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If you've watched this meta site for, well, pretty much since the beginning, you've noticed constant discussion about how Sunni and Shia Muslims can get along. My colegue, Robert Cartaino, encouraged adopting a moderation policy that accepts Islamic diversity and rejects trolls. To summarize a whole bunch of words: Islam—Stack Exchange is a site for expert Q&A, not debate. If you are here to poke holes in someone else's belief system, you are here for the wrong reasons. Most people want build a definitive collection of knowledge about Islam.

Now I absolutely understand wanting to convince other people that your particular theology is correct. (I don't imagine y'all would appreciate my theology.) But this just isn't the place for apologetics or da‘wah. If you insist on aggressively promoting your particular theology, we ask that you find some other site on the internet; there are plenty.

For the rest of us, there's a temptation to create a bunch of rules (like these) to enforce good behavior. Unfortunately, the people the rules are designed to turn away are also the most likely to rule lawyer a site to death. Instead, we have a few simple principles:

  • Be honest.

    Religion makes concrete the ineffable. It is a humbling task since few of us get it right or even come close. If you look at your own understanding of Islam honestly, you will certainly detect places where you aren't quite sure about the truth. Please don't pretend that your knowledge is greater than it is.

  • Be nice.

    It's inevitable that you will disagree with others from time to time. When that happens, treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated. Are you more likely to be persuaded by an abrasive or a gentle argument? Disagree politely or keep silent.

  • Do not use signature, taglines, or greetings.

    On the surface, this is a procedural rule: format things this way and not another. But it signals a separation of content from author. When you post something on this site, it becomes a sort of common property. Anyone seeking answers on Islam will benefit from them if the site is well curated. Take ownership of your shared resources.

  • Avoid overt self-promotion.

    When asking questions, your primary goal should be to satisfy your curiosity. When answering, your goal should be to share knowledge you've acquired. In neither case should you simply be promoting your own theological tradition. Questions should not be designed to attack opposing points of view. Answers should answer the question asked and not try to wedge in alternate points of view.

    I know that most people are equipped to answer questions from one school of Islam and not others. That's just how things are. But we ask that everyone maintains an attitude of detachment for the purposes of this site. You are invested in your point of view personally, but when making decisions on this site you should put that allegiance aside temporarily.

If these principles sound good to you, please help us become the best place on the internet for learning about Islam. Otherwise... there are plenty of other places for holding debates.

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    Fair enough! But how exactly do we draw the line between kind of negative 'debates' that should be avoided and scholarly disagreements that help towards a better understanding of Islam? I can already imagine how the two approaches could be distinguished but elaboration will help others have a more concrete criterion to align themselves. – infatuated Jul 18 '14 at 16:47
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    @infatuated: I think the line draws itself when people are honest about their own motivations. As an outsider, I'd look for detailed questions that consider several possible answers when reading scholarly disagreements. Scholars quote and cite their sources compulsively. That seems an uncommon practice here, for some reason. – Jon Ericson Jul 18 '14 at 17:40
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    @infatuated SE as a platform for religious QnA works best when it is used as a place to ask about and answer with reports on the status of scholarly debate. It is not a good host for the debates themselves. That is where I suggest you draw the line. Content here should be descriptive of the way things are (including if they are debated) not prescriptive of the way they should be (and thus dragging the debate into this arena). – Caleb Jul 18 '14 at 20:10
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    @Caleb, Ah! thanks indeed! Being descriptive rather than prescriptive! That's a perfect distinction! – infatuated Jul 18 '14 at 20:46
  • @JonEricson Thank you for your not. If a person is coming to the site and is asking a question with an assumption...for instance he considers slavery to be permissible and then asks a question; as an answer can I say its not permissible for the following reasons; or I should just walk away and avoid any sort of academic discussion? I mean perhaps the reason he is asking the question originally is that his basis is incorrect... I don't want to enforce my own understanding rather just shed light on another possible explanation...Please clarify this point for us all. – Honey Jan 5 '16 at 3:47
  • without seeing examples of which type of discussion you are trying to discourage this text is hard to understand for me, it is unclear, proofless. – qdinar Jun 19 '17 at 9:01
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While I strongly agree on all your points, I disagree slightly on this particular sentence:

"But this just isn't the place for apologetics or da‘wah"

When a question appears to be disproving/attacking a strong, fundamental part of Islam, most answers would look apologetic.

However in reality, answers to this type of questions must be systematic and logical proving of the point and disproving the attackers' statement - which in many cases may look apologetic.

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i think there is no such problem.

there is also no such problem on stackoverflow. people ask a question there and can get many answers, some maybe more correct than others, and they can get votes according to how much they are correct, and incorrect answers may have some comments under them showing that they are incorrect or weak sides of it.

why somebody can ask just for the best/truest answer among various answers, including answers belonging to different mazhabs and sects?

why we, Muslims, cannot just use this site to find solutions to our problems?

i think truth exists and it is possible to find it, for all or most questions.

" But this just isn't the place for apologetics or da‘wah. If you insist on aggressively promoting your particular theology, we ask that you find some other site on the internet; there are plenty. "

-- you refer to wikipedia's "apologetics" article but that article says that it is defence with argumentation. and you are discouraging it. how argumentation can be discouraged at all?! how can be there good answers and questions without arguments?

maybe really you are against {aggressive promoting of any idea without proofs and arguments and base}? - i understand this. but even with those kind of posts, since this site has voting system, why they are dangerous? they are going to be downvoted.

maybe really you are against extended discussion in comments? i know, this is site's policy, such encouragement appears when many comments appear to a post.

i think this is an affordable rule. comments are designed to be small. and site is just encouraging to move arguments to answers, so that they can be voted. it encourages some determining of correct answer by voting instead of by debates. this looks ok for question-answer site. it is classic, all q-a sites are such, have voting system.

and i have just checked: when i try to write first comment to a post, there is no such encouragement, and there is no link about commenting on help page. and site has rules of commenting in comment box (textarea): "Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. ... " - later part is different for comments to questions and answers.

i think that probably should be said more apparently and strongly to users who are going to write a comment.

" Now I absolutely understand wanting to convince other people that your particular theology is correct. (I don't imagine y'all would appreciate my theology.) "

-- seems you have some opinion about Islam and other religions and you use "theology" with "your particular theology", "my theology", it would be strange to hear somebody says "my mathematics", "your physics", and seems you think that such knowledge areas is not like science and technology and there cannot ever be correct answer.

i do not agree with that. and i think that Muslims think that there should be only one truth. it maybe itself of sort of "do what you, everybody, want", but it exists. and we also can use arguments in religious issues. it is just like mathematics, we have some proofs, they have other proofs for themselves, and at end it goes to some axioms. and axioms also can be discussed. and seems we come at end to choosing what is more good and respectful/important among different effects of different solutions, and to what source is more trustable and why it is more trustable, and to meanings of words in Arabic language. and it comes also to facts of world, so, also to science, because Quran refers to proofs of god in facts/phenomena of world and to ayats of Quran with same word "ayat".

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