Despite the authenticity of the hadiths that advised to consult one’s heart, yet they do not require giving priority to the opinion that appeals to the heart over that of a Muslim scholar. Almighty Allah commands the believers to ask scholars whenever they seek a judgment; Allah says: “And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired, so ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!” (An-Nahl: 43) Still, these hadiths indicate that one may refer to the judgment of one’s heart in case there is no legal text stating the judgment in question, or when the questioner knows that his question has not been well-expressed, and that the mufti’s inaccurate opinion results from relying on the apparent case presented by the questioner, or when the questioner is aware that the mufti’s opinion has been affected by his desire for some worldly gains or fear of some harm. On the other hand, the aforementioned hadith is not applied to just any heart; it only applies to those who have hearts like that of the Prophet’s companion Wabisah, to whom the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Seek judgment from your heart.”
In his well-known book, The Attitude of Islam Toward Inspiration and Visions, the well-known Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the following:
This hadith of the Prophet to Wabisah – “Seek judgment from your heart even if your are given fatwas by muftis.” – is reported by Imam Ahmad and other compilers of hadith, and it is deemed a good hadith by imam An-Nawawi in his book entitled, Riyad As-Salihin, and imam As-Siyuti followed An-Nawawi and deemed it a good hadith in his book entitled, Al-Jami` As-sakhir. Al-Albani also regarded it as a good hadith as stated in his book, Sahih Al-Jami`. The meaning of this hadith is similar to that of the hadiths narrated by Abu Tha`labah Al-Khushni who said: “I once said to Allah’s Messenger, ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Tell me what is lawful and what is prohibited for me.’ The Prophet replied, ‘Virtue is what eases the soul and reassures the heart, and vice is that which does not ease the soul nor does it reassure the heart, even if your are given fatwas by muftis (indicating otherwise).’” (Reported by Ahmad 4/194 and its chain of transmitters is deemed good by Ibn Rajab as stated in his book, The Compilation of Hadith 2/95). Another similar hadith is that of Abu Umamah who narrated: “A man asked the Prophet: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! What is vice?’ The Prophet replied: ‘If something rankles in your heart, keep away from it.’” (Ibn Rajab said that this hadith is reported by Imam Ahmad and by Ibn Hibban in his Authentic Book of Hadith, and its chain of transmitters is good according to the conditions set by Imam Muslim.) The strongest hadith in this regard is that reported by An-Nawwas ibn Sim`an in Sahih Muslim (2553) in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “… vice is what rankles in your heart and you disapprove of its being known to the people.”
In fact, relying on the hadith of the Prophet to Wabisah in giving preference to the judgment that appeals to one’s heart over that of a mufti is unacceptable and is regarded as mere distortion for the following reasons:
First: This hadith, as Al-Manawi stated, does not mean that everyone can refer to one’s heart to reach a legal opinion, but that was restricted to Wabisah in a certain case (see The Abundance of the Omnipotent 1/495). That is to say, the hadith was not a general one that can represent a general rule, but it is restricted to a certain person in a certain case, and such cases do not represent a generalization as known in the field of Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.
Second: Even if this hadith indicates a general rule, seeking the opinion of one’s heart is restricted to cases void of legal texts or legal proofs, for the latter must be followed. Almighty Allah says: “Follow that which is sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow no protecting friends beside Him.” (Al-A`raf: 3) Almighty Allah also says: “So ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!” (An-Nahl: 43) So, Allah never commands us to ask Muslim scholars and then to give up their opinions and follow those of our hearts! Moreover, Allah says: “And if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the Messenger.” (An-Nisaa: 59) Thus, Allah does not command us to refer to the opinion of our hearts and desires when we dispute in any matter.
Third: The mufti bases his fatwa on the apparent case presented to him by the questioner, and there might be other hidden details, which if known to the mufti, may change his fatwa. Such hidden details are only known to the questioner, so he feels reluctant and unsatisfied with the fatwa he is given. In this case, the fatwa delivered by a mufti is much like the judgment of a judge who gives it according to the apparent circumstances presented to him and the arguments he hears. Yet, he never makes what is unlawful lawful to the claimant even if the latter is more tactful and skilful in his argument than the other party. Accordingly, relying on aspiration and inclination in reaching a legal opinion and giving up legal proofs is by all means invalid.
Commenting on the hadith of the Prophet to Wabisah, the Hanbali scholar, Ibn Rajab, states:
The hadith of the Prophet to Wabisah – “Seek judgment from your heart” – means that one may follow the opinion that appeals to one’s heart in case of suspicion. In this case, whatever appeals to one’s heart and reassures one’s soul is what is virtuous and lawful, otherwise it is vicious and unlawful. Moreover, the Prophet’s hadiths to An-Nawwas ibn Sim`an – “Vice is what rankles in your heart and you disapprove of its being known to the people” – indicates that a vice or a sin is that which causes heaviness, discomfort, and worry in one’s heart and so it does not appeal to the heart, and it also causes people’s disapproval if known to them. This in fact is the best way to distinguish what is vicious and sinful in case of suspicion; it is what is disapproved by the doer himself as well as by the people. This meaning is also confirmed by the statement of Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) when he said: “What the believers deem good is also good in the Sight of Allah and what the believers deem evil is also evil in the Sight of Allah.” (Reported by Al-Haithami in the Chapter on Hajj (1/177-178) and he said that this statement was reported by Imam Ahmad, Al-Bazzar and At-Tabari in his Major Compilation, and its chain of transmitters includes trustworthy men. Al-Haithami also stated that this statement is deemed authentic by Al-Hakim, with whom Al-Dhahabi agreed.)
As for the Prophet’s hadiths to Wabisah and Abu Tha`labah, “Even if you are given fatwas by muftis,” they mean that whatever rankles in and does not appeal to one’s heart is vicious and sinful, even if muftis view otherwise. This is a second degree of distinguishing vice; when the questioner is a true believer and the mufti is motivated by desire and inclination rather than legal proof. However, if a fatwa is based on legal proof, then it must be followed, even if it does not appeal to one’s heart, such as the legal permission of breaking one’s fast in cases of being a traveler or sick and shortening prayer on journeys and such cases, of which many ignorant people are unaware. In such cases, the opinion based on a legal proof is given preference over that which appeals to one’s heart.
For more illustration, it happened that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions to do things that did not appeal to their hearts, as when he ordered them to cancel their performance of Hajj and perform `Umrah instead. (This is reported by fourteen Companions mentioned in the book entitled Zad Al-Ma`ad [Provisions for the Hereafter]). Another example is when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions, at Al-Hudaybiyah on their way to Makkah, to cancel their intended `Umrah that year and return to Madinah. The Companions disapproved of the Prophet’s order and also disapproved of his negotiations with the envoys of Quraysh at Al-Hudaybiyah and his acceptance of the conditions the disbelievers set; that the Muslims would not perform `Umrah that year and that the Prophet would send back anyone who would come to him from Quraysh as a Muslim convert. (This event is stated in detail in Al-Bukhari‘s Authentic Book of Hadith [No. 2731 and 2732]).
Generally, if an opinion is based on a legal text or proof, a believer should only obey Allah and His Messenger, as Almighty Allah says: “And it becometh not a believing man or a
believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair.”
(Al-Ahzab: 36) In addition, a Muslim should willingly and obediently accept Allah’s decrees and judgments, for there must be belief in, satisfaction with, and submission to whatever is decreed by Allah and His Messenger, as Almighty Allah says: “But nay, by thy Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission.” (An-Nisaa’: 65) However, sometimes there is no legal text like a Qur’anic proof, a hadith of the Prophet or a statement of any of the honourable Companions of the Prophet or the righteous early Muslim scholars concerning a certain matter. In such a case, if something does not appeal to the heart of a believer who is guided by the light of faith and knowledge, yet he does not find a reliable mufti to consult, such a believer should refer to the opinion that appeals to his heart despite the opinions of those unreliable muftis; there is a similar opinion stated by Imam Ahmad in this regard. In brief, the opinion appealing to one’s heart is followed only when there are no trustworthy muftis who base their fatwas on legal texts or proofs.
The eminent Muslim scholar, Ash-Shawkani, added another dimension to the hadith of the Prophet to Wabisah; “Seek judgment from your heart.” He added that the proofs relating to that incident contradict each other. This means that when proofs contradict each other and there is no clear, preponderant proof, the opinion that appeals to the believer’s heart is regarded as one of the preponderant proofs. I believe that this is similar to the case when the fatwas of different muftis contradict each other. In this case, a layman should refer to the fatwa that appeals to his heart.
Herein a question arises: Can following the opinion that appeals to one’s heart be in matters of permissibility, prohibition, or both? In this regard, Imam Al-Ghazali says: “Seeking the opinion of one’s heart is restricted to those matters deemed permissible by the mufti, but when it comes to matters deemed prohibited by the mufti, a Muslim should follow the mufti’s fatwa, which is acceptable as long as his fatwa is based on a convincing proof. But what kind of heart can be followed? In this regard, Al-Ghazali states: “Not every heart is reliable. There may be a heart which is so full of suspicion and uneasiness that it rejects everything (and deems it prohibited), and there may be another heart that is so easy going that it accepts everything (and deems it lawful). These two kinds of hearts are unreliable. The reliable heart is that of a religiously knowledgeable man that guides him to the slightest issues. Such a heart is the criterion that tests the reality of matters! What a precious heart it is!