The Arabic singular “hawaa” plural “ahwaa'” means whimsical inclinations that finally controls one’s mind and conduct.[ Lisaan Al-Arab, 15/372.]
Technically, the term means adopting inclinations that do not comply with the rules and principles of the Islamic Sharee’ah. [At-Ta’reefaat by Al-Jurjaanee, p. 32.]
Since whimsical inclinations are among the main causes of deviation, Allah Almighty has strongly warned against them. He says,
وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنْكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ
“To you We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that has come to you.” Surat Al-Maa’idah: 48.
He also says,
قُلْ هَلُمَّ شُهَدَاءَكُمُ الَّذِينَ يَشْهَدُونَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ حَرَّمَ هَذَا فَإِنْ شَهِدُوا فَلا تَشْهَدْ مَعَهُمْ وَلا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَالَّذِينَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالآخِرَةِ وَهُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ يَعْدِلُونَ (١٥٠)
“Nor follow you the vain desires of such as treat our signs as falsehoods, and such as believe not in the Hereafter: for they hold others as equal with their Lord.” Surat Al-An’aam: 150.
He, moreover, says,
ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكَ عَلَى شَرِيعَةٍ مِنَ الأمْرِ فَاتَّبِعْهَا وَلا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَ الَّذِينَ لا يَعْلَمُونَ (١٨)
“Then We put you on the (right) Way of Religion: so follow you that (Way), and follow not the desires of those who know not.” Surat Al-Jaathiyah: 18
Allah Almighty has clearly presented the implications of whimsical inclinations and vain desires as drifting one from the right path enjoined by Allah on his creatures.
Hence, they are one of the causes of going astray and committing injustice which eliminates the quality of loyalty to Allah and thus the support that humans expect from their Creator.
As already stated, vain desires are one of the main causes of misguidance.
This is clearly explained in the Qur’anic statement:
وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا لَيُضِلُّونَ بِأَهْوَائِهِمْ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُعْتَدِينَ (١١٩)
“But many do mislead (men) by their whims unchecked by knowledge. Your Lord knows best those who transgress.” Surat Al-An’aam: 119
This is emphasized by another Qur’anic statement as follows:
فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا لَكَ فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يَتَّبِعُونَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنَ اتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ بِغَيْرِ هُدًى مِنَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ (٥٠)
“But if they hearken not to you, know that they only follow their own lusts: and who is more astray than one who follow his own lusts, devoid of guidance from Allah. For Allah guides not people given to wrong-doing.” Surat Al-Qasas: 50
وَلا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَى فَيُضِلَّكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا نَسُوا يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ (٢٦)
“Nor follow you the lusts (of your heart), for they will mislead you from the Path of Allah. For those who wander astray from the Path of Allah is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account.” Surat Saad: 26.
Ibn Jareer comments on the last verse thus: “Do not give preference to your desires when you judge between people lest you might deviate from justice and truth. Your desires may mislead you from the right path of Allah which is the path set for the believers, and hence you may become a loser as a result of such inclinations. Those who incline from the right path of Allah which is the divine legislations set for his creatures will receive severe punishment on the Day of Judgment for omitting Allah’s injunctions which prescribe justice and obedience to Allah’s instructions.” [Jaami’ Al-Bayaan, 22/152. See also Ma’aalim At-Tanzeel, 4/59; Tafseer Al-Qur’an Al-Adheem, 4/32; Irshaad Al-‘Aql As-Saleem, 7/233 and Majmoo’ Al-Fataawaa, 15/241-242.]
Vain desires are also the main cause of wrong-doing. Allah says,
وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِنَّكَ إِذًا لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ (١٤٥)
“If you, after the knowledge has reached you, were to follow their (vain) desires,-then were you indeed (clearly) in the wrong.” Surat Al-Baqara: 145. The above statement is a clear threat to those who follow the vain desires of others in preference to Allah’s orders.
This threat is explained by Al-Baydhaawee as follows: “Allah has used several linguistic emphases to stress the threat against those who follow the desires of others in preference to Allah’s injunctions. It is meant to warn people in general and prophets in particular from following their desires or the desires of others which may cause them a great punishment by their Lord.”[ Anwaar At-Tanzeel, 1/423. See also Jaami’ Al-Bayaan, 2/24; Tafseer Al-Qur’an Al-Adheem, 1/195 and Zaad Al-Maseer, 1/157. ]
Moreover, following vain desires usually triggers inclination towards injustice.
فَلا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَى أَنْ تَعْدِلُوا وَإِنْ تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا
فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا (١٣٥)
“Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve.” Surat An-Nisaa’: 135.
Ibn Katheer comments thus:
“Do not let your desires, fanaticism and hate of other people drive you to swerve from justice in all your affairs. Rather, stick to justice in all circumstances.”
When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم sent Abdullah bin Rawaahah to the people of Khaibar to collect the tax on their fruits and crops, they attempted to bribe him. He told them, “I have come to you from the one (the prophet) I love the most, and verily I hate you the most. However, my love for him and my hatred of you will not drive me not to be just with you.“ [Reported by Abdur-Razzaaq in Al-Musannaf, 3/124. In Majmaa’ Az-Zawaa’id, Al-Haithamee writes, “It is narrated by Ahmad through a authentic chain of narrators. See also Tafser Ibn Katheer, 1/566; Ma’aalim At-Tanzeel and Zaad Al-Maseer, 2/222.]
Lastly, those who follow their vain desires receive no support from Allah whatsoever.
وَلَنْ تَرْضَى عَنْكَ الْيَهُودُ وَلا النَّصَارَى حَتَّى تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَهُمْ قُلْ إِنَّ هُدَى اللَّهِ هُوَ الْهُدَى وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ بَعْدَ الَّذِي جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلا نَصِيرٍ (١٢٠)
“Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you unless you follow their form of religion. Say: ‘The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.’ Were you to follow their desires after the knowledge which has reached you, then you would find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.” Surat Al-Baqara: 120.
He also says,
وَكَذَلِكَ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ حُكْمًا عَرَبِيًّا وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ بَعْدَمَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلا وَاقٍ (٣٧)
“Thus have We revealed it to be a judgment of authority in Arabic. Were you to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which has reached you, then you would find neither protector nor defender against Allah.” Surat Ar-Ra’d: 37
Ibn Si’dee comments on the above verse as follows: “This is a clear warning against following the ways of the Jews and the Christians. Muslims should not imitate them in anything related to their religion. Although the above verse addresses the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), his nation is meant by it as much as he is meant. Here, the general meanings should be given consideration rather than the addressee and the general statement is the one that should rule rather than the specific reason of revelation.”[ Tayseer Al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan, p. 65. See also Jaami’ Al-Bayaan, 1/518 and Rooh Al-Ma’aanee, 13/168.]
Imaam Ahmad considers the above verse as evidence of the disbelief of those who claim that the Qur’an is created. It should be noted that the ideology that the Qur’an is created is one of the most notorious ideological deviations that took place centuries ago. He was asked, “On what basis do you consider an advocate of such an ideology a disbeliever?” He replied, “It is the verse that reads: ‘Were you to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which has reached you’.” [Al-Jaami’ li Ahkaam Al-Qur’an, 2/94.]
That said, it becomes clear that following ones’ own desires leads to tremendous evils and corruption as emphasized by the Prophetic صلى الله عليه وسلم hadeeth:
“What I fear for you to indulge in after me is your bellies, private organs and misguiding whimsical inclinations.”[ Reported by Ibn Abi ‘Aasim in As-Sunnah, # 14. It classified as authentic by Al-Albaanee.]
One should know for sure that saving oneself from misleading ideologies in this life and punishment in the hereafter lies in abandoning any whimsical inclinations that drive one to the abyss of misguidance.
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى (٤٠)
فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَى (٤١)
“And for such as had entertained the fear of standing before their Lord’s (tribunal) and had restrained (their) soul from lower desires, their abode will be Paradise.” Surat An-Naazi’aat: 40-41.
Muslim scholars have also warned against whimsical inclinations for the great evil they lead to. The more the Muslim tries to fight against his vain desires, the more he will be safe from deviation and the more submissive he will to the injunctions of his Lord.
Ash-Shaatibee writes, “The objective behind laying down the rules of the Sharee’ah is to make the Muslim abandon his desires so that he may be a true slave of Allah by his will as much as he is the slave of Allah by compulsion.” [Al-Muwaafaqaat fi Usool Ash-Sharee’ah, 2/128.]