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We here have had a long and ugly history of copy-paste; as a site we actually seem to have had some success at discouraging these posts, which is an important step toward distinguishing us as a reliable source of Q&A rather than just another forum.

Kudos for that.

We still see a lot of posts which are heavy with quotes from the hadith and/or Qur'an — makes sense, really, us being a site about Islam and all — which generally aren't considered to fall under the "copy-paste" considerations. Often, however, these quotes are still provided with little to no actual context beyond "Here are some hadiths that answer your question," which basically has all the trappings that made copy-paste so problematic, in particular the concern about having little to no original content.

Obviously, we as a site want to encourage answers that have useful evidence, but just presenting these evidences as-is, I'm not sure how useful that even is.

Do such evidences speak for themselves? What, if anything, should be done with such answers to make them actually useful, not only to the questioner but to the academic nature of this site in general?

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In general, Islamic forums are already full of these sorts of answers, and they often just devolve into apologetic and polemic debates with each side cherry-picking primary evidences that support their case. More often than not, the actual questioners just end up more confused than when they started.

The basic premise of the Stack Exchange model is to provide a better Q&A experience; cut through the noise and debate that the Internet never seems to get tired of, and just give people actual useful answers.

In order to be useful, answers need to be tailored to the question. Many of the questions on this site (particularly fatwa questions) demonstrate little if anything in the way of actual expertise in the Islamic sciences. Professional scholars can spend years — can even dedicate their whole lives — to studying how to understand and apply the primary sources and barely scratch the surface of what they need to know, how so then random strangers on the Internet?

There are centuries upon centuries of research done in the Islamic studies; whole branches of Islamic science have been developed just to figure out how to properly understand, authenticate, and apply the primary sources. And despite all this, there are still significant differences of opinion on any number of fundamental issues. The assumption that presenting the primary sources as-is, as if they in and of themselves can effectively answer any given question is at best simplistic. And just assuming that any given user is in any way capable of critically analyzing these same sources to get the answer to their question is just…no.

As I see it, the fact that so many forums — and especially polemic/apologetic sites — seem to make those assumptions is a major factor toward why people are still asking the same questions over and over again: There's no shortage of evidences out there, but a serious dearth of answers.

Questioners ask here because they are relying on our expertise, often because they lack that same expertise themselves. If critical examination of the evidences is necessary for a good answer, but the questioner lacks the ability to do so themselves, then it is incumbent on the answerer to do it for them. If neither the questioner nor the answerer show any such expertise, simply throwing more evidences into the pot really doesn't help anybody.

So, in short, no: One should never assume that evidences can speak for themselves. They are items, not answers.

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If a guide takes much study and research to arrive at understable laymen level, it's just as good as not having it. Either that the Qur'an is not a guide, or the so called scholars are overcomplicating the analysis.

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    You might be able to argue that if this were an Arabic site, with a primary userbase who can actually read the Qur'an in its original language, but there are numerous English translations which don't even agree with each other; this in and of itself would require study and research to critically appreciate. And your final sentence is just a Truth claim which more-or-less rejects any flavour of Islam that relies on scholarly analysis instead of direct Qur'an-only analysis (of which there are many, and their questions/answers are just as welcome on this site as yours are). – goldPseudo Feb 2 '15 at 15:51
  • Many hadiths are part of a story. The scholars themselves work hard at isolating the hadith to make it understandable without the full story. But as evidence it can be very complex. We can compare it to Law -- legal terms are very straightforward and clear, but it takes a professional to understand the full context of why the law is there. – Muz Feb 5 '15 at 2:12

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