by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Everyday some people are asked to seek counseling to control anger. Schools, corporations and organizations have peer mediation sessions and seminars with the intent to resolve conflicts. These therapy sessions facilitate people from harming themselves, as well as others. In some people pride, arrogance and stubbornness and denial prevent them from seeking this counseling.
Anger is an emotion, which is in creation. If it is used correctly then the results will be positive. On the other hand if it is used incorrectly, then the outcome would be negative or detrimental. Anger is an enemy within us, which should be defeated.
Everyday everyone experiences problems that can either strengthen or weaken us. Many things cause one to become angry. It is our responsibility to recognize and properly use anger in positive ways to benefit us.
Detrimental effects of Anger 1
Causes of anger are stress, economic pressures of life, not meeting emotional needs in a healthy way and disappointments in life. Causes of anger can be of our own choosing or can be linked to others or circumstances. Past mistakes should be used as a learning experience to build from and not an experience that restricts, limits and impedes productivity.
For their current state of mind and conditions, people look for scapegoats and blame their parents, teachers, counselors, associates or friends, former sexual partners or spouse(s), etc. Various forms of exploitations, discriminations, injustices and abuses may have victimized them. These negative experiences result in people acquiring quick tempers and will lash out at anyone in their immediate environment. Many times innocent children, teens and adults are harmed in the process. Regrettably, these unresolved conflicts could lead to emotional and mental damage, physical injuries and homicides. Now and then these terrible consequences continue via resentment, revenge and retaliation, a vicious cycle of human misery, suffering and self-destruction.
As believers we must seek advice and protection from Allah (SWT) our Creator.
We read in the Qur'an: "If a suggestion from Satan assails thy (mind) seek refuge with the Creator, for He heareth and knoweth (all things)."
Also:" Those who have regard for the Creator, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring The Creator to remembrance, when lo! They see (aright)!" ……The Noble Qur'an 7: 200-201
All sorts of thoughts or suggestions enter the human mind all the time. Therefore one should shield one's souls with prayer, gratitude and good deeds to the best of one's ability. These are the fundamentals to receiving The Creator's Grace and Mercy. If one is not conscious of one's negative influences that cause transgression into outburst of rage, one would be surprised and disappointed and regretful of such disrespectful behavior.
One has to constantly struggle to relieve oneself from stressful situations and conditions. When anger is properly understood then its positive use should be directed toward correcting, improving and eliminating undesirable conditions. Individually and collectively, people should channel anger and desires to become active to change, improve and eliminate defects, deficiency, immorality, exploitation, injustice, corruption, incompetence, irresponsibility, dysfunctional and non-productive behaviors, institutions and conditions that cause human misery, confusion and suffering.
With these changes, improvements and eradication of social, economical, political, educational, cultural and spiritual defects and diseases, we should always use human intelligence and moral excellence as our base.
Anger Management According to Qur'an and Sunnah 2
This is the most important rule of behavior for a Muslim. In Surah Al-Imran 3:134, we learn that, “…those who control their anger and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loves those who do good.”
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is noted by Bukhari in his Sahih as saying: “Don’t be angry.” And he repeated this several times.
There is a harm in anger or being angry. It is a trap from Shaitan. Abu Dawud in his Sunan noted that the Prophet (saws) stated: “Anger comes from the Shaitan. The Shaitan was created from fire and fire is extinguished only with water. So when one of you becomes angry, he should perform wudu.”
We should think first, and not lose control. It is very easy for us to let go of our tempers and blow into a rage. However, we should try to remain as calm as possible. The Prophet (saws) advises us: “When one of you is angry while standing, let him sit down and if his anger goes away that is good; otherwise let him lie down.” (Abu Dawud)
How silly it would be to be lying down whilst screaming at the top of your lungs. It is quite an effective technique. We can also remember the advice of our contemporary advisors in anger management, who tell us, that before speaking when angry, count to ten and you will notice that you are more clear-headed and not speaking off the cuff.
A strong person controls his/her anger. The Prophet (saws) stated: “Who is strong? He who controls himself when angry.” (Muslim)
It is said that he 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; the best of you are those that 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.” He continued, “Beware of anger, for it is a live coal on the heart of the descendant of Adam. Do you not notice the swelling of the veins of his neck and the redness of his eyes? So anyone who experiences anything of that nature, he should lie down and cleave to the earth.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Allah’s messenger (saws) also 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.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Bukhari in his Sahih relates to us that the Prophet was present when a man became angry to the point that his jugular vein was swelled. He told this man, I know a word the saying of which relaxes he who says it, “Seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan.”
Anger Management in Hadith 3
Don’t get angry-The beginning
According to Abu Hurayrah a man asked the Prophet (S) for an advice. The Prophet (S) replied: don’t get angry. And he said it three times.
Abdullah Ibn Umar said that he asked the Prophet (S): What protects me from the anger of Allah? The Prophet (S) replied: don’t get angry.
Behavior of the Prophet (S)
1. His anger was never to defend himself but to ensure the dominance of Allah’s Word: Protection of boundaries.
2. His character was the Quran.
3. He did not confront people with what he dislikes, but the anger shows on his face.
4. A man told the prophet: his judgment was not made for the sake of Allah (SWT). The Prophet became angry as shown by the changes on his face. Then the Prophet (S) said: “ Prophet Moses was hurt by his people to a larger degree and he was patient.”
Meaning of “ Don’t get angry”
1. Learn to prevent anger before it happens by acquiring the righteous characteristics of generosity, shyness, forgiveness and ease of interaction with others. When these qualities are internalized the person will be in a good position to manage / control his anger when it fires.
2. If angry do jihad to control your self by not hurting others until the force of anger declines. An example was given by Prophet Moses who restrained anger until anger left him quickly as if nothing happened
Impact of anger on Decision-making
1. “ When angry don’t judge between two people”
2. “ When angry don’t divorce” for anger paralyzes thinking.
Degrees of Anger
1. Too strong: extremely dangerous because it hampers perception, thinking and actions. (Undesirable).
2. Too weak: persons who never get angry cannot fix their own weaknesses. They cannot improve because they don’t have enough anger that makes them counter oppose the force of their desires. (Undesirable)
3. Moderate: The best position is the moderate position between the two extremes. (Desirable)
Building the personality of a believer
Ibn Abbas narrates: Oh son of Khattab I swear by Allah that you don’t give us enough and you don’t judge among us justly. Omar became angry to the degree of thinking to hurt him. One of the Sahabah (Al Hur bin Kays) reminded Omar with Quran 7:199.
“ Take what is given freely (be easy in dealing with them and avoid causing them difficulty) enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant” this man is one of the ignorant. Omar responded positively; he managed his anger and did not hurt the man.
“ And those who avoid the major sins and immoralities and when they are angry they forgive (Quran 42:47)
“ And lower your wing (show kindness) to the believers (Quran 15:58)
“ (They are) humble toward the believers” (Quran 5:54)
Anger is the sign of weakness not a sign of strength. The Prophet (S) said: “ Strong is not the one who wrestles others to the ground, but strong is the one who controls himself when angry”
“ I am warning you of Zun which is thinking badly of others; Zun is the most unreliable form of interaction, don’t follow each others shortcomings; don’t spy on each other; don’t compete with each other; don’t envy each other; don’t hate one another; don’t plan evil to each other. And be true servants of Allah – brothers in faith”
“ And hasten to forgiveness from your lord and a garden (Paradise) as wide as the heavens and the earth prepared for the righteous” (Quran 3:133)
“ Who spend (in the cause of Allah) during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good” (Quran 3:134)
“ And pardon them and overlook (their misdeeds). Indeed Allah loves the doers of good” (Quran 5:13)
Bad neighbors do not pardon / forgive.
Hadith “ Three awakir (evil ones)"
· A leader who does not thank you if you do well and who does not forgive you if you make a mistake,
· And bad neighbors who buries your good deeds and broadcast your bad ones,
· And a woman who hurts you in your presence and cheats on you in your absence.
Mix with people and tolerate their hurts with patience.
“ The believer who mixes with people and tolerate their hurts is better than the believer who doesn’t mix and does not tolerate”
Al Hassan said, “ If a person is able to control himself against the following four forces, Allah (SWT) will protect him from Shaytan:
Wishes / wants: trying always including haram
Fear: attempts to self defend in any way including the haram ways
Desire: examples are Zina (fornication and adultery) and stealing.
Anger: blood boiling to protect and / or take revenge.
Anger is expressed in aggressive words (hurting others) or aggressive deeds (killing, beating and other types of aggressive overt behavior)
1. Seek refuge in Allah (swt)
“ And if an evil suggestion comes to you from Shaytan, then seek refugee in Allah, He is hearing and knowing (Quran 7: 200)
2. Do wudu (washing specific parts of your body with water) according to the tradition of the Prophet (S).
The Prophet (S) said, “ Anger from Shaytan; Shaytan from fire; fire is put out by water; so when angry do wudu”
3. Change body positions
“ If one of you gets angry while standing he should sit. If he is still angry he should lie down”
To say this hadith in other words:
· Lying down is better than sitting
· Sitting is better than standing
· Standing is better than walking
· Walking is better than Sa’y, which is somewhat between walking and running.
4. Cheek to the ground.
Since anger is a product of pride, the Prophet (S) said, “ whoever gets a little angry should stick his cheek to the ground”
5. Psycho-physical approach
Diverting attention away from the cause of anger and participate in strenuous physical activity aiming at letting steam out and relaxing of muscles.
The Prophet (S) used this approach to manage the tension of the Sahabah on their way back from the battle of Bani Al Mustalq. Abdullah bin Obay – the head of the hypocrites said, “ If we return to Al Madinah, the more honored (for power) will surely expel there from the more humble” (Quran 63:8)
The Sahabah became angry and the Prophet (S) ordered them to continue marching for two days. When the Sahabah took rest, they slept and forgot the anger.
6. When angry be quiet, don’t speak, be silent.
“ Teach, simplify, don’t complicate and if you get angry be silent”.
7. Positive interpretation of events.
In the story of a tribe called “ Nose of the She – Camel” Hadrat Omar (RA) changed events by reinterpreting the story from negative to positive.
1. Jamal R. Rasheed. Understanding and Managing Anger. Muslim Journal, January 2, 2004, p.23 and p.29)
2. Samantha Sanchez Negm News: Latino Muslims (Reprinted from La Prensa - CA) Printed in La Prensa. A Publication of the Press-Enterprise Co. February 2001 http://www.orgsites.com/ny/latinodawah/_pgg5.php3
3. Dr. Mohamed Saleh. Anger Management Islamic Approaches.