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I have noticed a trend in the posts on this site, where a question is asked under the (apparently) implicit assumption that all Muslims follow a single unified doctrine called "Islam."

In a lot of cases, this would just result in a slough of answers from various schools, which may or may not be of any use to the questioner. The questioner is of course entitled to narrow the scope of his question to a particular school or interpretation; we have touched on this problem already with the whole Shia-Sunni fiasco.

However, I feel that the fundamental problem runs deeper than that.

The fact is, although we all call ourselves Muslim, there isn't really one thing we can point to and say "This is Islam." Differences of opinion abound. Even the Qur'an itself, the one primary source that Muslims (almost) unanimously accept as God's own Truth, is not free from conflicting interpretations ("And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah.")

This point was really driven home with the original version of this post. The question itself is definitely on-topic, but it was quite literally not answerable until the questioner clarified that it was regarding Muslim women who wear the veil.

Is it the questioner's fault? Probably not; there is a lot of media attention to the "Islam = Veil" perspective, it's very easy to think that the religion itself mandates the veil. However, the fact is, there is no consensus to that; some scholars say it's mandatory, some say it's recommended, some say it's optional, some say it's nothing.

Before the veil clarification, I could off the top of my head come up with three potential reasons that the question would even need to be asked. Without knowing exactly where the question was coming from, there was a 2/3 chance (yay statistics) of answering the wrong question entirely.

This is not a good thing. At all.

So the question I lay forth is this: What guidelines should we impose on questions to ensure they're at an acceptable (and answerable) level of quality?

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    For what it's worth, clarifying in comments and editing the question was the right course of action on that question. Expect more questions that make wrong assumptions, unfortunately. – Jon Ericson Jul 6 '12 at 20:08
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    Thanks for this. For some reason, the question has now been closed, but an answer has been provided (and accepted) anyway. – TRiG Jul 16 '12 at 12:03
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As there is no guarantee that any two Muslims in a room will ever agree on anything, I propose that any implicit assumptions be made explicit. When asking a question, if an assumption is fundamental to why the question is even being asked, or to the answers expected, it should be spelled out.

For example, if a question is asked based on…

  • …such-and-such an interpretation being true, mention the interpretation.
  • …such-and-such a hadith being authentic, mention the hadith.
  • …such-and-such an action being prohibited, mention the prohibition.
  • …such-and-such a school of fiqh being valid, mention the school.

And so on. You get the picture.

There should always be some sort of context whence a question came; legitimate questions don't tend to form in a vacuum. Making these assumptions explicit in the question, and requiring answers to follow from the same assumptions, would serve the dual-purpose of helping the readers know exactly what is being asked, and narrowing the focus for potential answers.

  • very good suggestion indeed, all the troubles come out from the implicit assumptions not necessarily acceptable by the questioner and others, this will yield into a conflict, clarification about all such things would be then a straightforward solution although I doubt everyone would or could do this to a desired level. – owari Sep 11 '14 at 3:36
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Why not allowing answers from whatever dozens of sects there are out there? I think this adds to the value of the site as it broadens our perspective to the diversity of juridical/interpretive differences among schools.

Muslims following a sect need to come out of their closet and learn about the myriad of different interpretations/narratives/rulings by different schools. We should recognize in practice that 'Islam' is not a straightforward easy-to-study-and-fathom topic. Muslims should grow to recognize this, especially nowadays that there seems to be a prevalent culture of arbitrary ruling-happy fatwas among Muslims.

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    I agree with you. I reckon it will increase the credit of the site by letting various sects to express their various opinions regarding different issues of Islam. – اللهم صل علی محمد و آل محمد Sep 10 '14 at 11:39
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    this is also a good solution, although it can be assumed as already involved in the answer by goldPseudo but is indeed, to my opinion, the same answer but in a more applicable fashion, and to some extent its more general version, that is, we can stop restricting the question to one sect and instead expect all the answerer to include all their implicit assumptions, including their sect, the we would have a whole idea of all the schools on a same subject, all being clarified to some extent. – owari Sep 11 '14 at 3:43
  • This is just a terrible idea; allowing answers that the questioner isn't seeking just increases the number of questions not getting appropriately answered, and expecting all answers to cover dozens of points of view at anything resembling an expert level is the opposite of feasible. It flies directly in the face of the Stack Exchange model, which is all about focussed answers to focussed questions. – goldPseudo Sep 11 '14 at 3:47
  • @goldPseudo Ah, I should've mentioned that this idea had better be applied to questions that do not specify any sect or clearly ask for answers from different sects for possible comparative study purposes. – infatuated Sep 11 '14 at 4:11
  • The SE model isn't particularly primed for comparative study; allowing answers from multiple sects (at least as has been done over the last two years of the site, which is not to mention sites like C.SE which ban exactly that sort of question for exactly this reason) just results in voting turning into a popularity contest rather than a useful measure of which answer is actually more "correct". – goldPseudo Sep 11 '14 at 4:17
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    @goldPseudo, voting is not a problem exclusive to questions with multiple answers. It can affect (as it currently does) all questions and answers on this site. Thus the issue of poor voting should be handled separately. – infatuated Sep 11 '14 at 7:17

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