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Should this sites visitors be protected from the views of self proclaimed scholars?

If you look at this question:

Can Qur'an be touched without wudu?

It seems that the favored answer is by a self proclaimed scholar, especially after reading his/her profile.

Such answers which go against the views of the majority Islamic scholars can easily confuse people who are new to islam. Especially when the self proclaimed scholars answer gets favored over the majority of scholars answer. I am not saying this because I didn't get reputation.... I am saying this with true concern. If people think I am saying this because I didn't get rep, that is their own belief which I can do nothing about.

When someone says "the majority of scholars", it means that "many scholars who have dedicated their lives to the study of islam". All these dedicated minds combined who all agree on a single view. Self proclaimed scholars suggesting that their single mind, self study, without guidance from a scholar is better then those scholars views who have dedicated their lives to the subject, where all of them agree on a view.

How can a single self studies mind possibly be better than the minds of many scholars agreeing on a view when that single mind disagrees with the same view...

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We do not check credentials at the door.

Even had we had wanted to, such a policy would go against how the Stack Exchange network of sites is designed; we don't rely on a particular level of education or certification to judge the correctness of an answer, we rely on the fact that enough people are knowledgeable enough to recognize a good answer from a bad answer, and to vote accordingly.

Right now, that model is still in development, which is one major reason the site is still in beta. So while your concern may have some merit at this point in time, it is (God willing) only a temporary concern. Once we have developed a strong core of users, good answers will naturally rise and bad answers will naturally fall.

A correct answer remains correct regardless of who it comes from, and a harmful answer remains harmful. Judge the post, not the poster.

Our priority at this stage is to build up an active community of knowledgeable users. It is not, nor should it be, our responsibility to "dumb down" all of our answers so people new to Islam don't get confused. There will never be a shortage of new users to ask new questions; attracting experts and getting them to stay is the difficult part, and that is the part that will make us stand out and excel as a repository of Islamic information.

God willing.

As far as I'm concerned, any policy which treats our users as if they don't know enough to answer questions flies directly in the face of that. If the only people we welcome are those who cut-and-paste answers from IslamQA, that's exactly the site we're going to get.

And if that's the site we want, well, there's already IslamQA for that.


That said, it is important to note that this is a non-denominational site. There are many reputable scholars who do not agree with the majority view — even the traditional Sunni madhabs disagree with each other on many issues — and we as a site do not forward any particular flavor of Islam. There are many Muslims who follow these scholars, or the interpretations they posit; their questions, and answers, are just as welcome here as those of the majority.

This is very important to recognize when asking a question, otherwise one is likely to solicit opinions from across the board. If the questioner wants an answer to be in accordance to the majority view, or to only quote reputable scholars, this must be made clear in the question. If the questioner only wants evidences based on the primary sources, rather than quoting scholarly opinions, again this must be made clear in the question.

That way, any answers which do not give the questioner what he asks for can be downvoted and/or deleted.

  • +1: good answer. – user44 Aug 22 '12 at 16:24
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    +1 - "Judge the post, not the poster." – System Down Aug 29 '12 at 20:42
  • I've been thinking hard about this. True scholars seem to be in a minority here - or possibly there are none at all. So it seems that the purpose of the site is to encourage people who don't have the required level of knowledge to answer the questions of others - and maybe the best answer to every question on this site is "go and ask your local sheikh/scholar/imam or whoever". Isn't it a sin for someone who doesn't have the right level of knowledge to answer the kinds of questions we have here? And yet, that seems to be the raison d'être of this site. I'm starting to believe ... – user202 Jul 20 '14 at 22:36
  • ... that the very existence of this site is haram, and I'm seriously considering asking the administrators to delete my profile, along with all of my questions and answers. Can anyone point out any benefit of this site, or any attribute of it that would suggest that its existence is halal? Jazak Allah Khair. – user202 Jul 20 '14 at 22:37
  • @DavidWallace We're open to the public, so obviously there's no way to stop just anyone from answering just anything; the community voting is essential to mitigate that. If people are answering questions that they don't have the expertise (or even the right, depending on how strictly you hold that view) to answer, they should be downvoted to oblivion. The fact that that's still not happening, even two years into beta, is one reason we're still far from graduation. – goldPseudo Jul 20 '14 at 22:41
  • But it's not possible to tell whether someone has the right to answer a question or not. Honestly, I'm not aware of any user here who could rightly be called a "scholar", but there's no way to know who is and who isn't a scholar. And if every answer here should be "downvoted to oblivion", then what exactly is the purpose of the site? I will openly admit that I am not a scholar; and yet one answer of mine has 18 upvotes and no downvotes. What you say gives me even more reason to believe that 99% of this site is haraam; and that the entire site should not exist. – user202 Jul 20 '14 at 22:48
  • @DavidWallace Then bring that up in a separate meta post; one of the essential prerequisites to getting this site to graduate is establishing what exactly we as a community are even capable of answering through the SE model. – goldPseudo Jul 20 '14 at 22:50
  • I think the required question is meta.islam.stackexchange.com/q/907 - maybe I should just put a (non-scholarly) answer there. – user202 Jul 20 '14 at 22:51
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I think everybody's right to answer should be respected. If answer is low-quality, outright wrong or lack evidence it will down-voted to the bottom anyways. To be honest, I don't trust our voting mechanism to work correctly at this stage, because we don't have enough number of experts just yet. But, I hope we will attract them eventually and we will be on track. Finally, it is reader's responsibility to judge among the answers and accept whatever seems to be correct for them. Because, in the end, It is Allah who guides who he wills. I personally believe that we won't gain much by shielding people from what we consider a "dangerous idea".

  • Finally, it is reader's responsibility to judge among the answers and accept whatever seems to be correct for them. This is part of the danger, after some time, we will end up with a site where normal people vote for a correct answer, which may not even be correct based on orthodox islam. Then new people to islam will search a question, find this site, and will believe the top rated answer, rated by none scholars, answers by people who are not true scholars, where their answers go against the majority of highly educated scholars. That is a real danger IMO. – oshirowanen Aug 22 '12 at 8:01
  • You might be right in another place, however, nature of this site prevents it from sticking to any particular point of view. We provide information from different points of views, rather than absolute truth. Again, it is the reader who should be the judge of credibility of the answer. – user44 Aug 22 '12 at 9:22
  • So just to clarify, if someone is looking for absolute truths about islam, this is the wrong place to come? If someone is looking for many points of views, where they can pick and choose based on their own preferences, this is the place to come? – oshirowanen Aug 22 '12 at 10:03
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    Here is how I understand this; There are some things that Muslims agree upon, and there are some things people have different opinions. When there is difference of opinions every side thinks they have "truth". Since this site is open for multiple parties, there is nothing we can do to prevent answers from parties that we don't agree with. In that case, the most we can do to ask the answerer what they base their answer on and decide validaty of their answer depending to it. Therefore, in this platform, it is reader's responsibility to be critical. – user44 Aug 22 '12 at 10:22
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It's a complex matter. For one, I strongly disagree that one has to follow the majority Islamic opinion - that would completely invalidate minorities like Shia'. If everyone strictly followed well-established scholars who spent their entire lives to theology, we would all be Catholic.

That said, original research should be strongly discouraged. As was said on a similar topic on Philosophy.SE, you should always get a reference to what you're trying to say. You're not unique. As long as philosophy (and Islam) have been around, tens of thousands of people have come to the same conclusion you have. You strengthen your answer with the backing of someone else's. And with a strong enough reference, the referenced answer will also lead to books, specific terms, similar verses, and deeper explanations that the reader can look into.

You'll find that no matter what logical conclusion you choose to take, even if it's a trolling opinion, there will be a scholar backing it. And if it's a good enough question, there will be a scholar opposing your view as well.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this is that Islam is very poorly documented on the Internet. I know that there are a lot of things I've been taught, some personal opinions from very intelligent Syaikhs, but little of it can be found on the Internet. Sometimes you can only repeat what they have said and offer no references that don't take over a few hours to dig up.

One of the frustrations I've had about Islamic society is that the Syaikhs who choose to answer easy questions become celebrities, whereas the ones who tackle the difficult ones are very unpopular.

You'll get a similar reaction here, or anywhere else. A vast majority of people don't care what the truth is; they just want some kind of divine backing that their opinion is right and can't be questioned.

The site shouldn't function as a way to teach "proper" Islam to people. It should gather everyone's opinions and let the reader decide. If the reader wants to believe a weak opinion because it's the popular and convenient opinion, let them.. they would have followed a weak scholar outside the site anyway. Any sincere visitor will look through all the answers, regardless of votes and come to their own conclusion.

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Islam.Stackexchange domain is not in favor of any Islamic sect or group. The requirement on an answer is being logical, consistent and as much as scientific.

The answer you mention in your profile contains a lot of references and explains the topic in every detail with evidences. What makes an answer good if it copy&pastes a fatwa of a scholar from another website, saying something like "The scholar ... says about this topic that ...". Then what is the purpose of this domain if we only were to copy&paste from other sites?

Referencing your answer from a scholar doesn't make it objective; it just makes your answer dependent on the opinions of that scholar. Scholars are humans like us. The amount of knowledge a human knows doesn't make him right. There are famous big scholars whose opinions contradict with each other. If knowledge was a measure of rightfulness, then all scholars would had tend to a single way of thought.

If you are seeking the truth in majority, know that there are more Christians than Muslims. They have a longer history, more people, more scholars, more countries, more organizations, more books, more movies, more documentaries, more churches, more... etc. Their religion is the major one. You may consider changing your religion for not being on the opposite side of the majority of people.

If you find a mistake on an answer, correct it or state it as a comment under it.
If you have a better answer, then post it.
Don't judge answers by looking at the answerer's profile. Judge an answer by what it actually says.

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