Back? Thanks. Had a fun time? I hope so.
No, that was not a joke. People actually have asked those questions. That website, Ask-Imam.com, is for real.
Muslims have traditionally asked their imams (from the Arabic إمام, imām, plural: أئمة, a’immah, “leader/leaders or guide/guides”; another word used in this regard is عالم, ‛ālim, plural: علماء, ‛ulamā’, “scholar/scholars”) questions related to Islamic law. And Islamic law has something to say about everything. Often, imams or groups will make a big deal about issues that we see as completely irrelevant or preposterous. As an example, Tablighi Jamat (Urdu: تبلیغی جماعت, tablīghī jamāt, “congregation or group for propagating” Islam) believes that it is mandatory for Muslims to wear pants that end above one’s ankle. Muslims who do not do this are in serious transgression. There’s a whole theory and reasoning behind why this ruling would be so, but I offer this example to show how seemingly trivial issues take on great importance.
From the very beginning of Islam, Muslims have been asking experts on Islamic law questions on how to implement it in certain cases. Indeed, a large number of aHādīth (أحاديث, sayings of Muhammad and other senior members of the early Muslim community) came about when someone approached another (usually Muhammad) with a certain situation and asked what one should do. The response is remembered and used as a template for further rulings on similar issues.
A World of Fatwas by Arun Shourie demonstrates how, frankly, ridiculous this situation can become. People ask all sorts of questions, some of which are outright weird and even perverted. The author gives examples of questions related to bestiality (no, I’m not kidding), minutiae of sexual activity, dead animals in water tanks, child abuse, spousal abuse – and these are not questions related to whether it is right or wrong but rather when it happens, what is to be done.
If you want some more entertainment, go to the Ask-Imam website (which Tim Blair links to) and see what sort of questions are asked.
Some day, I’ll expand on this issue.