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The question

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I think this question should be on-topic because it is asking for basis of a practice. It has been said that this question should be off-topic because "islam.SE is about Islam, not Muslims". However, what I understand from that is questions like "How many Muslims are in America" or "Are most Muslims Arabs" etc.

I think this should be discussed in length, because whether we close this question or not will directly effect our site policy of what is off-topic and what is not. So, what do you think?

Edit:

So if a Muslim does something in the name of Islam, is it about Islam or Muslims? Not sure where to draw that line. If you ask me, if a Muslim does something in the name of Islam, it is either part of islam, and on topic, or bidah (invention in religion - which is forbidden). I think asking if something is bidah or not should be on-topic.

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I feel the question is fundamentally on-topic. Even though it's asking about something done by a particular group of Muslims, the question is explicitly about what basis (if any) this practice has in Islam.

For the sake of drawing a line (and assuming that this has no Islamic basis whatsoever) questions regarding the practice itself would be out of scope: It's just a cultural or traditional activity done by people who happen to be Muslims, rather than an actually Islamic practice. So, for example, questions such as "How much water should I use to perform strava?" or "Do I need to use more lead based on the severity of the nazr?" would be closed as off-topic.

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  • +1 second paragraph!
    – user44
    Jul 17 '12 at 9:12
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See Robert's opinion here. I agree with him that Islam.SE isn't about every and any Muslim practice or belief from one group of Muslims; it's about the deen of Islam itself.

On the other hand, we didn't close this question about doing things on the night of barat.

So it seems like we haven't defined what exactly we accept and what we don't.

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  • I agree with the first paragraph. However, I think the comparison with the other question is off, the question was about Islam not what Muslim communities do.
    – Kaveh
    Jul 16 '12 at 20:54
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I feel that it will severely hinder the usefulness of the site if we allow questions about everything that some group of Muslims do and some claim to be based on Islam.

The line between questions about practices of some Muslim groups/communities and questions about Islamic practices does not need to be clear cut. However, it is clear that not everything done by Muslims (even if it is claimed to based on Islam) is on-topic here. Let's say a group of Muslims in some part of Toronto walk on the right side of the sidewalk and one of them claims that this is an Islamic practice, would that make asking about it on-topic? Another one might ask "is it an Islamic practice to drink orange juice after tea?". You see where this can lead.

In my opinion, such questions are off-topic unless the person asking the question provides evidence showing it is probable that the claim of being based on Islam's teachings is correct. If something is an Islamic practice and not a cultural one, then it is unlikely to be a local one, and there should be evidence supporting such a claim. When it is not clear that a question is on-topic, the burden of showing the relevance to Islam is on the person asking the question. Simply saying that some Muslim groups do it and claim it be based on Islam is not sufficient.

In this particular case, I think this question falls in the gray area. It should be edited to become more general, such that if in future someone asks a similar question we can easily close that as duplicate of this one.

An improved version of the linked question could be:

Are there Islamic bases for practices like X,Y,... to cure spiritual illness?

or even more generally:

How can I distinguish between a practice carried out by some Muslims which is cultural (though some may claim it is based on Islam) and a practice based on Islam?

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I think the paragraph below your edit makes it quite clear that your question is for identification of source of a practice in Islam.

If a non muslim sees Muslims offering 5 prayers a day, or keeping fasts in Ramadan and asks on the site why Muslims do that and what Islamic literature makes doing such and such obligatory then it is on topic right?

One may argue this is a site for expert question and answers. Unfortunately religion doesn't work like programming or any other stack exchange site. The so to say 'experts' in area of religion are mostly in it for the purpose of 'preaching' Islam and they don't mind answering boring questions because they are servants of Allah and do it for the sake of getting rewards from Allah for spreading Islam not gaining reputation points on a site or debating with other experts.

Trying to shoe horn stackoverflow/stackexchange philosophy on a religious site won't work. At best you'll get non-Islamic scholars who love the stackexchange idea, answering questions on the site but I can assure you if any of the well known experts like Dr Zakir Naik, Dr Bilal Philips or anyone else would come, he wouldn't mind answering this question. Since they already answer questions like this on a daily basis. They don't ask you have you done your homework?

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    there are already religious sites on the SE network and they work quite well.
    – Kaveh
    Jul 17 '12 at 2:56

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