Understanding Anger

skd182362sdcskd182362sdcSumaira Dada presents excerpts from Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s lecture “Let Anger Go”

Anger is a feeling that each one of us must have experienced. Let’s understand what it is.

What is anger?

From Hadeeth we know that anger is “a burning ember in the heart of the son of Adam,” and its signs are the swelling of the veins of the neck and the redness of the eyes. (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

The Arabic language with its vast vocabulary uses several words for “anger” that reflect its different stages.

Sukht – the first degree of anger: mere irritation, disliking or being displeased; usually used for an older person being displeased with a younger person. This kind of anger cools down very soon.

Ghaiz – the second degree of anger: the displeasure raises the blood pressure level. This kind of anger could be on one’s self or on others.

Ghadhab – the third degree of anger: a person is full of anger and is bent upon taking revenge, seeking to hurt others.

Is anger controllable?

Allah (swt) says…

“And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for Al-Muttaqun (the pious). Those who spend (in Allah’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Al Imran 3:133-134)

The word used in Arabic for repressing anger is Kadhama. It means ‘to tie’ or ‘to tighten,’ e.g., tightening the mouth of a hot water bag. Like the hot water bag, which holds back the water from burning anyone, a person controlling his anger does not harm anyone and sometimes even cools down!

The difference between the mankind and animals is that we can control our anger, while animals cannot. We, unlike the animals, are not helpless. We have been given a brain and can control our anger.

Hadeeth tells us…

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that a man said to the Prophet (sa): “Advise me!” The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet (sa) said in each case: “Do not become angry and furious.” (Bukhari)

This Hadeeth shows that (a) if a person is able to control anger, a lot of his problems will be solved, and that (b) anger is a controllable emotion.

What are the causes of anger?

Some of the internal causes of anger are:

  • Disorder in personality, especially due to arrogance
  • Past incidents in life
  • Genetic pre-disposition
  • Non-fulfillment of basic desires
  • Physical ailment
  • High expectations of one’s self
  • Some foods

Anger can also have external causes:

  • Habits of family and friends that tick one off
  • Cultural values
  • Unexpected situations
  • Violence in the media and children’s games
  • Lack of proper training (Tarbiyah) of children (e.g., teaching how to express emotions)

How is anger expressed?

When people are angry, they shriek, yell, cry, bang doors, throw things, hit, torture themselves, take sleeping pills, attempt suicide, or take drugs eventually leading to addiction.

While some shriek and shout, others display passive aggressiveness by keeping silent, hiding within themselves the feelings of anger. Some others become sad and start pitying themselves, or even become jealous. Yet, others speak in a taunting tone most of the time – an expression of rage boiling over.

What are the harms of anger?

Physically

A negative effect on complexion, bones, gait; an increase in heart palpitation, blood pressure; chances of a heart attack also increase. Some people experience a sudden burst of anger and cannot control their body movements (especially their limbs!) and their tongues. Nerves stay under pressure; in some severe cases, anger has been pointed out as the cause of diabetes.

Mentally

Loss of sensible thought, creativity, and wisdom. Cooling of anger brings only embarrassment, shame, and sadness. Constructive activities are put on hold to rectify the wrongs done.

Spiritually

A washing away of good deeds. Sometimes one does a lot of good deeds but then becomes angry and in anger blurts out words that spoil all the good deeds done.

Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury.” (Al-Baqarah 2:264)

The Prophet (sa) said: “Anger spoils faith (Iman) as [the bitterness of] aloes’ sap spoils honey.” (Al-Hakim and At-Tirmidhi)

Socially

Relationships are spoilt because of angry words. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘A Mumin is an embodiment of love and affection, and there is no good in one, who neither loves nor is loved.’” (Ahmad)

Anger brings harm in its wake, e.g., an employee loses his job because of sharp words exchanged with the boss; a vendor loses a customer due to an exchange of angry words.

What is the benefit of controlling anger?

Obtaining the pleasure of Allah (swt). Ibn Umar (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “There is no sip greater in reward near Allah than the sip of anger; the servant suppresses it seeking the pleasure of Allah.” (Ibn Majah)

Why has Allah (swt) kept anger in us?

To change things around, we need the energy of anger. Sometimes one in anger does those things that one could not have done otherwise. Allah (swt) has kept anger in our hearts for stopping the wrong – Jihad against evil is the best expression of positive anger. The Prophet (sa) said:Whoever amongst you sees an evil, should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do that, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do that, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of Iman.” (Muslim)

Anger needs to be channeled properly, because one cannot stop it from coming. Expressing anger at the right time, in the right way, and at the right level can be beneficial.

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The strong is not the one, who overpowers in wrestling, but the strong one is he, who controls himself in anger.” (Bukhari)