Children retort back at their parents disrespectfully. Friends argue and insult each other over trivial matters. Drivers gesture and abuse other drivers for imagined or real traffic goof-ups. Scenarios, similar or worse, are repeated in private and public places every day. Why is it that we are often unable to control our anger, while our beloved Prophet (sa) kept calm in times of personal injury or disrespect?
Narrated by Anas bin Malik (rta): “While I was walking with the Prophet, who was wearing a Najrani outer garment with a thick hem, a Bedouin came upon the Prophet and pulled his garment so violently that I could recognize the impress of the hem of the garment on his shoulder, caused by the violence of his pull. Then, the Bedouin said: ‘Order for me something from Allah’s fortune, which you have.’ The Prophet turned to him, smiled, and ordered that a gift be given to him.” (Bukhari)
We flare up at the slightest affront. Are we so preoccupied with our own self-worth that we cannot overlook personal inconvenience or harm, while being totally indifferent to any disobedience of Allah’s (swt) commands?
Our anger is focused on serving only our own petty purposes. In contrast is the way of Ali (rta), who during a fight was sitting on top of a disbeliever and was about to strike him dead, when the disbeliever spat in his face. Ali (rta) immediately stood up and spared him. When the perplexed man asked Ali (rta) for the reason, Ali (rta) replied that since he had no personal animosity towards him, had he killed him in a moment of anger for his spitting, he would have killed him to settle a personal score.
For learning to manage our anger, let’s first see, what anger is.
What is Anger?
According to psychologists, it is a natural emotion. Dr. Raymond Lloyd Richmond calls it “the wish for harm or bad or evil to come upon someone, who – in your eyes – has injured you.”
Anger is an evil whisper of Shaitan; it pushes us to hurt others and make them afraid, or makes them reciprocate in anger.
The intensity of anger varies from person to person. Although anger is a natural emotion, it is dangerous to let it loose. Just as any habit or behavior pattern can be learnt or unlearnt, so can anger.
We must prepare to counter anger, when we are calm and composed. Since anger is one of the ways the Shaitan manipulates our Nafs, the first effective step is to become closer to Allah (swt) through the Quran and the Sunnah. The more we strive to please Allah (swt), the more Taqwa (god-consciousness or fear of Allah (swt)) we will have. And the higher is a person’s Taqwa, the more mastery he has over his Nafs.
Remind yourself and others of the Quran and Ahadeeth. Abu Hurairah (rta) reported that a man said to the Prophet (sa): “Advise me.” He said: “Do not become angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and each time the Prophet (sa) told him: “Do not become angry.” (Bukhari)
Seek refuge with Allah (swt)
The Prophet (sa) said: “If a man gets angry and says: ‘I seek refuge with Allah,’ his anger will go away.” (Mishkat)
At any time, when you feel anger surging, slow down and start speaking very softly, slowly, and gently. Or keep quiet.
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent.” (Ahmad)
“…when they are angry, they forgive.” (Al-Shuraa 42:37)
Developing the ability of forgiving needs practice. Often, forgiving completely is the only salve for pain caused by others. We can try to erase all the hurt from our hearts for the sake of Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Remind yourself of the worst and most embarrassing incident of your life, for which you would want to be forgiven. Our imperfection facilitates forgiving others.
Some argue that showing anger is a way to vent our emotions. However, most of the time when we express anger, it breeds more anger and makes us more agitated, instead of calming us down. If we control the initial attack of anger, it will become easier to stay collected.
“Research has shown that the ‘anger reflex’ lasts about one second. Beyond that, the angry person is doing something else: choosing to punish another person or vent personal frustrations – or perhaps that’s how he or she was taught to express anger.”
Think of your responsibilities
As good Muslims, we must care for the kind of environment we nurture for ourselves and for those around us. One angry person makes tense the whole house, office, or family.
Sara let go of her anger habit by reminding herself that she is the model for her kids. Khalid let go of his terrible road-rage by realizing that his shouting and cursing could not be heard by other drivers and simply made him tense.
When someone hurts you, think of something good this person has done for you. When you feel anger at circumstances or at nothing in particular, count all your blessings and look at the people more disadvantaged than yourself. Remember that all bad and good time is the will of Allah (swt).
Do the positive
When angry, stressed, or frustrated, perform Wudhu, offer Salah, do Dhikr, read the Quran, take long deep breaths, or exercise.
We cannot achieve any higher trait without the help of Allah (swt), so we must constantly ask Him to help us in controlling and managing our anger.
Avoid making others angry
Controlling anger means not only to control your own anger but also to avoid behavior that causes other people to become angry or hostile.
Avoid phrases and words that anger others, such as “Who do you think you are?”, “You always do …”, “You never…” etc. Speak softly and calmly.
Ridiculing a person, calling names or leg pulling is hurtful and makes people edgy. The Quran guides us: “O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames.” (Al-Hujarat 49:11)
Do not discuss concerns and problems with people, when they or you are tired, preoccupied, in a bad mood, or running late.
Arguing even if you are right is not recommended in Islam.
Reduce stress-inducing factors. Do one thing at a time, if you feel burdened with work, learn to say ‘no’ if you lack time, or physical, monetary, or mental energy to do something.
As emotion, anger is a test for us. We must not let it overpower us. May Allah (swt) help us deal with anger in the best possible ways, so that we earn Allah’s (swt) pleasure. Ameen.