Taming the Temper: Islamic Teachings on Anger Management


A drive through rush hour traffic, a bad day at the office or reading irate tweets on social media can all induce our anger. As the incontinent expression of rage can have damaging outcomes, we ought to control our anger in such situations.


SALEEQ AHMAD NAIK, QADIAN

AUGUST 11, 2021

One of the intense emotional characteristics of man is anger. Though anger is a normal human emotion, it can often ruin the spiritual and moral status of a person and also affect their relationship with others. Apart from this, anger may also cause headaches, digestion problems, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, eczema, heart attack etc.

In our day-to-day life, there occur many happenings that bring along challenging situations where it becomes hard for us to keep our temper. Especially, in today’s world of cyber technology, even scrolling through our social media timeline can trigger our anger and leave us frustrated. Hence, we tend to have proper guidance to maintain our composure and stability in such circumstances.

Neurobiological studies implicate that during angry flare-ups, the amygdala – a roughly almond-shaped mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere – gets activated and the fight side of the fight-or-flight response gets set in motion. The fight-or-flight response is a survival tactic in humans that is triggered when exposed to danger. This automatic response makes humans react without thinking and is triggered by negative emotions including anger.

Taking into account the negative consequences of angry outbursts, what precautions should we take to control anger and save ourselves and others from its hazardous outcomes?

Generally, there are different types of therapies that are used to teach people how to deal with anger. Moreover, many medications are also used for reducing aggression and preventing rage outbursts which include antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs.

While Islam endorses employing any method that is proved to be beneficial to treat anger disorders, it also provides many teachings that can effectively help control anger and prevent outbursts.

The Holy Quran enjoins its followers:

Those, who spend in prosperity and adversity, and those who suppress anger, and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good.[1]

This verse exhorts us that we should give preference to forgiveness and not pour out our anger in an unrestrained manner. This is indeed a beneficial instruction when viewed in the light of the detrimental effects of aggressive expression of anger.

The Holy Prophetsa apprised those who control their anger even when they have the power to act upon it and are capable of retribution of outstanding rewards in the hereafter.[2]

Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrates that a person once came to the Holy Prophetsa and sought a piece of advice. The Holy Prophetsa told him, “Do not get angry”.[3]

The Holy Prophetsa has also given numerous golden pieces of advice with regard to managing anger. Hazrat Sulaiman bin Suradra narrates:

I was sitting with the Holy Prophetsa when two men began to quarrel and curse each other. One of the two cursed the other furiously while his face turned red from rage. The Messenger of Allah said: I know of a word, if he were to utter that, his rage would vanish and that is, “I seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the accursed”. So they (the companions) said to him: The Holy Prophetsa tells you to utter “I seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the accursed”.[4]

This prescription is beneficial for those who get easily infuriated. If they understand the fact that this is an inclination from Satan they will indeed be able to overcome their anger and come to their senses.

In another account the Holy Prophetsa is reported to have given the following advice:

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.[5]

Explaining a practical way to overcome anger and keep it under control, the Holy Prophetsa 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.[6]

It is a common experience that washing the face and other body parts can reduce stress and other negative emotions. Thus, following this advice of the Holy Prophetsa, a person can effectively calm himself down during anger.

On another occasion, the Holy Prophetsa addressed his followers saying:

A strong person is not the one who defeats others in wrestling. A strong person is the one who has full control over himself during anger.[7]

Islam not only requires us to control our anger but also teaches us to exhibit tolerance and acknowledge differences and diversities of man. This is because if we are intolerant towards others’ opinions, we will feel a flush of anger every time we are confronted with views different to ours. This can result in intentional or unintentional explosion of rage and can hurt people’s sentiments. In this way, we will become a cause for chaos and disorder in the society.

One of the most delicate of such sentiments is the different religious beliefs which are often misused by mischievous elements to instigate general public. The Holy Quran specifically tackles this issue and provides perfect injunctions which effectively curb the issue from both ends.

One the one hand Islam instructs its followers to not hurt the sentiments of other faiths even if they do not conform to their views. For instance, the Holy Quran exhorts its followers regarding the polytheists:

And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance.[8]

Similarly on the other hand, Islam also exhorts its followers to overlook the annoying talks of others and not respond if anyone hurt their religious sentiments. It says:

And follow not the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and leave alone their annoyance, and put thy trust in Allah; for Allah is sufficient as a Guardian.[9]

In such circumstances where Islamic beliefs are made a subject of mockery, it is the clear instruction of the Holy Quran to not respond, but leave the place until they abandon the practice. The Holy Quran says:

And He has already revealed to you in the Book that, when you hear the Signs of Allah being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that.[10]

Hence, while we live in a world where religious differences are generally viewed with intolerance and myopia, Muslims are required by their faith to be exemplary ideals and role models of tolerance and moderation.

The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas says:

Remember! Wisdom and anger completely repel each other. And whoever is patient and displays a model of even-mindedness is given a light which freshly illuminates his senses and then light goes on to create light. Since anger and fury darkens the heart and the mind, darkness goes on to engender darkness.[11]

He further states:

A person who is harsh and is short-tempered can never utter words of wisdom and discernment. The heart which leaps into fury and is enraged when faced with opposing side is deprived of sagacity. And the mouth that recklessly utters foulness is deprived of perspicacity. Anger and wisdom do not go together. A short-tempered person is foolish and dull of perception. He does not ever triumph in any field. Anger is half frenzy and when it flares up it can turn into proper frenzy.[12]

This brief review of Islamic teachings with regard to anger amply proves the effectiveness of the teachings of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammadsa in anger management. There is no doubt that following these principles will benefit us in our spiritual upliftment and help us lead a prosperous and respectable life.


The author is a graduate from Jamia Ahmadiyya Qadian, the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology. He currently serves the community as a missionary in Qadian.


References

[1] Holy Quran 3:135

[2] Sunan Ibn Majah  Kitabul-Zuhd

[3] Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab (The Book on Good Manners and Form)

[4] Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab (The Book on Good Manners and Form)

[5] Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Adab (The Book on General Behaviour)

[6] Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Adab (The Book on General Behaviour)

[7] Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab (The Book on Good Manners and Form)

[8] Holy Quran 6: 109

[9] Holy Quran 33: 49

[10] Holy Quran 4: 141

[11] Malfuzat v. 3, p. 180 (1985)

[12] Malfuzat v. 5, pp. 126-127 (1985)

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