Anger: Its Nature, Control, and Remedy
Allah the Exalted says:
“And those who swallow anger and those who forgive people, Allah loves the righteous.”
The Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace)(upon him blessings and peace) said: “Do not become wrathful.”
“A powerful man is not one who defeats (another) in physical combat. Verily, a powerful man is he who controls his nafs at the time of anger.”
In another narration it appears that a strong man is he who controls anger. It is essential to keep anger under control. One should never act spontaneously in accordance with the dictates of anger. On the contrary, anger should be made subservient to the instruction of the Shari`ah. It is natural to be aroused in the state of anger. Such natural propensity is not rebukable. But, Allah Almighty has endowed man with volition and willpower. Therefore, anger has to be controlled since it is within the scope of man’s volition to do so. Failure to exercise this volitional power is contrary to humanity.
There are many reasons for the inclusion of anger in the natural attributes of man. Along with the quality of anger, Allah Almighty has endowed man with the ability to control anger to ensure that the latter is not misappropriated and unjustly employed. Anger in itself comes into motion involuntarily. It is automatically activated. However, acting in accordance with its demand is voluntary; hence refraining from it is likewise voluntary. The remedy for a volitional act (the way of curbing it) is nothing other than the exercise of one’s will-power to bring about restraint and control. This is within one’s ability even if one experiences a degree of difficulty in the exercise of such volition. Repeated exercise of this such restraint weakens anger. In consequence, refraining from anger becomes a relatively simple task.
The following narration appears in Hadith:
“The Qadi (judge) should not decide between two parties while in anger.”
The judge or the ruler is not permitted to issue a verdict while in anger, but instead should postpone the trial or case for a later date. The term Qadi in the context of this Hadith applies to every person having authority over people. The instructor, teacher, and head of a family all fall within the purview of this Hadith. They should not be hasty in meting out punishment to their subordinates while in the state of anger.
Those in authority should remember that Allah Almighty is the defender of the rights of those who have no defender. Allah Almighty will demand from the aggressor the rights of the oppressed. According to the Hadith, Allah Almighty and the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) will claim from the tyrannical ruler the rights which he usurped even from his non-Muslim subjects. It is therefore imperative to exercise caution when punishing.
In cases of injustice executed in the state of anger, it is essential that the aggressor, after his anger has subsided, publicly apologize and humble himself in the presence of the one whom he has wronged. The aggressor should personally apologize in profusion and seek the pardon of the one whom he had wronged. This measure will restore the intelligence of the aggressor to equilibrium. He will thus be prevented from the perpetration of injustice at the behest of anger.
At all times refrain from haste. One has to strive greatly in opposing the dictates of anger. Whenever one succumbs, resort to istighfar and obtain the pardon of the one whose rights have been violated. Recite: A‘udhu billahi mina ‘l-shaytan al-rajim.
When overtaken by anger:
- Sit down if you happen to be standing.
- If you happen to be sitting, then lay down.
- Perform wudu with cold water
- Or drink cold water
- Divert your attention by immediately engaging in some other activity, especially reading which is very efficacious in curbing anger.
- If all these fail to eliminate the anger, withdraw from the presence of the one who is the target of your anger.
Remember that Allah Almighty has greater power and authority over you and that you are also disobedient to Him. Should He also exercise the attitude of wrath upon you, what will be your condition? Also, reflect that nothing can happen without the will of Allah Almighty.
Ponder then: Of what worth am I? I am an absolute non-entity. How can I then act in conflict with Allah Almighty?
[Extracted from Shari`ah and Tasawwwuf. Note: Minor grammatical corrections and rearrangements were made to this article originally published by The Majlis.]