5

There's currently some momentum on chat behind changing the off-topic close reasons. So I'm writing this post to identify some example fatwa-request questions, as mentioned in chat. This is a exploratory analysis, to get a "feel" for the surrounding issues.

Main observations

  1. What are fatwa-request questions? I'll define it as: A fatwa-request question asks about something specific that is not easily addressed through Islamic literature (Qur'an, ahadith, tafsir, etc.). Consequently, in order to answer the question well, it requires a scholar to apply their knowledge to the specific circumstances.

    If it is not possible for a scholar to answer (and if a fatwa answering the question is not available), then low-quality, unreferenced answers are often given, including declaring things halal/haram without evidence, declaring divorces (in)valid, "best guesses" based on the (possibly inaccurate) description in the question, and so on.

    If a fatwa on the topic exists, then it's probably available via Google.

  2. Some answers cite relevant literature, but don't make any deductions related to the OP's specific question. This is probably the least risky response, even if it doesn't fully answer the question.

  3. What do fatwa-request questions look like? There seems to be two popular types of fatwa-request questions which, by their nature, preclude relevant Islamic literature:

    1. I'm a Muslim with a specific problem; what should I do? These can also be advice requests, and the answers may even say "my advice is...". These can be too specific to be useful to anyone but the OP.

    2. Is [modern thing] halal/haram?

Example questions

  1. Is a zero-sum deal halal?

    Is such a deal halal? Or is it considered as harming other(s)? What if all participants agree and satisfy with the deal, would that make any change?

    • The topic (zero-sum deals) is modern, not easily related to Islam.

    • There's three answers to this question, with scores 0, -2, and -3, and no answer cites a reference (let alone, a relevant reference).

  2. Keeping left items from neighbours

    I live in a compound provided by my company and my colleague left the job. She also left some computer hardware item. She is a non muslim. I have her email address but she was never nice to me. She has also stolen some money from the company. Somebody just gave me one of the hardware Item to use. is it permissible to use this item myself? or shall I inform her and then use it?

    • This is a specific, personal circumstance. It is close to a request for advice.

    • The answer has no references.

  3. Is playing carrom-board haram.?

    Is Playing Carrom-board Haram.? Please clarify with Hadith(if available).. Thanks in Advance

    • Answer (score +2) gives general advice. It's not clear to me if it's applicable for this problem.

    • The answer says "you should better consult a scholar for proper fatwa".

    • The answer has no references.

  4. Will allah punish me and never forgive me?

    Will Allah forgive for participating in sexual intercourse without penetration if a person was sincere in their repentance!

    Does this count as Zina although penetration did not occur?

    What is the best way to repent from such actions and make sure not to fall in them in the future?

    • It's a multi-question question, with the commonality of the questions being the OP.

    • The answer (+2) describes itself as advice: "what I can advise you".

    • It gives references related to forgiveness, but doesn't address zina.

  5. What to do with a birthday gift? [closed]

    Salam brothers and sisters. It was my birthday a few days ago and my non-Muslim friend gave me a birthday gift. When she told me she was going to get me a gift, I told her that I did not need and want anything, but she still ended up giving me a gift anyway. I did not refuse the gift as she had already bought things, and I did not want to cause her trouble; I also did not want to lose our friendship. However, I know that celebrating one's birthday is haram in Islam. What should I do? The gift is not really one that can be "donated;" she gave me a bag, a notebook, and pens. Is it right for me to return the gifts (she also gave me gift receipts), give the gifts to another person (e.g. a cousin), or can I keep and use the gifts?

    • The question was "closed as off-topic".

    • The answer (+1) has no references. It begins "I think..." and gives the opinion of the author (a random person on the Internet).

    • The upvote is possibly a vote by agreement.

    • The question is "What should I do?"

  6. Investing in volatility software interest halal or haram?

    I saw an investment scheme in bitconnect which lets you lend money to them in return of volatility software interest. Which is gained from buy/sale of bitcoin. Is it halal or haram?

    reference: https://bitconnect.co/learning-center/bitconnect-bitcoin-price-volatility-software

    • A modern topic.

    • The answer (0) seems nonsensical: "so i think this not haram or halal. i can call it makrooh ( you can do ) ... now its depend on you. you like to dislike".

  7. Did I Commit Gay Zina?

    Salam alaikum brothers and sisters. I have this very huge problem that I feel extremely guilty about. I invited my friend to my house and I had a small sexual lust for grabbing his butt. I did it once and claimed that it was an accident. He forgot about it. I have ZERO sexual attraction to him anymore and I really want to repent I feel extremely guilty. What should I do? Was this Zina in any way? Is their a punishment for this in life? How can I repent?

    P.S: I am straight 100% now and I am 13.

    • It's a multi-question question, with the commonality of the questions being the OP.

    • It contains specific details about the OP.

    • A question is "What should I do?"

    • The answer has no references; it's basically says "you did bad, and should repent".

  8. After the husband saying “I give you talaq 3 times”, pregnancy, and him leaving the country for two years, what is the status of their marriage?

    A Muslim sister was married some time back and just few days later she discovered her husband was having an affair and zina with his elder brother's wife. And when she said anything about this, he used to physically beat her, as well as force her into bed and openly say "I don't like you" and always spoke very abusively.

    Some time later he said to her "I give you talaq 3 times" and she returned to her home and elder people from both the families sat and mutually agreed for divorce at girl's residence.

    She became pregnant. As they were processing for divorce from court, he left the country and went to Malaysia without notice. After two years, he wants to come back and take her back.

    What is the status of their marriage?

    • Extremely specific circumstances.

    • The answer (+1) declares "they are divorced now".

  9. Did I commit zina by unknowingly having sex with my husband's cousin while blindfolded?

    • Extremely specific circumstances.

    • It's a multi-question question, with the commonality of the questions being the OP.

    • Request for advice (e.g. "Or should I marry him to do so?")

    • No answer gives a reference.

    • Four deleted answers.

  10. Fasting in pregnancy

    My wife is pregnant and is type 2 diabetic. Is it mandatory for her to fast? She keeps on asking me and my knowledge is very limited. What does Islam says about fasting during pregnancy?

    • In this case, it's reasonable to believe there are extant fatawa on whether fasting while pregnant during Ramadan is required; it would come up a lot. Likewise for taking insulin during Ramadan.

    • At the same time, given such fatawa would exist, the OP could have found them by Google.

    • The top answer (+2) doesn't cite Islamic sources.

    • The other answer (score 0) quotes the Qur'an.

  11. Is crowd-funding Halal?

    • The top answer (+1) uses analogical deduction (which, in this context, is not bad), and also cites LaunchGood (a crowd-funding platform) which claims it's halal.

    • The second answer (-2) contradicts LaunchGood's claim, however.


Related posts

Along with:

  • I just posted an answer on the same topic :-). – III-AK-III Feb 18 '18 at 14:53
5

A fatwa is a verdict. So maybe I'll start my answer with an off-topic comment by saying that AFAIK none of us is qualified to give fatwa.
This means if the inquiry needs ijtihad (there's no verdict existing verdict on the matter available, and it needs expert knowledge to actually answer the question, examples for that might be in first place talaq questions, as no scholar would answer such a question from the wife's perspective only, or answer it without having all information in hands, why should we do so? Questions where one may need to have an expert understanding like financial transactions -at least to me these are a closed book-) we should give our best to close the question, before anybody would post some nonsense.
One might consider the option that somebody may give a good and well explained answer which might be half a fatwa and therefore marked as an explanatory opinion an elaboration of a possible fatwa (not an answer), as long as this would fit the standard of an academic level.

The best way to answer such questions is by adding references (quran, sunnah, fatwas etc.) and explaining them.
And we should only up-vote questions which are well elaborated (shouldn't we do this in general?).

It is helpful to check whether the questioner is looking for a specific view (by comments if necessary). Else it would be helpful if one could post an answer explaining differences in the opinions to some extent.

Rebecca's answer shows that we have big issue, with (mostly older) answers many of them are not well elaborated enough:

  • lack of evidences,
  • not well explained evidences,
  • more likely advices than answers,
  • the given evidences don't answer the question fully.

What can we do?

We should try to start with the material from Rebecca's answer and try to post better answers for the not hugely valuable answers for the given questions.

We should also try to have in mind that it is always the best if we can give a well elaborated answer for each question and if possible support our claims by evidences:

The low standard should be: At least to answer fatwa-questions by a quote from a fatwa or any kind of evidence (quran, sunnah, etc.).
Here one should consider from case to case whether the answer is sufficient or helpful enough, else it should be down-voted or Op should be asked/invited to elaborate more (comments!). Many people just like to have an answer they don't care about why X is correct as long as X is correct! Of course none explained evidences of just fatwas might not be satisfactory enough for others, but in cases you might not have any other reference!

The higher standard should be:

  • To explain the given evidence,
  • supporting -almost- each claim by evidences would take us to the highest standard.

And we should avoid advices unless it could be helpful (in practice), but they shouldn't be the answer itself.

"I think ..." answers should be down-voted or marked as low-quality/not an answer as soon as possible.

4

Here, I aim to give a coarse quantitative analysis of answers to fatwa-request questions. The aim is to better understand how important fatwa-request questions are at Islam.SE.

I use a simple classification of the types of answers based on my experiences in the previous post, and enumerate how often such answers are made. I restrict to the top answer for each question. I inspect a collection of questions from 2014. I decide whether or not a question is a fatwa-request question based on my own judgment. I use the codification below:

  1. (21%) The answer gives personal advice. (E.g., what the OP should do, how to behave) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

  2. (15%) Islamic materials are used in a complete or near-complete answer. (E.g. Qur'an, ahadith, tafsir, fatawa, etc.) 1 2 3 4 5

  3. (6%) Islamic materials give an incomplete answer and the author refrains from filling in the gaps. 1 2

  4. (9%) Islamic materials give an incomplete answer and the author fills in the gaps. 1 2 3

  5. (48%) The answer has no references. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

(For 2.--5., I exclude the personal advice answers.)

Answers of type 1. and 5. (constituting 70%) are not hugely valuable, so if they had been closed as "off topic" prior to being answered, we wouldn't have lost much. Some of these answers are valuable, however.

4

I think the thing that bothers me most about this class of questions is how few of them (e.g. none of the ones in the actual list) actually define the point of view they're (a) asking for, or (b) answering from.

Without this sort of scoping, it's very difficult to determine if any given answer is based on an established scholarly view or madh'hab or just a personal opinion of a random stranger on the Internet, much less whether this is a universally-held ruling or a matter of significant dispute. Even if they're quoting references, that still leaves these answers rather useless; it's quite possible (and I've seen it happen) to misapply or misinterpret quoted evidences, or to synthesize completely new rulings by combining decidedly incompatible fatawa, resulting in answers that look good but aren't actually accepted by any schools.

While I agree that the "I think that…" opinion answers are generally low-quality, at least they have the plus of being clearly identified as such.

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