In the comments to this question, I expressed a desire to "think for myself" when it comes to deciding whether or not to perform an animal sacrifice during Eid ul-Adha. It was suggested this might be (or is) haram.
This took me by surprise, as I've never been discouraged from thinking for myself. Indeed, quite the opposite has been true from experience: I've been encouraged to learn about the Qur'an and the Hadith, and apply what I learn to my life.
Question: To what extent is "thinking for myself" forbidden in Islam?
In today's society, we have Muslim nutjobs with violent and dangerous views, and Internet Muslims who have fringe theories of Islam who seek to manipulate others into having this view. Thus, some kind of filtering mechanism is required.
Most fatawa (all?) describe how a scholar came to a conclusion through the Qur'an and Hadith, so it's easy enough to verify its accuracy, and I'll usually wind up with the same viewpoint after educating myself on a topic. Nevertheless, I still check whether it's a mainstream or fringe viewpoint, or whether or not a pertinent Qur'an ayat or Hadith was not included in the fatwa. (Also important is the context, e.g., a fatwa regarding public stoning is very different to a fatwa regarding Islamic dress, and thus should require a higher standard of evidence.) I don't seek to discredit, but understand how they came to the conclusion.
What does Google say? A lot:
Prof. Shad Faruqi, Independent thought in Islam, writes "suppression of thought characterises Muslim societies" with the author expressing the opinion that "the gates of ijtihad must be pried open. Reason must be employed to interpret revelations." This is perhaps the most balanced article I've seen on this topic, and it's author actually has some credentials. (While authority doesn't mean he's automatically correct, it means he's educated, and he's unlikely to be promoting a fringe theory through cherry-picked data.) He quotes the Qur'an:
So high [above all] is Allah , the Sovereign, the Truth. And, [O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur'an before its revelation is completed to you, and say, "My Lord, increase me in knowledge." -- Qur'an 20:114
Dr. Muqtedar Khan, What is Independent Thinking?, writes: "Outside the discourse of the traditional jurists, intellectuals, reformers and philosophers, have seen independent thinking as not only inevitable but a mandate, that enables the continuous renewal and revival of the Islamic spirit."
Muhammadullah Muhammad Khalili Qasmi, Does Islam permit critical thinking?, claims that when there are "clear and apparent meanings of the Glorious Qur'aan and the Hadith", it should not be questioned. But aside from that, "rational thinking to find out the depth is not only permissible but also encouraged in Islam". This view is consistent with my experiences.
The author of the Islam.SE question Importance of Thinking in Islam ? Why Islam Ignore Importance of Thinking? writes: "It seems Thinking is very low priority than blinded rules." (The question and answers here are very low quality.)
The webpage Islam Shackles Independent Thought argued that the Qur'an instructs us not to think. They cite the translation of Qur'an 5:101-102 on that website:
O you who believe (Muslims), ASK NOT about things which if made known to you would give you trouble; and if you ask about them when the Quran is being revealed, they will be made known to you. Allah pardons this: and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing. A people before you indeed asked such questions, then became disbelievers therein.
And from Quran.com:
Say, "Not equal are the evil and the good, although the abundance of evil might impress you." So fear Allah, O you of understanding, that you may be successful. O you who have believed, do not ask about things which, if they are shown to you, will distress you. But if you ask about them while the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be shown to you. Allah has pardoned that which is past; and Allah is Forgiving and Forbearing. A people asked such [questions] before you; then they became thereby disbelievers. Allah has not appointed [such innovations as] bahirah or sa'ibah or wasilah or ham. But those who disbelieve invent falsehood about Allah, and most of them do not reason. -- Qur'an 5:100-103
The website omitted the "...those who disbelieve ...most of them do not reason." part, which seems unbalanced.