Living The Quran
From Issue: 969 [Read full issue]
Al-Jathiyah (Kneeling Down) Sura 45: Verse 23 (partial)
The caprice that people are said to take as their god is defined as the inclination of the soul to passion and lust (shahwah). The verb from which caprice derives, hawa/yahwi, means both "to blow" and "to fall or tumble," and when combined with the preposition bi means "to overthrow." Caprice can thus be said to be something that blows the soul one way and another and overthrows the soul through the calamities of this world, making it tumble into an abyss in the Hereafter. The word hawa, meaning vacant, from the same root, is also used to describe the vacuity of the hearts of disbelievers on the Day of Judgment. In this vein, the Prophet is reported to have said, "The intelligent person is one who takes his soul to account and works for that which follows death. The inept person is one who allows his soul to follow his caprice, yet hopes for God" (Ahmad ibn Ajibah). References to God's misleading or causing to go astray can be understood in light of 2: 26, And He misleads none but the iniquitous, to mean that going astray is a result of one's own iniquities and not the outcome of arbitrary predestination. Those who are led astray are thus those whose hearts, according to several verses, are "veiled," "covered," or "sealed" so as to prevent spiritual comprehension.
"The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary" - Seyyed Hossein Nasr