In Arabic, these two words differ in only one letter. A single letter (the middle letter between the Ha and the Alif Maqsura: the Waw versus the Dal) causes these two words to have opposite meanings.
Huda ( الهُدَى) means guidance.
Hawa ( الهَوَى) means whims, ego.
Each word describes a whole path, an entire philosophy, a mindset.
The Muslim submits his own personal whims, opinions, and ego to the guidance of Allah. Huda trumps Hawa.
Modern secularized western society pushes aggressively for Hawa over Huda. Whims over guidance.
What even *is* guidance, to the modern agnost/atheist? Who could possibly guide me? I guide myself! I have a mind, a brain, a will. I can think for myself. I am a critical thinker. I will figure it out. I want to do what I feel is right. I want to speak my truth. My truth and your truth. There are many truths! So what even *is* guidance?
You do you, boo. Don’t judge.
Two entirely divergent paths. Two diametrically opposed paradigms.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,
قال ﷺ: “لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى يكون هواه تبعًا لما جئت به.”
“None of you believes (has iman) until his Hawa follows what I have brought.”
Allah juxtaposes the two words in this ayah, Huda versus Hawa:
فَإِن لَّمْ يَسْتَجِيبُوا۟ لَكَ فَٱعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يَتَّبِعُونَ أَهْوَآءَهُمْ ۚ وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنِ ٱتَّبَعَ هَوَىٰهُ بِغَيْرِ هُدًى مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
“If they do not respond to you – then know that they only follow their [own] desires. And who is more astray than one who follows his desire without guidance from Allah? Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” (Surat Al-Qasas, 50)
Nobody is more astray than the one who follows Hawa without Huda.