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I just read a fatwa, but there's something about it that I don't understand. This totally looks like a job for the tag, but how should I phrase my question?

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In order to ensure that such a question attracts actual useful answers, rather than argument and debate, it is important that it be presented as objectively as possible. As such, the following guidelines are recommended:

1. Identify the fatwa

This is probably the most important step: The question needs to be based on an existing fatwa given by an authority under an identifiable methodology. If the question is about a common doctrinal/cultural understanding (e.g. if your question is "Everybody tells me that…" rather than "This particular scholar says that…"), it is too vague to be a (but it could end up as a good question instead)

1a. What counts as an "authority under an identifiable methodology"?

What is or is not considered authoritative can be highly subjective, but for the purposes of this meta post a fatwa can be considered "given by an authority under an identifiable methodology" if it…

  • …is clearly identified with an established madh'hab
  • …is written by a scholar with a large enough corpus of fatawa (i.e. a fatwa site or published work) that their methodology can reasonably be interpreted

If, however, that fatwa comes from a forum or blog post from a relative unknown, it probably does not count as "authoritative".

What is important is that the foundations for the fatwa are understood (or can reasonably be expected to be understood), and that the person providing the fatwa understood (or can reasonably be expected to have understood) those foundations when presenting his own fatwa.

2. Identify the perspective

It is essential that such a question is scoped to the exact perspective of the fatwa itself, be this perspective a particular sect, a particular madh'hab, or even a particular scholar. If you're interested in an explanation of the fatwa, it is important that the fundamental methodology of the fatwa itself is presumed valid; outside perspectives which reject those foundations are more likely to devolve into arguments about those foundations than any actual useful explanation of the end result.

3. Explain the confusion

Just saying you don't understand the fatwa doesn't really say anything. What exactly don't you understand? Does it use complex grammar and vocabulary that you're having trouble parsing? Does it apparently contradict strong evidences? The more details you provide, the easier it is for others to resolve the issue.

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