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Anger Control and Management: Islamic and Modern Concept

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Definition of Anger or Temper

Lexical meaning: The feeling one has toward something or someone that hurts, opposes, offends, or annoys strong displeasure. (Example: In a moment of anger I hit my brother.) Islamic definition: It is a destructive fire! Prophetic hadith: “Anger is a burning coal …” – Anger is a secret weapon of man towards of evils, but sometimes it results in the destruction of many noble qualities. – It snatches away the wisdom of man and thus he becomes a brute beast devoid of any sense. – Anger is a temptation and deception of Shaitân. – Anger is the root of all evils.- Anger is a very bad condition that weakens the person’s Imân (faith). Imam Mawlûd calls it a “swelling ocean,” that is he compares it to “a swelling mass of emotion that is difficult to hold back once it is unleashed.”

The Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever curbs his anger, while being able to act, Allah will fill his heart with certainty of faith.”Therefore the consequence for whoever does not curb his anger is that he or she will sooner or later feel its evil consequences. Anger is a destructive emotion, as a fire which destroys our well-being, consumes our good actions, repels our friends and dear ones, frightens our children and forces the angels to report bad actions for the Heavenly Records. This is a dangerous rough road and no-one is devoid of it and it brings one close to the wrath of Allah; story: Prophet `Isa (Jesus Christ) -peace be upon him- was once asked: “What thing is difficult?” He said: “God’s wrath.” Prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) -peace be upon him- then asked: “What brings near the wrath of God?” He said: “Anger”. Yahya – peace be upon him- asked him: “What thing grows and increases anger?” Isa -peace be upon him- said: “Pride, prestige, hope for honor and haughtiness.”

The good news is that when you are ready to confront the evil kind of anger within your soul, then you have already taken the first decisive step in fighting it. The evil kind of anger can be overcome by understanding and following the respective teachings of Islam. If you are not ready, ask yourself the test questions below.


Are all kinds of anger meant here always, or are there instances when anger could still be justified? Someone could say: “How do I know that my anger is not justified, when I feel strongly about it, that in certain situations I do have the right to become angry?” (As an exception there are a few instances when it is good and allowed, such as in war when fighting the enemy, but not excessive anger.)Answer: Yes, there are situations where anger is justified and lawful, as “in cases of religious affairs when one’s honor is at stake. It is an effective preventive measure to safeguard the dignity of man. A person who has no anger is called a coward because he has got no true faith in Allah. The person fears creation and not the Creator.” But certainly those instances are rare, and what is worse, for a beginner in anger management (AMI) it is difficult to distinguish between those situations from the outset. Later with some success in AMI, that will be easy. We do not suggest that AMI means you never may get angry, for anger is not to be abolished but channeled, and the aim is always to reach your goal with other, reliable and sane methods, in shâh Allah. But to begin with, it is vital to bring it down to lower levels, to temper it, in order to take control over it. For the time being you should be extremely suspicious about anger in which form or situation what-so-ever. Be warned against it! Remember that the real strength of a man lies in controlling his wrath or anger. In this respect the Islamic tradition is very clear:It is reported in a hadith on the authority of Abu Huraira Allah be pleased with him, that Mohammad, the emissary of Allah peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said :”The man is not a good wrestler; the strong man is, in fact, the person who controls himself at the time of anger.” (Bukhari)In another hadith, Abu Hurairah (Radi Allahu `anhu), reported that a man said to the Prophet (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam): “Advise me!”The Prophet said, “Do not become angry and furious.”The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.”[Al-Bukhari; Vol. 8 No. 137] (see hadith in Arabic at top of the page.)Commenting on this hadith Al-Nawawî says that “he meant to not allow anger to lord over oneself and cause the loss of one’s comportment.” Instead to control your anger and never lose control.

Try To Get The Whole Picture – The Causes Of Anger

We are convinced that the Islamic guidance is the best guidance, also in respect of AMI, because it relates to all levels of human beings, where it operates its barakah (Divine blessings): the body (jism), the soul (nafs) and the spirit (rûh), the last being the highest element which governs the rest. Anger is one of several coarse qualities of the soul or heart, which have to be treated by Islam’s spiritual methods. To treat the (spiritual) disease you have to know its causes.

Imam al Ghazali explains to them as follows: The causes which cause anger to grow are self-conceit, self-praise, jests and ridicule, argument, treachery, too much greed for too much wealth and name and fame. If these evils are united in a person, his conduct becomes bad and he cannot escape anger. So these things should be removed by their opposites. Self-praise is to be removed by modesty. Pride is to be removed by one’s own origin and birth, greed is to be removed by remaining satisfied with necessary things, and miserliness by charity. Or summarized in four words: “Pride, prestige, hope for honor and haughtiness.” The goal is to purify the heart, free it from the oblivion of the rank of human beings, neglect of Allah’s commands, and … so as to reach the Divine Presence. In this context there is the Gabriel-hadith on excellence (ihsân) in Islam (as part of a longer hadith): A man asked the Emissary of Allah: “Then tell me about Ihsan.” He said: “It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet — truly He sees you.”Also in the Quran, we are constantly reminded that Allah sees and hears us, thus watching over us all the time. Knowing this how can anyone is so carried away by his (her) passions – and devoid of godfearingness (taqwâ) to behave like an ugly, crazy person, chasing around and abusing people? It becomes clear then that in real anger is a secret disease, like for example alcoholism, which has to be treated just like any other disease, and it is you yourself who has to take the decisive step to curb it, with Allah’s help. In this context, it is important to remember that AMI is part of a comprehensive treatment of the heart, not isolated methods.

Therefore come to terms with yourself (nafs) and see your propensity toward the anger-syndrome! To start with asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you become angry when things are not going your way?
  • Does it make you angry when something happens contrary to what you expected or what you wished for?
  • When starting to get angry, did you ever become aware of how your emotions are kindled or heating up?
  • When you are angry, do you say or do things which normally you would not?
  • When you are angry, do you feel you have to act in a certain manner, without any control?
  • Do you – after your anger has subsided – regret what you said or did, or how you appeared in front of people?

If you answered most or all of the above questions with ‘yes’, then you are on your way and you will easily understand the following diagrams which show the anger levels and how to curb it over time (ch.5) :You may ask if there is anything which can be done about this problem of losing one’s temper, and you may think that this is the way you are, this is your character and that a change would be impossible. But you can changeandAMI was conceived to show how to succeed in dealing with this disease, once its evil roots have been understood. Then, soon, you will enjoy the sweet fruit of having overcome it. Someone said in this respect, that winning over his anger is a sweet thing indeed.

The Islamic Model Of Anger Management (AMI)A visual model is employed for the description of anger over time:Here we can see a line graph (red) for the fairly common development of temper or anger, where the left, vertical axis with variable h, measures the degree of temper [ º ] and the horizontal axis measuring time in minutes [min]. graph – d1:t1: Around t1 the level of emotion is quite normal, it is close to the “normality-level” n1, but something happened at “t2″t2: from here there is a steep increase in anger-level. Not long after temper reaches its peak at “t3″t3: anger-level stays at that extreme level for a moment or some minute or so, then after thist4: anger level is reduced, either more rapidly as in L1 or more slowly with others individuals as shown in L2. The critical timespan to employ AMI is at the outset of anger at t2, and as soon as possible, this is shown in graph d2 below[graph d2]. But anytime is better than no time! a) There are two cures, the first is the cure at the beginning of tension build-up, see graph d2: The critical area to address AMI is at the outset of anger at t2 when angel level has risen somewhat to n2 (blue line), ie. one has become angry and irritated, but still not “lost one’s temper” completely.

AMI has to intervene here as soon as possible, as shown in line graph d2 below. graph – d2: This diagram reflects a very positive situation, in which anger level has not been allowed to rise beyond a modest “start” at t2, instead it has been stopped completely at n2 (blue line). This is the case of a person who is able to remind him-/herself at this critical moment (t2) of his standing in front of Allah (SWT), and that he will have to answer Him at That Day Of Balance for everything he has done and neglected to do, or what he said. If this method (AMI) can be employed, it will be of great help for the time being and it will save him (or her) from the evil consequences of his temper. If he still needs more assistance – and most of us do need it dearly – check for m1 – m3 below. [ in chapter b) ].The person with such a positive response to anger, which we know is but the incitement of Shaitan (rajîm), can only succeed enforcing this strong kind of control if he earlier has disciplined his nafs by those many spiritual methods which are prescribed by the Islamic tradition, the fard, the obligatory, (wâjib) and the strongly recommend (the Sunnah).b) The second cure curbing the tension of temper-build-up altogether is described in graph d3: With given, innate levels of passion and emotion the response to anger will vary from person to person, and also from a young age to mature age. Other factors also determine levels of tension generally, such as the person’s living and working conditions, etc. For some persons it may not be possible to prevent a strong, swelling attack of anger at the outset (as described in d2) because of the above reasons, and it is very difficult especially when he /she has not internalized the Islamic viewpoint [see Ch. 8] that whatever happens is because Allah (SWT) has allowed it to happen.

Therefore they are in dire need of implementing the three most important Islamic methods of anger management:graph – d3:Diagram d3 reflects a person’s anger level as it rises beyond t2 to t2b (the first blue line to the left) expecting to rise to a very high level (as described above in graph – d1). Here there is very little time to stop the process, the longer one is inactive not calling upon Allah (SWT) the harder it will be to stop it. When the person realizes that he is without power to counter this satanic attack, he should seek refuge with Allah Almighty and utter the words of protection. (see chapters 6 & 7b). This is the first method of AMI (m1). If he needs more input and he probably will, he should use method2 (m2) and method3 (m3). There is no way he cannot succeed in this if he is sincere.

Three Instant Methods of Anger ManagementThese methods go hand in hand with recognizing one’s position in the sight of Allah (SWT), as summarized in chapter 8. Here we’ll encourage the reader to enact the prophetic advice of anger management in his own life, and to the benefit of himself and his spiritual capability, and for the peace of his family and everyone else:(m1) saying the word of protection:a`ûdhû billâhi min ash-shaytân ir rajîm(m2) changing bodily posture:when angry, sit down if standing — and lie down if sitting. (m3) washing the face etc, arms, hands: make ablution with water. (see Ch. 7b)

Medicines recommended by Imam Al-GhazalîWe are describing below the medicines of anger after one gets angry. This medicine is a mixture of knowledge and action. 7a. The medicine based on knowledge is of six kinds: (1) The first medicine of knowledge is to think over the rewards of appeasing anger, that has come from the verses of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. Your hope for getting rewards of appeasing anger will restrain you from taking revenge. (2) The second kind of medicine based on knowledge is to fear the punishment of God and to think that the punishment of God upon me is greater than my punishment upon him. If I take revenge upon this man for anger, God will take revenge upon me on the Judgement Day. (3) The third kind of medicine of anger based on knowledge is to take precaution about punishment of enmity and revenge on himself. You feel joy in having your enemy in your presence in his sorrows, You yourself are not free from that danger. You will fear that your enemy might take revenge against you in this world and in the next. (4) Another kind of medicine based on knowledge is to think about the ugly face of the angry man, which is just like that of the ferocious beast. He who appeases anger looks like a sober and learned man. (5) The fifth kind of medicine based on knowledge is to think that the devil will advise by saying: ” You will be weak if you do not get angry!” Do not listen to him! (6) The sixth reason is to think: ” What reason have I got to get angry? What Allah wishes has occurred!”

The medicine based on the action is of three kinds:(m1) When you get angry, say: I seek refuge in God from the accursed evil (a`ûdhû billâhi min ash-shaytân ir rajîm). The Prophet ordered us to say this.When Ayesha (a) got angry, he dragged her by the nose and said: “O dear Ayesha, say: O God, you are the Lord of my prophet Muhammad, forgive my sins and remove the anger from my heart and save me from misguidance.”(m2) If anger does not go away by this means, you will sit down if you are standing, lie down if you are sitting, and come near to earth, as you have been created of earth. Thus make yourself calm like the earth. The cause of wrath is heat and its opposite is to lie down on the ground and to make the body calm and cool. The Prophet said: Anger is a burning coal. Don’t you see your eyebrows wide and eyes reddish? So when one of you feels angry, let him sit down if standing, and lie down if sitting. (m3) If still anger does not stop, make ablution with cold water or take a bath, as fire cannot be extinguished without water. The Prophet said: “When one of you gets angry, let him make ablution with water as anger arises out of the fire.”In another narration, he said: “Anger comes from the devil and the devil is made of fire.”

AMI has to do with keeping the right balance in one’s life, regarding various aspects of it, such as food intake, sexuality, desire for position and power, and so on. Prophet Muhammad was the best human being to keep to this balance and to be a guide of the middle way sirât-al mustaqîm, the way of moderation. The man has to balance between wrath ghadab and mercy Rahma, never losing sight of the religious priority of mercy over wrath or anger. For these methods or ways to become reality one has to come to forbearance and humility in all cases. This is especially clear when the issue is not to uphold the dîn (religion) of Islam, but the problem is from our expectations of the Dunya or of other people. And if the defense of Islam is at stake, one must still not rush towards action under the pressure of anger, but one has to excuse oneself, first calm down and stick to what Imam Al-Ghazalî’s advised the Muslims [12], who stated that anger “is acceptable only a right time, in the right place, for the right reasons, and with the right intensity.” When one has internalized the Islamic viewpoint that whatever happens is because Allah (SWT) has allowed it to happen and then also by knowing oneself, one can strive to rid oneself from self-centeredness and egotism, for in the words of S. Ahmad Zarrûq, “people are filled with themselves”. With the help of Allah, one will be able to let go of what ultimately is beyond our restricted, illusory domain of power, and arrive step-by-step at a control of one’s anger by understanding the rule of “the right time, in the right place, for the right reasons, and with the right intensity.” With the whole effectiveness and barakah (heavenly powers) of the Islamic way – living Islam -, one will by Allah’s leave (bi-idhni-Leah) win over this nafs (an-nafs al-Tammara bi-ssu’ ) – this soul commanding us to do evil – and taste the sweet taste of victory over one’s worst enemy. To become aware of oneself is a step towards knowing oneself, and according to a famous saying in Islam, whoever knows himself he knows his Lord. [27]

Story Of `Ali (kAw)* Not Acting On Anger

There is a famous story about `Ali (karrama-llâhu wajhahu) according to which he was fighting against a disbeliever and had the intention of killing him due to al bughd fi Allah (hatred for the sake of Allah). After `Ali subdued him and sat on his chest with the intention of killing him, the man spat on his face. `Ali at once let him go. The man was amazed and said, “You should have become even angrier due to my spitting at you and should have hastened in killing me. Why did you spare me?” `Ali replied, “Due to this action of yours my nafs became involved and my intention did not remain purely for the sake of Allah.”The light of sincerity had such a cleansing effect that it purged the impurities and kufr of the disbeliever’s heart, and he recited the kalima(profession of faith) at once and became Muslim. [28]10.) Speech on Anger And Hatred, by Shaykh J. Brown audio

Excerpt: Chapter Anger, by Sh Masihullah Khan*Allah Most High, says:{ And those who control/ restrain anger (restrain their rage) and who forgive people, Allah loves the righteous } (Quran 3:134). The Messenger of Allah Allah bless him and give him peace) said: Do not become angry (Bukhari). and strong man is not one who defeats (another) in physical combat. Verily, a strong man is he who controls his self at the time of anger (Bukhari Muslim).In another narration, it is said 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 commands of the Shariah. It is natural to be aroused in the state of anger. Such natural propensity is not blameworthy (in itself). But Allah Most High has endowed man with willpower. Anger has, therefore, to be controlled since it is within the scope of man’s willpower to do so. Failure to exercise this volitional power is contrary to human nature. There are many reasons for the inclusion of anger in the natural attributes of man. Along with the quality of anger, Allah Most High has endowed man with the ability to control such anger to ensure that it is not misdirected and unjustly employed. Anger in itself arises involuntarily. It is automatically activated. But acting in accordance with its demand is voluntary; hence, refraining from it is likewise voluntary. The remedy for a non-volitional act (the way of curbing it) is nothing other than the exercise of one’s willpower in order to bring about restraint and control.

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