thought of as a character and destiny. The positive gradient of character is extrapolated upwards to Paradise, and the negative gradient of character is extrapolated downwards to Hell.

When we look at the best-fit lines of Maslamah and Ikrima, we can see that Maslamah’s line is positive and above zero on the JFCK axis, and Ikrima’s line is negative and below zero on the JFCK axis. This shows that the current position has little importance, and the direction and vector of development, the positive gradient of growth are much more important.

Verse 5:56 shows the order, priority, and hierarchy between principles, precedents, and persons. Firstly, God is mentioned because the principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge are the Names of God. Secondly, Messenger is mentioned because the life of Messenger sets precedents for the application of principles. Finally, persons are mentioned: those who believe; i.e., those who see belief as a process and journey, as twenty thousand data points with positive gradient best-fit line. Belief is no single data point; belief is the totality of all data points and their positive slope. Belief is an unfinished book composed of twenty thousand words when each day is a word, and each good deed is a letter in that word. Verse 5:56 tells us that principles are primary and that principles are the priority, not precedents and not persons.

Verse 6:33 also shows the importance and significance of principles over precedents and persons. There it is written that they rejected principles because they thought them to be incompatible with their lifestyles and habits. Here, we can get the idea that persons do not change the lifestyles and habits of other persons, but principles do change the lifestyles and habits. Persons come and go, rise and fall, become born and die, come near and leave; but principles are here and now, always with us; principles never leave and betray us; principles are the guiding North Star, not persons and precedents.

Currently, Muslims are either cultural Muslims or scriptural Muslims or a combination of both. Cultural Muslims inherited their faith; scriptural Muslims are in the process of constructing their faith.[xxvii] Cultural Muslims inherited five-hundred-year-old building with a leaking roof, falling walls, no plumbing, no electricity, no adherence to modern hygienic standards, no prevention and protection from damage of earthquakes, no fire-resistant materials, no eco-friendly technologies, no thermal insulation, no room for females, no library, no office room, no workshop room, no art room, no possibility of adding more rooms and levels, no garden, etc.

Scriptural Muslims are trying to construct new buildings and new cities from scratch, but they have no knowledge of architecture and city planning; they are ignorant in the matters of insulation, plumbing, wiring, etc.

In which group I want to be? Of course, in the group of scriptural Muslims who give priority to principles, but not cultural Muslims who follow precedents and persons ignoring and neglecting principles. Although scriptural Muslims are in the open prairie, open to winds, snow, rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and everything else, they have a chance and place to build something new, while cultural Muslims are content to live in ruins.

That five-hundred-year-old house is not my home, but it is my prison, and I am running away from it. I have a map, and I have a plan; it is called Quran. I am going to a new place to build a new home for myself. The architecture of this new home is the principles of Justice, Freedom, Compassion, and Knowledge. I am not going to copy precedents of previous houses; I am not going to imitate the persons of cultural Muslims.

For most Muslims, the ideas and concepts of data points, best-fit line, gradient, the symmetry of space and time, non-Euclidean geometry, Mercator projection, homeostasis, etc., are going to be indigestible intellectual food that they are going to spit away or throw up.

However, Nursi was not writing for his contemporaries because he viewed most of them as mindless zombies (mezar-ı müteharrik).[xxviii] Nursi was writing for future generations.

Similarly, I write not for my contemporaries but for myself and my children. I do not want my children to live in the Middle Ages and Middle Eastern version of Islam that political Islamists are so eager to promote.

If my writings are incorrect, then it means they are wrong hypotheses that are stepping stones to correct theories.

I chose, and I am choosing principles, not precedents, not persons.

2:111 … Say: “Produce your proof if you are truthful!” [xxix]

25:30. And the Messenger says: “My Lord! Surely my people have made this Qur’an something worthy of no attention.” [xxx]

-İman isteyen münafık 


[i] Wikipedia, “Noether’s Theorem,” in Wikipedia, December 28, 2020,


[ii] quoteinvestigator.com, “Great Minds Discuss Ideas; Average Minds Discuss Events; Small

Minds Discuss People – Quote Investigator,” accessed March 13, 2021, https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/11/18/great-minds/.

[iii] İman isteyen münafık, “Justice, Freedom, Compassion, Knowledge,” January 29, 2021,


[iv] Ali Ünal, The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English, n.d.,

www.mquran.org www.theholybook.org.

[v] Said Bediuzzaman Nursi, The Words: On the Nature and Purposes of Man, Life, and All

Things, trans. Şükran Vahide, vol. 1, Risale-i Nur Collection, 2008, http://www.sozler.com.tr.

[vi] İman isteyen münafık, “Islam: Freedom or Slavery?,” March 7, 2021,


[vii] Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential, 2006.

[viii] Wikipedia, “Scatter Plot,” in Wikipedia, February 17, 2021,


[ix] Wikipedia, “Curve Fitting,” in Wikipedia, March 11, 2021,


[x] Wikipedia, “Extrapolation,” in Wikipedia, October 23, 2020,


[xi] Wikipedia, “Uncertainty,” in Wikipedia, February 7, 2021,


 [xii] Wikipedia, “Error Bar,” in Wikipedia, January 29, 2021,


[xiii] İman isteyen münafık, “Islam: Welfare or Warfare?,” accessed March 13, 2021,


[xiv] Dale H. Schunk, Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective, 6th ed (Boston: Pearson,



[xv] Said Bediuzzaman Nursi, The Words: On the Nature and Purposes of Man, Life, and All

Things, trans. Şükran Vahide, vol. 1, Risale-i Nur Collection, 2008, http://www.sozler.com.tr.

[xvi] Wikipedia, “Polar Coordinate System,” in Wikipedia, February 27, 2021,


[xvii] Wikipedia, “Cartesian Coordinate System,” in Wikipedia, February 27, 2021,


[xviii] Wikipedia, “Non-Euclidean Geometry,” in Wikipedia, January 14, 2021,


[xix] Wikipedia, “Euclidean Geometry,” in Wikipedia, February 15, 2021,


[xx] Wikipedia, “Topography,” in Wikipedia, March 4, 2021,


[xxi] Wikipedia, “Mercator Projection,” in Wikipedia, March 10, 2021,


 [xxii] Wikipedia, “Holography,” in Wikipedia, March 6, 2021,


[xxiii] quora.com, “Why Does a Hologram, When Broken, Behave like the Full Complete

Original Picture, Only Smaller? - Quora,” accessed March 13, 2021,


[xxiv] Wikipedia, “Musaylimah,” in Wikipedia, February 27, 2021,


[xxv] Wikipedia, “Ikrima Ibn Abi Jahl,” in Wikipedia, February 16, 2021,


[xxvi] Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, ed. Mika’il al-Almany, trans. M. Muhsin Khan, 2009,


[xxvii] Alan Pritchard and John Woollard, Psychology for the Classroom: Constructivism and

Social Learning, Psychology for the Classroom Series (London ; New York: Routledge, 2010).

[xxviii] Said Bediuzzaman Nursi, “Gelen Neslin Kapısında Durmayınız! (Münâzarât),” YENİ

ASYA - Gerçekten haber verir, accessed March 13, 2021,


[xxix] Ünal, The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English.

[xxx] Ünal.


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