Recently, answer #938 to this question was deleted for plagiarism; due to the length of time this post was visible and the nature of the plagiarised text, the value of the votes it had accrued was highly suspect: It was recommended that the author re-post his corrected answer rather than make any attempt at undeleting the original.

This answer has been reposted as #13054 on the same question (due to its length, I refrain from quoting it here). The plagiarism has been corrected, so now any votes this question accrues should accurately reflect the post's value to this site and the expertise of the post's author.

However, even before catching the plagiarism, I was already concerned about what (if any) value this post actually has for the site. Now that the post has been corrected and re-posted, its merits can accurately be judged by the community.

Does this answer provide any value to this site? What, if anything, should be done with it?


I agree that the answer should be deleted. Just now while I'm writing this the answer has 5 upvotes which doesn't deserve at all. Partisan voting has already started.


In short

  • Likely to attract partisan voting
  • Appears to be answering entirely the wrong question
  • Too much noise; not enough signal
  • Deletion recommended

In long

I contend that, as written, the answer has significant problems which are too fundamental to be reasonably corrected by editing; this takes it beyond the realm of "not useful" and into the realm of "probably shouldn't be on the site at all".

The first and most fundamental of these problems is the fact that it does not actually answer the question, which is to say "Why Shia Muslims use a stone for saying prayers but Sunni Muslims don't?" The answer argues extensively why Shi'a Muslims use a stone for praying, which covers the first half of the question, but except for one short paragraph (in parentheses, no less) doesn't even try to explain why Sunni Muslims don't. This is clearly intentional, given the opening paragraph of the answer.

Likely to attract partisan voting

In an earlier meta post, I argued that for cases where the question is asking about a point in which there are major differences of opinion between sects, answers should either accurately summarise all sides of the argument (as is done in the current top-voted answer), or the question should be edited to focus on one side or the other. In this case, the question is clearly asking "Why such difference in style?" which would put it in well in the former category.

The danger in allowing the sorts of "half-answers" that only present one half of a controversial issue is that it tends to attract partisan voting. In the best case scenario, voters from one perspective will vote for the best post that reflects that perspective, while voters from the other perspective will vote for the best post of that perspective; in the worst case scenario, voters from one perspective will also selectively downvote posts of the other. This basically means that instead of allowing the most useful answers to float to the top, voting on these answers effectively just turns things into a popularity contest. This doesn't really jive with the Stack Exchange way and is potentially disastrous on a site such as ours where the risks of sectarianism cannot be overstated. Especially in this case where the difference of opinion is explicitly between Shi'ites and Sunnis, given the relative sizes of the two demographics.

Appears to be answering entirely the wrong question

Beyond that, it doesn't actually seem intent on answering even that half of the question; the bulk of the answer seems concerned with answering the entirely unasked (and only tangentially related) question, which from context appears to be either "Is it permissible/recommended for Sunni Muslims to pray on earth," or "Are Sunnis wrong to condemn Shi'ites for praying on earth?" This can easily be seen in various sentences throughout the answer:

  • Both Shia and Sunni scholars allow prostration over clay…
  • some sunni references say it is sunnah…
  • None of these is wrong in the Sunni view as well…
  • Some Sunni Muslims think Shia worship to stone itself…

The most egregious case of this, however, is with the ahadith quoted in the latter half of the answer, which are explicitly presented as "some hadith from Sunni hadith books." While the answer does explain that Shi'ites are more than happy to use "Sunni" ahadith in their rulings if they're found authentic, the answer does not claim nor demonstrate that these particular ahadith were ever used in such a manner.

It even goes so far as to quote "Sunni scholar Maulana Vahidul Zamankhan" with no attempt to explain why his opinion is of any value in Ja'fari jurisprudence.

Putting aside the Sunni/Shi'a issue for a minute, I contend that just quoting a list of ahadith is useless in an answer of this sort. Without providing any context to demonstrate their actual use, not to mention any attempt to gauge relative strengths, context or interpretation, it tends to come across as a vain attempt to look authentic without providing actual value. And even if they're all authentic and valuable in their own right, there really is no reason to list all of them; such lists are typically just an example of quantity over quality.

And as for the linked sites,

  1. The first of the linked sites was nothing a long list of ahadith — emphasising the fact that they're Sunni ahadith — with absolute no attempt at context. The page isn't even credited to anyone, so there's no way of knowing if these ahadith were compiled by a scholar, or just a random Joe on the street. They're just… there.

  2. The second of the linked sites is entirely in Arabic, so I can't comment on its value.

  3. The third of the linked sites, however, again seems less interested in arguing for the Shi'ite practice of praying with stone, and more intent on proving Sunnis wrong for arguing against it.

At this point, I feel it is important to note that the author of the question makes absolutely no indication that he's even Sunni or coming from a Sunni background, so from the perspective of the question (which, honestly, should be the most important perspective for any answer) there's really no reason to believe there's any value to sites or even an answer intent on disproving a Sunni perspective.

Too much noise; not enough signal

The value of the Stack Exchange model is to maximise the signal-to-noise ratio; as such, answers should be clear and to-the-point. I contend that this answer, as written, is almost entirely noise, and that the only real "signal" is in the first three paragraphs of the posts "In Length" section. While barely an answer in its own right, this segment at least tries to answer the actual question by explaining why Shi'ites do and (some) Sunni's don't insist on using stone to pray:

According to Jafari Fiqh sujud (prostration) should be only on earth and if is on other things like carpet the prayer is not accepted. because in today like findig earth is difficult in homes and apartments so Shia Muslims use anything that is considered part of earth like stone, wood, leaf of plants. but usually a Muhr (made by soil) for genuflection. it is highly recommended with a great reward to to sujud on soil of Karbala.

(Some Sunni Muslims think Shia worship to stone itself as idol and so consider it as polytheism and taboo. Using a stone among Shia is similar to praying towards Kabba which isnot worshiping Kaaba itself.)

Imam Sadiq S.A. always had emphasized this.

Deletion recommended

Given that this would involve deleting the vast majority of the answer, this edit would involve a fundamental change in the information presented; this is not really what editing is for. And even if that were done, it would still require substantial editing for grammar, and even then it doesn't really provide much in the way of information that isn't already present in the extant answers, and if it presents it in a way that is better, or even remotely comparable, to the current top-voted answer, I'm just not seeing it.

As far as I'm concerned, any attempt to salvage this answer would require such substantial editing that it would lose pretty much any resemblance to the original, and those edits will leave it, at best, passable. Not great, not good, just passable. There's just not enough meat in this answer to warrant the effort.

As such, I feel that this answer should just be deleted in its entirety.

  • 1
    I wasn't going to agree with you regarding deleting it(downvoting is working for now) but after seeing the 2 upvotes I changed my mind since this is clearly going to attract partisan voting as you mentioned above. I mean, the post was confusing and didn't make any sense. I tried to read it from a shia perspective and I read the word sunnis more than shia. I mean common sense is to put the shia hadith by Imam sadiq on top. As a shia I’m more interested in learning about shia fiqh than reading sunni sources. Heck, why don't I just call myself sunni then if I depend on sunni sources ? – Sohaeb May 24 '14 at 3:23
  • 1
    and well done for writing such answer. It opened my mind to new ways of thinking +1 – Sohaeb May 24 '14 at 3:30

I agree that the answer fails to meet the quality and coherence expected by the site but I have reservations on some of the issues you raised.

But as for why the answer is weak I agree with your criticism of it for being

  • a half-answer
  • not adequate explanation on possible usefulness of the multiple hadiths quoted
  • and less vitally, grammatical errors and phrasing deficiencies which could’ve been easily improved, have they been the only issue with the answer.

But your charge that

  • the second half “answers entirely the wrong question” or “answers what is only tangentially related” to the original question

is, I think, debatable because the OP’s question seems to be mainly prompted by

  • the reason for the Shiite practice – for which the order of the title question where questioning of the Shiite practice comes first to me seems like an indication;
  • and also by a wonder at the fact that “Sunnis consider that a taboo”.

I think these are the factors that have provoked the author to find it necessary to answer the implicit and, in my opinion, closely relevant question of "Are Sunnis wrong to condemn Shi'ites for praying on earth?”

Moreover, I think the author is also partially prompted by the defects in the first answer as well, because to me it also seems that the extant answer doesn’t do justice to the question asked because:

  • First it doesn’t specifically explain why Sunnis dismiss as fabricated or weak the hadiths suggesting that Prophet Muhammad prostrated on clay/mud.

  • Second, The Quranic argument from “hardship in religion” is debatable ,because it is hard to reasonably argue that carrying to or keeping a small stone in the place of prayer qualifies for “hardship in religion”. One would argue that praying early in morning or going to armed jihad brings way more “hardship” than praying on stone while the former examples are not only haram but obligatory.

  • Third, it also fails to see that the prophetic injunction to “pray wherever you are” doesn’t specifically point to a place or object on which to prostrate. It in fact suggests the general location of the prayer which can be well “wherever” on the Earth (that is, inside, outside, bedroom, kitchen, rooftops, desert, jungle, etc).

  • Fourth, the explanation of the Shiite view of the practice is not elaborate and comprehensive.

I think these were the factors that have promoted the second user to post a new answer that, while providing some relevant and useful points, fails to integrate them in a full coherent answer that meets the site expected standards. I think the answerer can be encouraged to either edit the answer or re-post it with the necessary improvements.

  • 2
    "I think the author is also partially prompted by the defects in the first answer" The author wrote his answer way before I write my answer. However, His answer got deleted because of plagiarism. and now he wrote the same exact answer before but without the plagiarized material. So the 4 bullet points you mentioned below don't really count. And actually I wrote my answer because he was quoting weak hadiths without stating that these hadiths are weak. – Sohaeb May 24 '14 at 19:16
  • on the whole, I thank you for your useful question and answers, Since this is the question of many muslims that why Shia... good luck – HELE-HELE الاهواز May 24 '14 at 19:57
  • @Sohaeb, I was referring to his new answer. – infatuated May 25 '14 at 4:28

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