Controlling Our Anger
“And those who suppress their anger and are forgiving to people and Allah loves the doers of good.”
Allah has explained three qualities of His special servants in this verse;
1) They swallow their pride,
2) They forgive the mistakes of Our servants,
3) They not only forgive others who harm them, but also do acts of kindness for them. Allah loves such people.
Together with this Allah has provided the prescription for curing the deadly disease of anger in the above verse Allah states: “Those who suppress their anger.”
This refers to those who suppress their anger. Anger per se, is not evil but the incorrect usage thereof is. If anger itself were evil, the word ‘annihilate’ would be used and not ‘suppress’. The commentators of the Qur’an explain that Allah did not use the words ’Those who annihilate their anger.” because the absence of anger is neither meant nor desired. Anger has to remain within one because Allah has created it for a purpose. What is requires, is the correct usage of anger at the correct times, on the appropriate occasions. Some people request Dua’s that no evil thoughts occur to them, so that desire and demand to fulfill desires become totally non existent. This is immaturity. The actual achievement is to be able to please Allah in spite of being assailed by desires. One has to learn to transform the forceful flow of desires flowing through the veins into the life blood of Taqwa. One who endures difficulties to substantiate his friendship will be deemed a friend to the extent of the difficulties endured. The greater the trials and tribulations endured the greater will be the friendship. Fleeing from the dictates of the Nafs or being overcome by them is proof of our reluctance to tolerate to endure difficulties in the way of Allah. How then, can we lay claim to love? A right, a demand of love is to please the beloved at every cost. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that desires demand disobedience, do not be derailed from the duty of love. Persevere in the face of all demands, drill the core of the heart and draw the deeply embedded love that lurks within. If desires were to be annihilated, how will one at the appropriate time, fulfill one’s conjugal rights. In short, the usage has to be controlled, has to be appropriate. The noble scholars of Islam teach that the objective is not the eradication of evil traits but the channeling and correct usage thereof. Innate, inborn characteristics cannot be wiped out but can be re-directed. If for example one has an excess of anger, before rectification, such anger was used to further one’s selfish needs and desires. On occasions when one is told something unpalatable, all control is lost. Anger immediately came to the fore. Now, after Islaah (reformation), the direction taken by anger changes. Now anger is expressed on occasions when Allah is disobeyed, against the demands of the nafs. Anger is still present but has changed direction, it has become praiseworthy, and it has become meritorious.
Remember the advice of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). Abu Hurairah (RA) reported that a man came to Rasulullah (SAW) and said: “Advise me.” He said: “Do not become angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and each time the response was, “Do not become angry.” (Bukhari)
According to another report, the man said, “I thought about what Rasulullah (SAW) had said, and I realized that anger is the source of all evil.” (Ahmad).
“Do not get angry, and Paradise will be yours.” (Al-Tabarâni)
Remembering what Allah (has promised to those who avoid the causes of anger and strive to control themselves is the best way to extinguish the flames of anger. Rasulullah (SAW) has told us about this great reward: “Whoever suppresses his anger at the time when he could express it openly, Allah will fill his heart with contentment on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Tabarâni)
Knowing the high rank and distinction that is bestowed upon the one who controls himself. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “The strong man is not the one who can wrestle another to the ground; the strong man is the one who can control himself when he is angry.” (Ahmad).
The angrier a person gets, the more highly valued is his self-control. Rasulullah (SAW) said: “The real strong man is the one who gets intensely angry, so that his face reddens and his hair stands on end, but he suppresses his anger.” (Ahmad).
Rasulullah (SAW) used an incident that took place in front of his Sahabah as an opportunity to reinforce this lesson. Anas (RA) reported that Rasulullah (SAW) passed by some people who were wrestling, and asked, “What is this?” They told him, “So-and-so is a strong man. No one challenges him but he beats them at wrestling.” Rasulullah (SAW) said, “Shall I not tell you who is stronger than him? A man who is mistreated by another, but suppresses his anger, has defeated his own Shaytaan and the Shaytaan of the one who mistreated him.” (Al-Bazaar
How to control anger:
Seeking refuge with Allah from the Shaytaan: Sulaymaan ibn Sard (RA) said: “I was sitting with Rasulullah (SAW) and there were two men swearing at one another. One of them was red in the face and the veins of his neck were standing out. Rasulullah (SAW) said: ‘I know a word which, if only he would say it, this (anger) would leave him. If he said, “A’oodhu billaahi min al-Shaytaan (I seek refuge with Allah from the Shaytaan),” this [anger] would leave him.’” (Bukhari)
Rasulullah (SAW) also said: “If a man gets angry and says ‘A’oodhu billah (I seek refuge with Allah),’ his anger will cease.”
Keeping quiet: The Messenger (SAW) said: “If any one of you gets angry, let him keep quiet.” (Ahmad)
Anger usually makes a person lose control, often to the extent that he may utter words of Kufr (Allah forbid), or curses, or the word of divorce (Talaaq) which will destroy his family, or foul language that will earn him the enmity of others. Keeping quiet is the way to avoid all of these evils.
Keeping still: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “If any one of you gets angry, let him sit down if he is standing. If his anger goes away, (that is good) otherwise let him lie down.”
The narrator of this Hadith was Abu Dharr (RA), who told the following story: he was watering his animals at a trough, when some other people came along. He said, “Who among you will help Abu Dharr to water his animals and ….?” A man said, “I will,” but he broke the trough. Abu Dharr was standing, so he sat down, then he lay down. Someone asked him, “O Abu Dharr, why did you sit down then lie down?” He said, “Because the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said … [and quoted the Hadith].” (Ahmad)
One of the benefits of this Prophetic teaching is that it prevents the angry person from doing something crazy and out of control. An angry person could inflict harm or even kill – as we shall see shortly – or he could destroy property and so on. Sitting down makes it less likely that he will explode in this fashion and lying down makes it even less likely that he will do something reckless or harmful. Al-‘Allama al-Khattabi (rh) said in his commentary on Abu Dawood: “The one who is standing is ready to move and destroy things. The one who is sitting is less likely to do so, and the one who is lying is not able to do anything of the sort. It seems that the Prophet (SAW) commanded the angry person to sit down or lie down in order to prevent him from doing anything that he would later regret. And Allaah knows best.” (Abu Dawood)
Following the guidance of Rasulullah (SAW) with regard to anger: Rasulullah (SAW) is our example, and his attitude towards anger is clearly demonstrated in many Ahadith, of which one of the most famous was reported by Anas (RA), who said: “I was walking with the Messenger of Allah (SAW), and he was wearing a Najraani cloak with a stiff collar. He was accosted by a Bedouin who pulled his cloak roughly. I looked at Rasulullah (SAW) neck and saw the marks left by the collar. The Bedouin said: ‘O Muhammad, give me some of the wealth of Allah that you have!’ Rasulullah (SAW) turned to him and smiled, and ordered that he should be given something.” (Al-Bazaar)
Another way in which we may follow the example of Rasulullah (SAW) is by making our anger for the sake of Allah when the limits set by Allah are violated. This is the worthy kind of anger. Rasulullah (SAW) became angry when he was told about the Imaam who was putting people off praying because his recitation was too long. He became angry when he saw a curtain decorated with pictures of animate creatures in ‘Aisha’s (RA) house. He became angry when Usamah (RA) spoke to him about the Makhzoomi woman who was guilty of theft, and said to him, “Are you interceding concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allah?” He became angry when he was asked questions he disliked. His anger was only for the sake of Allah.
Know that suppressing anger is one of the signs of Taqwa (piety) : Allah has praised certain people in His Book, and the Prophet (SAW) highly commended them. There have been prepared for them Gardens as wide as the heavens and the earth. One of their characteristics is that they
ٱلَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِى ٱلسَّرَّآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَٱلۡڪَـٰظِمِينَ ٱلۡغَيۡظَ وَٱلۡعَافِينَ عَنِ ٱلنَّاسِۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ
“Those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good; (Al-Imran 3:134)
These are the people whose good qualities Allaah has mentioned, people whom others admire and want to catch up with. Another of their characteristics is that
وَإِذَا مَا غَضِبُواْ هُمۡ يَغۡفِرُونَ
“…when they are angry, they forgive.” (Ash-Shura 42:37)
Paying attention when one is reminded: Anger is something natural, with regard to which people differ. It may be very hard for a person not to get angry, but a sincere person, if he becomes angry and is reminded about Allah (SWT), will remember Him and will stay within the limits that He has prescribed. Some examples of this follow.
Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) reported that a man asked permission to see ‘Umar (RA), and permission was given. The man said, “O son of al-Khattaab, by Allah, you are not giving us much, and you are not ruling us fairly!” ‘Umar (RA) became so angry that he was about to hit the man, but al-Hirr ibn Qays (who was among the people sitting with ‘Umar) said, “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, Allah said to His Prophet (SAW):
‘Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e., don’t punish them).’ (Al-A’raf 7:199) and this man is one of the foolish.” By Allah, ‘Umar (RA) did not take the matter any further when this was recited to him. He adhered to the words of Allah (Bukhari).
This is how the Muslim should be, not like the evil hypocrite who, when he got angry and was told about the Hadith Rasulullah (SAW) of and was advised by one of the Companions of Rasulullah (SAW) to seek refuge with Allah from the Shaytaan, said, “Do you think there is something wrong with me? Do you think I am crazy? Go away!” (Bukhari)
We seek refuge with Allah from failure. Ameen!
Knowing the bad effects of anger: The bad effects of anger are many, harming both the self and others. A person may swear and utter obscenities, and may hit others, lashing out with no control. It may even lead to killing. The following story contains a lesson.
‘Alqamah ibn Waa’il reported that his father (may Allah be pleased with him) told him: “I was sitting with the Messenger of Allah (SAW) when a man came along, leading another by a twisted rope. He said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, this man killed my brother.’ The Messenger of Allah (SAW) asked, ‘Did you kill him?’ He said, ‘Yes, I killed him.’ He asked, ‘How did you kill him?’ He said, ‘He and I were hitting trees to make the leaves fall (so we could use them for animal fodder). He swore at me, so I got angry and hit him on the side of the head with an axe, and I killed him.’…” (Muslim)
Even if anger does not go as far as this, there may still be broken bones and injuries. If the person with whom a man is angry runs away, he may turn his anger upon himself, tearing his clothes, slapping his cheeks, falling unconscious, or breaking dishes and furniture. One of the worst things that result from anger and cause social ills and family breakdown is Talaaq (divorce). Ask many of those who have divorced their wives how and when it happened, and they will tell you, “It was in a moment of anger.”
Lives are shattered and children are lost as a result. Feelings of regret and failure haunt people’s minds, and life becomes bitter – all because of anger. If only they had remembered Allah and come back to their senses, restrained their anger and sought refuge with Allah from the Shaytaan, what happened would not have happened. Going against Shariah only ever results in loss. The physical harm that results from anger is very serious, as the doctors describe, such as thrombosis, high blood pressure, fatal heart attacks, diabetes, etc.
The angry person should think about himself at the time of anger: If the angry person could see himself in the mirror at the time of anger, he would despise himself and how he looks when his color changes, he shakes uncontrollably, his face reddens, the veins of his neck stand out and he behaves like a crazy person. He would be put off by his own appearance, but it is well known that the ugliness that exists inside a person is even worse than any that may appear on the outside. How happy the Shaytaan must be when someone is in this state!
Du’aa: This is the believer’s constant weapon. He asks his Lord to rid him of evils, problems and bad characteristics, and he seeks refuge with Allah (SWT) from falling into the pit of Kufr and wrongdoing caused by anger, because one of the three qualities which will save a person from Hellfire is being just and fair both at times of contentment and at times of anger. One of the Dua’s of Rasulullah (SAW) was: “O Allah, by Your knowledge of the Unseen and Your power over all creation, keep me alive so long as You know life is good for me, and bring about my death when you know death is good for me. O Allah, I ask You to make me fear You in secret and in the open, I ask You to make me speak sincerely at times of contentment and at times of anger, I ask You to make me be moderate in poverty and in wealth, I ask You for a blessing that does not end, contentment that never ceases, and for acceptance of Your decree. I ask You for a good life after death, and I ask You for the joy of looking upon Your face and the longing to meet You, with no harmful adversity or misleading trial (fitnah). O Allah, adorn us with the beauty of faith, guide us and let us be a means of guidance for others).” (Al-Nisaa ‘i)