Anger Management

Vol 4-Issue 1 Anger ManagementAnger 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

Regret

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.

Arrogance

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.

Grace

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.

Forgiveness

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.”

Anger for Allah (swt)

our role modelAt a time when conflict, distress, and war are rampant, Muslims are facing persecution. As Fitan descend one after another, we, as Muslims, desperately need to mould our reactions to deliberate provocations, according to the lofty moral conduct exemplified by our Prophet Muhammad (sa). At one extreme, we react to traumatic events by abusing, insulting, and threatening to kill the enemies of Islam; on the other end, we befriend some prejudiced non-Muslims so whole-heartedly that we don’t feel anything, when they degrade Islam.

How do we direct our anger to ensure that it lies within the boundaries of ‘anger for the sake of Allah (swt)?’ How do we know, when it is praiseworthy to remain silent and forgive our enemy, and when it is commendable to react with appropriate emotions and words of Naseehah?

Prophet Muhammad (sa) is well-known for practicing self-control when angry. He expressed his fury at the most by a change in facial expression: his cheeks would turn red, and he would become silent. In some cases, he would make a statement of mild or stern rebuke, in order to correct serious errors made by his companions. The term ‘personal revenge’ never existed in his vocabulary.

How and when the Prophet Muhammad (sa) expressed his anger is best described by Aisha (rta): “Allah’s Messenger never once struck anyone with his hand – not a servant of his nor a woman – except when he was fighting in war. He would never seek to punish anyone for their abuses, except when one of Allah’s prohibitions had been transgressed; then, he would do so only for Allah’s sake.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, and Ibn Majah)

One of his duties as a Prophet, however, was to ensure that Allah’s (swt) laws and Hudood (restrictions) were not violated. Hence, errors by Muslims in implementing Deen were immediately corrected. Because of this, Allah’s Messenger (sa) expressed his anger on certain occasions. The following Ahadeeth illustrate this point.

Zayd ibn Thabit (rta) reports: “The Prophet chose a place, where he went out at night to pray. Some men saw him doing that, and they prayed with him. They came every night to do that. One night, the Prophet did not come out to join them. They started to make some noises like little coughs, raised their voices, and even threw pebbles at his door. He came out to them in a state of anger and said: “Look, you people! You continued doing what you did, until I thought it might be made obligatory for you. Pray in your own home, because the best prayer a person can offer is the one he offers at home, except for the obligatory prayers.” (Bukhari, Abu Dawood, and An-Nasai)

Once, the Prophet (sa) found his companions disputing with each other over the issue of the divine decree (Qadr). The Prophet’s (sa) face became furious, and he said: “Was this what you were ordered to do? Is this what you have been created for? To toss the verses of the Quran around like that? This is how the nations before you fell to their ruin.” (Ibn Majah)

Another action that angered the Prophet (sa) was when people asked him too many questions. Zayd ibn Khalid (rta) reports: “A man asked the Prophet (sa) about what one should do with what one might find in the street. The Prophet (sa) said to him: ‘Publicize it for a year, and then make sure to know its description and spend it. Should its owner come up, give it back to him.’ The man said: ‘What about a lost sheep?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘It belongs to you, your brother or the wolf.’ The man further asked: ‘What about a lost camel?’ The Prophet’s (sa) face was reddened with anger at this question, and then he said to the man: ‘What do you want with it? It has its own hoofs and drink, until its owner finds it.’” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah)

There were some incidents in the Prophet’s (sa) life that made him angry even with his dearest companions.

The Sahihain report a Hadeeth, in which Usama Bin Zayd (rta), a beloved companion of the Prophet (sa), tried to intercede on behalf of a Quraishi woman convicted of theft. On hearing Usama (rta) speak for her, the Prophet (sa) became angry, and his face changed color. He replied: “Are you interceding concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allah (swt)?” He further said: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, was to steal, I would cut off her hand.” Then, he ordered the hand of the woman, who had stolen, to be cut off.

Muslim narrates a Hadeeth about Muadh Bin Jabal (rta) lengthening the Isha prayer so much that a man left the congregation and reported the incident to the Prophet (sa), who rebuked Muadh (rta) by saying: “Muadh, do you want to become a Fattaan (person putting people to trial)?” He then instructed him to recite just the shorter Surahs in the night prayer.

A narration in the Sahihain reports, how Allah’s Messenger (sa) once became angry at two of his young wives, Hafsa and Aisha (rta), when he entrusted one of them with a secret taking her into strict confidence, but she disclosed it to the other against his wishes. Vowing to stay away from them both for a month, he moved to an upper room in silent fury. As his wives cried in repentance, Allah (swt) revealed Quranic verses censuring them for having angered him.

Al-Darimi has a narration about Umar (rta) bringing the Torah before the Prophet (sa) and reading from it. The Prophet’s (sa) face changed color as he became angry, until Umar (rta) stopped. The Prophet (sa) then said: “By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, even if Moosa were to appear before you and you were to follow him, leaving me aside, you would certainly stray into error; for if Moosa were alive, and he found my prophetical ministry, even he would have definitely followed me.”

Aisha (rta) has narrated: “The Prophet (sa) entered upon me, while there was a curtain having pictures (of animals) in the house. His face got red with anger, and then he took hold of the curtain and tore it into pieces. He said: ‘Such people, who paint these pictures, will receive the severest punishment on the Day of Resurrection.’” (Bukhari)

We can see, how Allah’s Messenger (sa) became angry, when Muslims exceeded limits of moderation in worship, disputed with each other about Deen, asked too many questions, referred to other sources besides the Quran, or inclined towards neglecting the restrictions ordained by Allah (swt). He expressed his anger, however, with constrained emotions and carefully-chosen but effective words of reprimand. That’s how we should also try to mould our fury: to be ignited only for Allah (swt), and expressed just as His Messenger (sa) did.

“The strong man is not the one, who can throw another down. The strong man is the one, who can control himself, when he is angry.” (Bukhari and Muslim)