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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Anger Management: An Islamic perspective

How many times have you shouted at your parents? How many times have you felt so angry that you were just about to hit someone? Does this happen a lot? You're not the only one. Many people now are unable to control themselves and end up arguing with others, often the ones that they love - their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their husbands or wives. Here we're listing some reasons that stir people's anger and ways given from the Qur'an and Sunnah to overcome this anger and control yourself.

When first God created humanity, He created many emotions and desires within each person, which we call human instincts. These include positive qualities such as recognizing truth and expressing it, love and compassion, pure physiological desires such as being thirsty, hungry and in need of sex.

Then there are some negative qualities such as hate and anger, with resultant violence and dejection.Allah says in the Qur'an:"And when your Lord said to the angles, "I am creating successors on the earth." They said, "Will You create on it those who will spread corruption and spill blood, although we celebrate Your praise and extol Your Holiness?" He said," I know what you do not know." (Qur'an 2:30).

Also Allah instilled some protective mechanisms for fighting these negative instincts.Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:"Man was created weak."During the moment of weakness, we succumb to the designs of our enemy, that is, the devil, who "will attack us from front, from behind, from the side," in order to divert us from God consciousness and return to our animistic nature. Thus anger by itself is not unnatural; it is the expression of anger which is done wrongfully, can lead to problems.

The difference between the wild beasts and wild humans is the difference of free will.When a lion or a wolf is angry, he does not think. When a man becomes angry as a result of provocation, he has a choice to control his anger or to respond to it as he has learned from the Qur'an and from Prophet Mohammad's teachings, or forget all that and become a wild animal. Thus anger takes place when we are not in control of ourselves, but the devil is controlling us.

Anger in itself is a natural feeling, Allah has put such feeling inside us to react against what's harming us, for instance to protect our lives, our properties, and our families. Yet we shouldn't over do that. Meaning it is ok to feel angry, but it is dangerous and forbidden by Allah to surrender to your anger and follow it to as far as it takes you (for it might drive you to killing somebody).

Anger is a de stabilizing thought. It is the most dividing emotion between friends; it takes away judgment, leads to depression, madness and wrong actions that we would repent later on when we are not angry. But why do we get angry to begin with? It is either an unexpected provocation or unexpected situation which leads to frustration and an angry response.

During anger, one can physically or verbally abuse a person that he or she loves, hurt another living being like an animal, or during the dejection phase of anger, one can even hurt him- or herself and even commit suicide. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) gave us the medicine for that saying:"Shake hands and rancor will disappear. Give gifts to each other and love each other and enmity will disappear".

Also Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:"A strong person is not the person who throws his adversaries to the ground. A strong person is the one who contains himself when he is angry".The point is that the natural fulfillment of normal desires, whether in terms of food or sex, is a prerequisite for prevention of anger. There are many chemicals and hormones which affect our moods and behavior. It is well known that hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism precipitate irritability when feeling angry. We must keep our hormones in balance in addition to facilitate our spiritual well-being.

We Muslims, are followers of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), right? What better example of patience do we have than that of our own blessed Prophet himself? Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who was sent to mankind to teach them good moral conduct, learned to control his anger toward the Unbelievers and teach them appropriate expressions. He used to speak against being angry. We think that we have it tough, when one of his days was probably tougher than the whole of our lifetimes! When we look at his life, our own difficulties seem so pathetic in comparison.

Imagine spending 13 years completely devoting his life spreading the word of Islam and suffering hardship. This was a man who had the burden of the whole of mankind's future on his shoulder. Yet he had the tolerance and self-discipline to be able to forgive those around him who were themselves so ignorant.The best example of this was when the Prophet (saw) went to a place called Ta'if. This was at the time when the followers of Islam were at their weakest and the Prophet himself had suffered the loss of both his wife Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) and his uncle Abu Talib. He went to this town in the hope that they would listen to what he had to say. Instead he was insulted and chased out of the town by the children who threw stones at him till (it was described) the blood flowed from his body to his feet making his sandals sticky with his own blood. The Prophet was so depressed that he prayed to Allah, who then sent down the Angel of the mountains who asked for the Prophet's permission to fold the mountains together and crush to death all those that lived there. But what was the prophet's reply? "Yes, kill them all as they did not listen to me"? No, off course not! His answer was "No, I hope Allah will bring from them people who will worship Allah alone, associating none with Him."

This was the example of the Prophet, even though he felt bitterness and was very angry with them, he had the discipline and control to not let his emotions control his actions and he forgave them realizing that they were merely misguided.

One companion asked him, Give me some advice by virtue of which I hope for good in the life hereafter, and he said, "Don't be angry." Another person asked, what will save me from the wrath of God, and he said, "Do not express your anger." A third person asked three times, 0 Messenger of Allah, give me an order to do a short good deed, and he said, "Don't be angry." Once he asked a question of his companion, "Who among you do you consider a strong man?" They said, the one who can defeat so-and-so wrestler in a fight, and he said, that is not so. The one who is strong is the one who can control himself at the time of anger.

He also said that anger is like fire, which destroys you from within, and it can also lead you to the fire of hell by your own expressions of anger unjustly.So being angry is similar to being drunk. In both cases, we do not know what we are doing, hurting ourselves or someone else, and afterwards when the intoxication is over, we repent.

Sheikh Hassan Al Basri said that one of the signs of the Believers is that his anger does not prevail over him.One should distinguish between natural response to wrongdoing and disbelief. A person who has no feelings about oppression, wrongdoing and disbelief is, in fact, an impotent person emotionally. It has been said, "Evil flourishes when a few good people do not do anything to oppose it." Thus response to injustice and operation in a civilized way is the appropriate expression of anger. Being neutral to injustice is equal to contributing to injustice.

Caliph Ali was once fighting in a war imposed on Muslims, and the chief of the Unbelievers confronted him. During the fight, the Ali was able to overcome him, who fell down on the ground and Ali was about to kill him. This person, knowing his fate now, had no choice so he spit on the face of Ali. Ali immediately got up and left him alone. The man came running to him and asked, "You had a chance to kill me since I am a Polytheist; how come you didn't use your sword?" Ali said, "I have no personal animosity toward you. I was fighting you because of your disbeliever, on behalf of God. If I had killed you after you spat on my face, then it would have become my personal revenge which I do not wish to take." That Unbeliever chief became a Muslim immediately and testified that 'There is no god but Allah, and that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah'.When Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) became angry at someone else's wrong actions or disbeliefs, he never expressed it with his hand or tongue. His companions knew that he was angry by just looking at his face, which would turn red and with some sweat on his forehead, and he would keep quiet for a moment, trying to control himself.What happens to us physiologically when we are angry?Our heart beats rate and blood pressure go up; this is a direct effect of excessive adrenalin in our system. Our physical strength increases although spiritual strength decreases.

Our intellect or power to reason disappears, and things we would not justify in a normal state become acceptable.How can we defeat anger?To root out anger is impossible and unnatural, and may even be harmful. But what we should do is to control this feeling and do not let it lead us to what's wrong and forbidden in our religion (Islam).Firstly I advise you to avoid too much sensitivity that makes you "deaf, dumb and mute." For some people getting engaged in something else that diverts their attention away from what's angers them can be useful. For others, engaging in remembrance of God or meditation might work, but for common folk, they need some worldly tools.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had advised us that when angry, one should try to change his body position. Meaning, if you're standing up, sit down, and if you're sitting down stand up. If this didn't work, then go and wash and get prepared for praying.When you're angry, think of Allah. Think of Allah's anger and punishment. Is Allah's wrath less than your wrath? And what happens when He expresses His wrath? We humans who seek forgiveness from Allah must forgive others first. When one forgives someone else, it establishes peace and tranquility in one's heart.

The first attribute of Allah that we Muslims are reminded (of) is Ar Rahman-Ar Rahim that is, Kind and Merciful. God Himself said, my mercy overtakes my wrath, and He told in one of the Hadith Qudusi, 'O son of Adam, when you get angry, remember Me." Thus, remembrance of God and meditation will put us on the right track. One of the meditation words is ya Halim (Patient), which is one of the attributes of God, being the Mild One. One can also pray to God to take control.

We must also think that our life that is so dear to us, is a temporary life, and we must not forget our death and destroy the life of eternity at the cost of this life. Washing one's face with cold water or taking a cold shower is also helpful.That is how the saying, "turn the other cheek" came about. One will become a calm person when he makes peace with himself, Allah and his surroundings. Anger is a costly weed; it costs one his health, life in this world, and the life in the Hereafter. This weed must be rooted out to allow the healthy plant of righteousness, piety and obeying Allah nurture and grow. Also anger is one of the weapons of Satan, we should be careful that we do not fall prey to his weapons, rather we should protect ourselves by being patient. -(IslamOnline)

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