Master anger and enter Paradise!
By: Halide Yenen
One of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) asked Prophet Muhammad for advice. He asked that the advice be short so that he would be able to remember it. “Don’t get angry,” said the Prophet. The same Companion repeated his request for some brief advice; each time he received the same answer from the Prophet each time, “Don’t get angry!”
(Source; Bukhari, A’dab, 76)
Anger is a natural, universal and intuitive emotion that human beings have been given as a means of self-defense against threats. When expressed in a healthy fashion, anger can display productive and protective results, yet its uncontrolled use leads to destruction. Anger has the effect of making at least two people unhappy.
When we feel that we are not understood, that our desires cannot be attained, that our expectations have not been met, when we sense a threat or act of aggression against our values or our loved ones, we feel as though we are in an impasse; when we are obstructed from reaching an important goal, we become angry. This feeling, while alerting us to the presence of a problem, triggers feelings of concern, hatred, revenge and aggression, all in the name of protecting ourselves.
In order for us to be able to solve our problems, we must understand the underlying reason behind the action that has hurt us. The reflex of anger not only prevents us from attaining a solution, but also leads us to feeling lonely and worthless, thereby hurting us once again and reigniting our anger. Our actions spiral out of control.
Violence is the name given to anger that is not expressed in a healthy fashion, anger that is suppressed, negated or exhibited without thought. This form of expression destroys the one in whom this feeling arises and those around them. It leads to the rise of feelings of animosity between individuals and society, causing physical and psychological illnesses, as well as social problems.
“Anyone can become angry,” says Aristotle. “That is easy; but to be angry with the right person at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.”
In ancient Japanese folktales, a confrontational samurai once asked a Zen master to tell him what heaven and hell were. The master, in a belittling tone, responded, “You’re a donkey. I can’t waste my time with your kind.” The samurai, his pride hurt and seething with anger, pulled out his sword and yelled, “I shall kill you for this arrogance!” to which the samurai responded, “See..now that is hell.” The samurai was taken aback by the master’s words and he calmed down and put his sword back in its sheath. He then bowed to the master, thanking him for this lesson. “And this is heaven,” the master said.
Awareness of emotions and altering those emotions are two activities that go hand in hand. This awareness is a basic emotional skill on which other emotional skills, like self-control, are based. The realization that one has succumbed (or is about to succumb) to their anger provides a greater freedom than merely responding to the emotion. Being able to take a step back and examine the larger picture, to rethink the situation through a positive frame of reference will diffuse the flames of anger.
Sulaiman ibn Surad (may Allah be pleased with him) relates: “One day I was sitting beside the Messenger of Allah. Two people were continuously swearing at one another. One man’s face had turned red from rage; the veins on his neck had visibly swollen. Upon seeing this, the Messenger of Allah said: ‘I know a phrase, which when repeated causes the state of anger to pass. If he says, Audhu billah himinash shaytan irrajeem (I see seek refuge in Allah from Satan, who has been dismissed from divine mercy) this state shall leave him.'”
The Messenger of Allah said: ‘I know a phrase, which when repeated causes the state of anger to pass. If he says, Audhu billah himinash shaytan irrajeem (I see seek refuge in Allah from Satan, who has been dismissed from divine mercy) this state shall leave him.’
The Companions who were present told this person that the Messenger of Allah had advised him to say these words.
(Bukhari, A’dab, 44,76)
It is narrated that once this advice of the Messenger of Allah was related to the Companion of the Prophet, he calmed down and came to his senses, saying, “Did I lose my mind? What is this state that I am in?” (Riyadhus Saliheen V.I, pg. 265)
What can be more assuring, what can bring more tranquility and calm for a believer than seeking refuge in Allah?
Fighting, using derogatory words, and exhibiting acts of violence not only do not solve problems, they further ignite the flames of rage. Such an attitude will never prove that we are in the right, nor will it help us to gain control over a situation. Taking a step outside the situation, even for a minute, and examining the greater picture will allow us to cast the provocations of the devil to one side; this in turn will allow us to approach the problem with the help of Allah, so that we may understand the reason for our anger. This will help us to solve the problem.
The hadith we quoted at the beginning of this piece is sometimes narrated as: “Don’t become angry, because anger destroys feelings and actions” and sometimes as: Don’t be angry; enter paradise!
(Riyadhus Saliheen, V.I. pg. 268)