Where should we stand on encyclopedic questions? For example, one can ask "How should I perform salat?", it is a question that you can google and get more answers than you want, or you can ask "How can I divorce according to Islam?", although a good question, this one is quite googleable too. What should we do about such questions?

  • 1
    You mean fiqhi questions?
    – Ansari
    Jun 20, 2012 at 2:19
  • 1
    Yes, but also, any kind of question that can easily be answered by googling it.
    – user44
    Jun 20, 2012 at 2:21
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    Googlable questions will be downvoted naturally.
    – Ansari
    Jun 20, 2012 at 2:22
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    @Ansari downvoting isnt enough those questions should be closed as off topic
    – Ashu
    Jun 20, 2012 at 5:16
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3 Answers 3


I think we should allow it.

StackExchange websites were meant to provide meaningful answers for important questions.

Prayer and divorce are important to all practicing Muslims, and this information should be available to all Muslims in a simple to understand way.

A way to achieve this is through collaboration, people here should collaborate to enhance the quality of answers available on this website, that's why there's community wikis.

Another reason why we should allow this is the scarcity of quality Islamic content on the internet.

  • 1
    This is what other SE sites do. They down-vote/close and answer it.
    – ashes999
    Jun 20, 2012 at 9:49

I'd say they are fine as long as they're not duplicates.

A new convert or non-Muslim may be interested in the details of Salat. You might even have opposing views between Sunni and Shia Muslims on such a basic topic. If it is indeed a trivial/lazy question it will be downvoted. If it's something a lot of people have asked or worded in such a way that it provokes thought, it will be upvoted. The system balances itself out.

A majority of Islamic sites are not very high quality or accurate. Wikipedia can be a target of vandalism. Sometimes someone will be confused over conflicting content.

While you don't have to quote every detail of salat, you can link to one that does or give a proper summary. The SE reputation system will be a decent judge of how reliable the answer is.


This isn't really an issue about whether a topic is easily googlable or not. The real meat of the question is: Can we do a better job here than what's already out there?

There are plenty of encyclopedic questions which really are "encyclopedic": Often these questions would simply take the form of "What does Islam say about [topic]?". These sorts of questions often take far more space to explain in sufficient detail than Stack Exchange was really designed to handle in a single post, and are pretty much the definition of "Too Broad". And in many cases, these already have encyclopedic entries on Wikipedia (which, as a site actually designed to be an encyclopedia, can do a far better job of explaining these topics in detail than we ever could). There is often little to no value to bringing those over to here.

There are also plenty of questions which simply show little to no research effort. If Google is already coming up with a dozen answers which perfectly answer the question asked, the question should probably just be downvoted; Stack Exchange is geared toward providing expert answers to focussed questions, but if the best we can offer is simply re-iterating the top link on Google because the questioner couldn't be bothered to find it himself, that's just a waste of our experts' time and will likely just bore them away. We as a site should be geared towards people who want to learn, but that doesn't mean we should cater to users who are too lazy to work for it.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of commonly asked questions which, when googled, do bring "more answers than you want"; these are in my experience often questions in which there are multiple opinions, and the Google experience is basically more confusing than useful: Everyone has their own opinion and everyone says theyir own opinion is right and everyone else's opinion is wrong, and the actual questioner ends up with a face full of mutually contradictory answers and no way to sort them out.

For these cases, there often is value in bringing them over here, but they need to be asked appropriately: Just asking the exact same question verbatim that gives you a hundred disparate opinions on Google is highly likely to just get you the same hundred disparate opinions here. In other words, no net improvement. The Stack Exchange model does not work there.

To me, this is the sort of thing where Community Wiki posts really shine. As long as the question is asked with the intent of providing a canonical answer, and the answers are written in accord with that intent, and everyone is willing to work together to handle and maintain the thread, you can build far more valuable resource here than exists elsewhere.

Take for example the classic SO post "The Definitive C++ Book Guide and List". That post was a massive community effort, spanning not only numerous revisions in the thread itself (and countless now-deleted comments, I'm sure), but also arguments on meta on how to handle it and discussions in chat on what should and should not be included. Such posts provide tangible value not only to the site, but to the people seeking that information (which is really what we're here for), but they really need the community to work together — they're called Community Wiki for a reason — else they degenerate into opinion-bait.

In all the above cases, however, a one-liner question with absolutely no effort shown would fail: We want questions that show both effort and value, because if you don't think the question is valuable enough to warrant effort, why should anybody else? If you think a question is a viable fount for a comprehensive and valuable resource, you need to be willing and able to actually present it in such a way that the community will back you up on it, and willing to work with the community to bring that to fruition. Otherwise, it'll just founder.

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