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@MohammadSakibArifin has asked a number of questions similar to Did Muhammad send a letter to the ruler of the Byzantine empire?. At first, I misunderstood the questions; I thought these questions were doubting the accepted narrative. After some discussion, I now understand that these are part of a pattern of shoring up sources (what in my field we call "improving assurance").

I believe it is a core part of the practice of history to scrutinize sources, to look for supporting and conflicting sources; doing so provides valuable context and assurance.

How do we distinguish between questions that merely indicate that the querent is unwilling to accept historical narrative (which give me a mental rash), and questions like Mr. Arifin's that seek to examine the role of the source in the historical narrative.

@NSNoob expresses the problem in a comment to that question, which I'll repeat here for convenience,

This is kind of like "Wikipedia says Allies won WW2. But I see no information about the authenticity of this conclusion. Do historians accept it?". It would be a good question if you were to show your research as to why you don't believe Wikipedia article isn't authentic enough and why would you tend to believe otherwise

Most of the "Questioning the narrative" questions fall into the trap that @NSnoob describes.

I think that Called2Voyage's suggestion of a meta-template for questions of this type would both resolve the pattern for Mr. Arifin, and encourage more of the kind of questions we want.

I just re-read this and it sounds horrifically pretentious, for which I apologize. I think the question is important even though I've expressed it badly.

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    Ask? In this case it is a user who does respond to comments, so it doesn't hurt to ask for clarification. In cases where the user doesn't respond to comments, you have to treat it how it reads to you until they are able to provide clarification. – called2voyage Dec 2 '16 at 14:28
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    Unfortunately, we do have a broader problem that questions like this may be downvoted by others who don't ask questions. I'm not sure what to do about that. Maybe we can have some kind of Meta guideline for how to draft questions on this topic? – called2voyage Dec 2 '16 at 14:29
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    IMHO there really isn't necessarily an external difference. The main difference is that if the question isn't being asked in good faith, the questioner is unlikely to accept a good answer. – T.E.D. Dec 2 '16 at 14:47
  • I'd argue that the main difference is whether my blood pressure goes up or down. I'm willing to work on Mr. Arifin's questions, but not on the "give me an excuse to not believe X" questions. But your point stands. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 2 '16 at 14:53
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    It maybe a possibility that the OP might be asking about whether the letter, attributed to be the letter in question, is authentic rather than the diplomatic mission being authentic. Will ask him now – NSNoob Dec 2 '16 at 15:22
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    Yeah he's asking that if the attributed letter is real and accepted as such by historians. Just confirmed with him – NSNoob Dec 2 '16 at 15:25

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