One common feature I've seen on most if not all Islamic Q&A sites is a slew of rulings requests (especially "Is such-and-such permissible in Islam?"-type questions)

Although such questions seem to be within the scope of "Q&A site for the Muslim community who have questions about Islam", I worry that such would be a poor fit for the StackExchange format due to differences of scholarly opinions in many areas, particularly when dealing with situations which just plain didn't exist during the time of the prophet. There often wouldn't be one answer which would be "definitively correct".

(Compare the closely-related "According to the Hanafi madh'hab, is such-and-such permissible?" which would be more likely to have a definitive answer.)

Should such questions be allowed at all? If so, what limits (if any) should be upheld?

Proposal: Islam

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Maybe we should learn from Skeptics.SE? Including references, considering different viewpoints, etc. An answer that does not consider other popular views could be downvoted, regardless of being correct or not...? –  muntoo Jan 4 '12 at 2:45
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Also, I bet Christianity.SE may have had a similar problem; try searching their meta. –  muntoo Jan 4 '12 at 3:03
    
I think as long as the asnwer is with an acceptable reference (how to define this?), we can allow it... However I don't think it's acceptable to ask something new needing fatwa, because it may be various between one country to the other... Something like "when is the first day of Ramadhan?" should totally be rejected... –  zfm Mar 6 '12 at 5:37
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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't know much at all about the nature of religious authority and decision-making in Islam or its corpus of authoritative literature, so I don't know how much of the following will be useful to you.

At Judaism.SE, we have put much thought and discussion into this sort of issue, because we do not believe that it's the website community's place to render decisions about Jewish law and practice, but we do believe that answers on the site can render a great service by describing what authoritative sources say on these subjects. Therefore, we try to make it clear in various ways (including this proposed mechanism) that the site does not offer personal guidance, and any answer that makes a normative statement without citing an authoritative source tends to quickly get a comment or two asking for one and tends not to get upvoted.

Regarding differences of opinion between various authorities, the community tends to deal with this in one of two ways. One is that, as you suggest, some questions specify that they're asking about rulings within a particular line of tradition or even according to a specific rabbi. The other, which is actually employed more frequently, is that many questions get multiple equally-valid answers that cite authorities who disagree. I actually see this possibility as a strength of the SE model, which allows for multiple answers, taking advantage of the various sets of knowledge and experience that exist in the community.

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I believe that your experience on Judaism.SE can be quite useful in running a successful Q&A site for Islam. –  Kaveh Feb 21 '12 at 6:58
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It's interesting that the Judaism and Christianity sites have taken somewhat different lines on this. The Christianity site is strict about "scoping" questions. You must specify in your question the framework within which you are operating, and answers must be presented within that same framework. This prevents vote-wars between different branches of Christianity. The Judaism site is far less diverse, as it accommodates only orthodox Judaism. –  TRiG is Timothy Richard Green May 11 '12 at 23:28
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My personal take on this is that religion raises more questions than it answers and nobody is actually qualified to provide an authorative answer other than the deity in question ... as such no individual religious sites should be hosted on SE. Perhaps a single religionSE site would be more responsible and in keeping with a balanced and harmonious world (so long as it kept firmly in the realm of facts and avoided conjecture and preaching).

The official answer would be to consult the Stack Exchange content policy. I suspect suchs subject matter would fall under the section of hate speech.

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I do not think Religion.SE would work... just like there's no Science.SE. –  muntoo Jan 9 '12 at 3:11
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I think that you're making unfounded sweeping assumptions about the natures and manifestations of authority in various religions. As I said in my answer, I don't know much about Islam, but we've got quite a healthy SE going about Judaism, which has a vast literature about which one can make objective statements that are verifiable without appealing directly to God. –  Isaac Moses Jan 9 '12 at 3:26
    
@muntoo, This is the problem with SE ... it lacks a real strucure, ironic as the Area51 categories aren't too far off the mark. Why not have a science.SE but make it a routing page to push questions into biology.SE, physics.SE, chemistry.SE etc. with different levels of skill (novice/school,intermediate/undergrad, expert/postgrad). Integrate with kahn academy ... do something but this crazy beta system is killing off good topics due to bad structure. –  Merlin Jan 9 '12 at 3:30
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@Merlin "Routing page"... seems like something for Meta.SO, although I doubt it will be considered a good idea. Why don't people simply ask questions on biology.SE, physics.SE, and chemistry.SE? And who would push them to those different sites? Waste of resources... (And Science.SE should include Skeptics.SE, StackOverflow, CSTheory.SE, and a whole bunch of other sites as well.) –  muntoo Jan 9 '12 at 3:37
    
@IsaacMoses perhaps I should have made my point a little clearer, when I said "realm of facts" I meant exactly that, including facts about literature, ritual and history of a religion. The problem arises when SE is used to disemminate personal interpretation. In fact your accusation of my making "unfounded sweeping assumptions" is exactly that ... I made it clear that it was a personal opinion. I also provided what I considered to be a "founded" answer based on SE principles and linked to them. –  Merlin Jan 9 '12 at 3:38
    
@muntoo Science.SE should just be a front page, like a group of SE sites not an entry point. The interconnection of topics is a barrier to SE at the moment that needs to be overcome. Probably wirth starting and alternate dicsussion though, as this is a bit off-topic –  Merlin Jan 9 '12 at 3:42
    
@Merlin Again, this is something for Meta.SO. Maybe a 'siteweb'/'sitetree' or an aggregated set of questions? (Like, for example, on the StackExchange.com page, one could have the ability to view questions from multiple sites they frequent grouped together.) –  muntoo Jan 9 '12 at 3:47
    
@muntoo yep, exactly ... I tried to get Robert Cartaino interested in a myStackExchange idea based on what you've described. –  Merlin Jan 9 '12 at 4:16
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