Baseless Misgivings (Waswasa): Some General Principles

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

I was wondering about doubts while fasting. I rinsed my mouth for Wudu but thereafter had doubts whether I had swallowed water or not. I understand that for matters of Tahara, doubts are ignored, is this the case with ibadat as well?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

There is a basic principle of sacred law (qa`ida fiqhiyya) that all people prone to misgivings in their worship should keep in mind, namely that:

Certainty is not lifted by a doubt .

[Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa’l Nadha’ir, andMajallat al-Ahkam al-`Adiliyya]

This means that if one is certain about something, such as the purity of the carpet, with purity being the basic assumption for all things, then we will keep assuming it pure until certain that it has become impure. Mere possibilities and likelihoods do not change this.

The important fiqh principles related to this matter include:

1. Certainty is not lifted by doubt;

2. Certainty is only lifted by another certainty;

3. The default assumption about a matter is akin to certainty;

4. The default assumption about all matters is validity and soundness;

5. Mere doubts and suppositions are of no legal consequence.

A related point of advice is that when in doubt, one should not make up legal rulings. Rather, one should seek reliable knowledge, either from a reliable book one is able to understand or from persons of sound traditional learning.

Ibn Abidin points out that following waswasa is blameworthy in the Shariah: it is from the Shaytan, and Allah Most High has commanded us to refuse his enticing.

May Allah grant us success in doing that which He loves.

Walaikum assalam,
Faraz Rabbani.

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