Anger has been termed as a strong feeling caused by extreme displeasure. It is a natural response to a particular circumstance. However, a pertinent question here is – can it be avoided? More significantly, can it be controlled? And if not, how detrimental can the consequences of a blind rage be?
Dr. Mamdouh N. Mohammad, an educational consultant and acting director of American Open University, reasons: “Situations that cause anger are not always avoidable; anger can and should be controlled. When anger becomes a habit without efforts to control it, a person will face great difficulty in building quality interpersonal relationships.”
A rapidly intolerant and self-centered culture is growing around us, where at times anger is even justified for making personal gains. Seldom people appreciate the need to defuse a potentially volatile situation and rather feel triumphant in a showdown, no matter how ugly it may turn out to be.
Islam, with all its wisdom and efforts to maintain peace and order in the society, has presented remarkable and doable strategies for controlling our negative emotions. This is simply called ‘anger management.’ Following are some workable solutions for those, who have the courage to break this bad habit and live a less stressful life.
Sensing of one’s moods
Quite often, in the midst of a heated argument, a person’s muscles begin to tense and pulse increases rapidly. Some people even become out of breath, and their voices raise. These are all signs of a temper simmering within.
The Prophet (sa) has advised us to pay close attention to these signs: “Beware of anger, for it is a live coal on the heart of the son of Adam. Do you not notice the swelling of the veins of his neck and redness of his eyes?” (At-Tirmidhi)
Changing of circumstances
Prophet Muhammad (sa) also emphasized the relaxing of one’s muscles. Abu Tharr (rta) narrates the Prophet’s (sa) suggestion: “The Apostle of Allah (sa) said to us: ‘When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise, he should lie down.’” (Abu Dawood)
The idea is simple – the person must change the circumstances, under which he first became angry. His altered position will assist him in relaxing of his tense muscles. Also, getting up and washing one’s face helps. Atiyyah narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution (Wudhu).” (Abu Dawood)
Assessing potential settings
One of the best ways for a person to control his anger is to become more aware of his personal habits. Ask yourself: “What ticks me?” Every person is prone to irritation. If possible, replay the number of times you have lost your temper and examine, what was the launching pad? Most people do not make the effort to understand the kinds of settings or situations that lead them to their blind fury. Once this is identified, precautions can be taken to avoid them.
Beware of the snowballing effect
Another important element in controlling anger is not to allow frustrations to build up. Many individuals agree that they keep suppressing anger, until it gets too much to keep within and they blow up. Hence, all their initial efforts prove futile.
The solution is to take an inventory of one’s feelings occasionally. If an irritant has caused in you some sort of negativity, immediately try to disengage with it. Reciting ‘Aoudo Billahi Mina Shaiytan Ni Rajim,’ offering Salah, diverting one’s mind to some other chore, and complaining to Allah (swt) help. Yes, literally pour your poison out in front of Allah (swt), before you end up inflicting self-damage.
Avoiding the bait
At times, one is unconsciously pulled into a whirlpool by no fault of his own. There are such individuals around us, who seek pleasure by provoking us, especially if they are aware of the bait we get hooked to. We consciously have to practice avoiding those baits.
Once, a Jewish man greeted the Prophet (sa) by saying: “Death be upon you.” He used the Arabic word ‘Sâm’, meaning ‘death’, in a parody of the Islamic greeting for peace, which is the word ‘Salâm’. Though the Prophet (sa) knew exactly, what the man had said: he paid it no heed and gently replied: “And upon you.” He did so without repeating the misused word ‘Sâm’ and behaved, as if he had not noticed it.
However, Aisha (rta), who had also heard what the man really said: immediately retorted: “And death be upon you and a curse as well!” The Prophet (sa) said: “Take it easy, Aisha. Allah loves kindness in everything.” Aisha (rta) complained to the Prophet (sa) saying: “Didn’t you hear what he said?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Did you not hear my reply? I responded to his offensive supplication. My supplication will be answered by Allah, while his supplication against me will not be answered.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Remembering Allah’s (swt) and His Apostle’s (sa) pleasure
Abdullah ibn Umar (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No one has swallowed back anything more excellent in the sight of Allah, Who is Great and Glorious, than anger he restrains, seeking to please Allah most high.” (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)
On another occasion, Saeed Al Khudri narrated: “The Prophet (sa) mentioned anger saying: ‘Some are swift to anger and swift to cool down, the one characteristic making up for the other; some are slow to anger and slow to cool down, the one characteristic making up for the other; but the best of you are those, who are slow to anger and swift to cool down, and the worst of you are those, who are swift to anger and slow to cool down.’” (Tirmidhi)
We also have a responsibility to take care of our health and well-being. Studies have shown that anger is linked to stroke, high levels of cholesterol, and coronary heart diseases; therefore, we must manage our anger in a healthy manner for our own sake.
As for disposition towards others, our choices in reaction to different situations significantly decide the ambience of our home, the culture of our organization, and our overall image as a person. Most certainly, nobody wants to be identified as a grouch on the brink of a sudden eruption. Also, by such unpredictable mood swings we tend to lose respect and drive away the people we love and care about. Consequently, even if we are a well-meaning individual, because of our volatile temperament nobody understands our true sentiments.
Anger is never a wise choice for expression. Next time you are tempted to resort to anger, stop and think for a while. There is always a more effective means of communication or even protest. May Allah (swt) grant us all the strength to ignore Shaitan’s whispers. Ameen.
Attitudes followed by anger
Benjamin Franklin once said: “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” Undoubtedly, regret is one of the most common emotions people feel after an angry outburst. But, unfortunately, it does not mend the damage of the initial angry episode. Anger causes serious implications, such as broken relationships, physical abuse, divorce, loss of respect, and even murder.
Regret is only worthwhile, if earlier mistakes are not repeated. But if it is a common occurrence after every fight with no improvement, then it is of no value.
For some individuals anger is a way of life. It is their language to communicate and their means of getting by. Unfortunately, they don’t even acknowledge anything to be wrong. In fact, they feel proud of themselves, if they are able to abuse others, put people down, or throw in a few punches to get their way.
This is the most dangerous of all attitudes – the sense of right and wrong gets displaced. Just as Satan challenged Allah (swt): “I am better than Adam.” Such individuals justify their position and feel no need to change themselves.
For such individuals, sincere and earnest Dua (prayer) is the only solution, so that their hearts soften and take heed of guidance by Allah’s (swt) will.
Once a man was harshly abusing another man, who was gently trying to handle the situation. The abuser went on till his heart’s content and finally walked away. A third man being the spectator of this brawl came to the gentle man and asked him quizzically: “You were behaving like a gentleman with that foul mouthed person. Why didn’t you get even with him?” The gentle man smiled and answered: “I was treating him the way I am. I didn’t want to be pulled down to his level. Instead, I thought of bringing him up to my own.”
Sadly, such grace is not witnessed often today, except among people of high Iman (faith), who can elevate themselves above the momentary madness. They have the courage to put a reign on their tempers and tongues.
Uzma Rizvi, a Hiba writer, in her research found that Dr. Tony Fiore in “Three Tips to Forgiveness: A Key Factor in Anger Management” tells of a 1996 study, which showed that the more people forgave those who hurt them, the less angry they were. He talks about two studies of divorced people, in which the forgivers of former spouses lived on with a “higher sense of well-being and lower anxiety and depression.”
Allah (swt) states recommended qualities of pious individuals: “And those who avoid the greater sins, and Al-Fawahish (illegal sexual intercourse), and when they are angry, forgive.” (Ash-Shura 42:37)
Indeed, to forgive is divine, but as someone rightly said: “Every successful and content individual has a huge graveyard, where he buries the mistakes of people he knows and not knows.”