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This is an issue we will never be free of - any site on Islam will receive a constant stream of questions that seek a "fatwa" - the legal status of something, whether it is permissible or not permissible. While this is not a fatwa website, I don't think we can be unwelcoming of these questions. Additionally, this would be a good thing because most fatwa websites only offer or discuss one opinion. Here we could become a repository of the different existing opinions on an issue.

At the same time, most users of this website are not independent legal jurists and are therefore unqualified to offer their own opinion on such questions. Given the high search visibility of this website we don't want this website to become a source of sin for anyone and we don't want to be a source of propagation of legal opinions that are not from people who are trained.

And finally, if we become a website with a significant portion of our questions being fatwa questions and a significant number of amateur fatawa responses, we will drive away serious Muslims from participating on this website. And if that happens, this site goes into oblivion.

How do we want to deal with this? (see my proposal below)

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    +1 for asking this as a concern for community and muslims and source of sin and not as a SE philosophy concern. – Muhammad Hasan Khan Jul 21 '12 at 2:05
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I thought about @Ansari's answer, and I'm not sure I agree. Enforcing quality standards is high in general, and the more we require, the more people get disgruntled. Either one of two things happens:

  • We agree to the standard, delete posts that don't match, and people get upset, or
  • People answer with wrong answers, and upvote them, and accept them, and something wrong gets propagated.

In hindsight, I'm not sure we care. People who have questions are generally (at least, in most of the Western world) extremely critical of any answer. They will ask a shaykh who studied years and years, and while themselves knowing nothing, will question the validity of his answer.

I think it's good to encourage proofs in everything Islam related, since Islam is a religion of knowledge. But I'm not sure if we should do anything; let people judge the answers for themselves.

Ultimately, if you answer something, you're liable for it on the day of judgement. If that means nothing to you, answer everything, and you will pay for it in the hereafter. If you care, you'll be very careful, and inshaAllah goodness in the hereafter.

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    In my country, a lot of fatwas are suspiciously aligned to political/economic motives, despite the shaykhs being very knowledgeable. I don't think they are above questioning, especially when they provide weak proofs and refuse to counter stronger proofs. I think the model of discouraging answers with poor references and supporting answers with strong references works. If it appears to be taking verses out of context, someone will inevitably call them out on it and the situation balances itself. – Muz Jul 29 '12 at 13:50
  • What about non-Muslims who are here for informational purposes? They don't intend to do whatever the answer says the ruling is, but if nobody cares if the answers are valid, they could be given incorrect information. – Daniel Jun 3 '13 at 20:59
  • @Daniel as I mentioned, people who care will be critical enough not to use this site as a source of fatawa. – ashes999 Jun 3 '13 at 21:16
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    @ashes999 Why do you say that? If I am curious about something but I don't intend to cite it in a research paper or something like that, I might look it up on Wikipedia because it's easily accessible. Same thing with this site. If someone is curious about certain Islamic rules, he might just ask a question here because it's easy to do and presumably answered by experts. – Daniel Jun 4 '13 at 13:38
  • @Daniel read my answer again. I don't set any policies, I only voice my own opinions. Again, it's a non issue. If someone is serious about learning real Islam, they will be critical. If they're not, who cares? They will do what they want either way. – ashes999 Jun 4 '13 at 13:41
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We could have a banner somewhere visible and something like;

This is a community driven site. Answers you get here is not legal fatwas. Take whatever you find here as information, not absolute laws unless answer references to legal fatwas.

My English isn't good, but you get the idea.

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    This will definitely go in the FAQ inshaAllah. But even given that I still think we should have a higher standard for answers to fatwa questions. – Ansari Jul 20 '12 at 20:05
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My proposal to deal with this is to enforce a higher standard for responses to these questions: any answer must

  1. Be a summary of a legal opinion by a major scholar of some school of thought
  2. Include a reference to the opinion (either online or in a book or lecture)
  3. Specify whenever possible the applicability of the opinion (does it only apply to Hanafis, or Sunnis, or whichever group).

This is somewhat a higher standard than we typically have for other questions, wherein we just require some evidence and references to support the answer's claim.

  • How do we enforce this if we decide to do this? – ashes999 Jul 20 '12 at 20:09
  • Either include this in the FAQ or point to this meta (assuming it gets enough votes) if there is a fatwa answer that fails to meet the guidelines in the answer. – Ansari Jul 20 '12 at 20:27
  • yeah these're fairly good standards, however, everybody has his own situation and maybe this situation doesn't correspond (and I'm taking about exact corresponding) to another one that has the Fatwa, then since this isn't a Fatwa website or authority, then I would recommend to close the question with a comment to ask some Fatwa authorities. Cause I don't wanna see and I don't like to have anybody does some Fatwas! This is what define Islam, what do you think? – K'' Jul 20 '12 at 20:54
  • I had this idea to create an Islam stack exchange in Area51 a year ago but I didn't do it because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to control it specially regarding this exact issue – K'' Jul 20 '12 at 20:54
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    Well, we can leave the question open in case there is no answer from a reputable source that deals with the specifics of the situation. Maybe we can invite a scholar to answer it here :) – Ansari Jul 20 '12 at 20:58
  • People who don't know will answer with wrong answers, which will get accepted. It happens. Considering how critical Muslims are of fatawa, maybe that's not a problem. – ashes999 Jul 20 '12 at 21:15

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