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I have been told at one point that I should not answer a question that is obviously off topic and will be imminently closed or deleted, but it has not yet recorded enough votes.

However, this question is pretty clearly off-topic, but the question was edited and reverted back to the original question because the question "Had a good answer". If we should not be answering off-topic questions in the first place, this does not seem like a good basis to revert the question.

This makes me wonder: Should I provide and answer to a question that will imminently be closed? What would be reason to or to not do this?

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    The question is closed because it is off topic. As such, it shouldn't (and can no longer) be answered. Off topic questions are off topic for a reason, and they are not considered good questions for this site. That doesn't mean they are bad questions from a merit standpoint, just that they are off-topic for this site. If you see an off-topic question, vote to close (or flag if you don't have those privileges yet) as off-topic and leave a helpful comment if you have time. They should not be answered, though, because those questions are not welcome here. – Dan Aug 26 '16 at 20:08
  • Correct, but at one point, it was still opened, and answer was provided to it. For similarly situated questions, is it best practice not to answer them? (It seems to me, if we shouldn't be answering the question, in the case of this question, reverting from a similar on-topic question back to an off-topic question because it had a "good answer" was un-justified. But that's really not the point of my question here: I wanted to clarify the best practice) – James Shewey Aug 26 '16 at 20:16
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    Best practice is not to answer it. I'm not entirely sure about the circumstances of changing the answer, though, so I'll let someone else reply to that. I helped close it because it was off topic. – Dan Aug 26 '16 at 20:20
  • Questions and answers like this are susceptible to deletion, either by mods or by users with the deletion privilege (only 2k rep on beta sites), so that's a very practical reason to not answer. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 26 '16 at 21:54
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The short answer to OP's main question is: No, off topic questions should not be answered; they should be closed as soon as possible.

The Q&A points to is what I would call an unfortunate situation: a poorly scoped question, but it nevertheless received a brief, factual, informative, clear answer. Fine. Then a bit of a mess ensued -- and I don't mean only the editing which leaves a "public trail". And we've ended up here:

horse bolted

= "Closing the barn door after the horse has bolted."

Ideally, though, such off topic questions should be closed a.s.a.p. -- and so, no: not answered. In my time on the SO/SE network, I haven't seen a better explanation of why this should be so, than this Q&A on Meta.SE, with this as the main "take-away":

What you don't appear to understand is that preventing other users from answering is exactly why we close questions in the first place.

If the question is bad, off-topic, subjective, or meets the criteria for any of the other close reasons, we don't want people answering those questions. They didn't belong on our site in the first place. In fact, having those questions open and answerable is actively harmful to the community. The sooner those questions get closed, the better. That prevents a bunch of bad answers from building up, in addition to bad questions. It's the classic "garbage in, garbage out" rule, and we seek to avoid that around here.

But please read the whole post for fuller explanation.

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Another View

Yes, while I ascribe to "Closed" questions as being "Off Topic", these are not always evident at 1st glance.

Take for example the question in point: A Scripture was used to compare to the teachings/persona of Islam.

There have been several "On Topic" questions as relating to Islam See This and they have evoked some very excellent answers(See Here). If the Question Starts from the Text, and can be Answered By the Text, then it is OT/OH, despite the reservations of those who are 'uncomfortable' with the topic.

Now, if the question was merely about the teachings or tenents of Islam, then it is for another site, not ours. This also holds true for Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholics, or Free-Will Baptists. Since our Site Directives are specific about "Questions Regarding Theology" as being "Off Topic", then the same rule applies to ALL!

However, it has been debated frequently, and needs further mentioning that our "Understanding of Scripture" informs our theology. So, for a Roman Catholic who merely wants to debate "Apostolic Succession", this is certainly "Off-Topic"; but if he quotes Matt. 16:18 as his basis for the Primacy of Peter, then the question is entirely ON TOPIC, with the reference being given to how we understand that passage, in light of Apostolic Succession.

I realize the "Let's not go there, and prevent controversy" camp gets squeamish when I mention these things, but this is how we maintain relevancy(and get out of "Beta") by answering the Difficult Questions-Within Our Site Directives!

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  • Thanks, Tau. My take away from this is: "Make sure questions are 'on-topic', in scope, etc. before answering." I agree! I.e., questions that start from the text and raise matter of interpretation can be regarded as "on-topic", even if they're potentially controversial or difficult. ¶ The "trigger" for this Meta discussion was an out-of-scope Q with an in-scope reply (!), and some subsequently wanting to re-work the question so rendering the existing answer non-sensical. IF the guidance of not answering off-topic questions was followed, we would not have had the mess that ensued. – Dɑvïd Sep 9 '16 at 12:18

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