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How to restrain anger?

Date: 13/02/2013 A.D 3/4/14343 H

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

translated by: Manal Samhat

There are two ways to restrain anger:

The first: Controlling the origins and causes of anger, by restricting what could cause anger to certain limited aspects by eliminating many of its causes; a process which we call “internal cooling”.

Once one knows that anger, in many cases, results from [feelings of] pride, haughtiness and contempt for the people, as mentioned in the following Hadith by Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq (a.s.): “The disciples said to Jesus the son of Mary (a.s.): ‘O teacher of the good! Teach us what the severest thing is.’ He said: ‘The severest thing is the wrath of Allah.’ They said: ‘Then what prevents the wrath of Allah?’ He said: ‘That you not be wrathful.’ They said: ‘What is the source of wrath?’ He said: ‘Pride, haughtiness and contempt for the people,’” he could start to lay the foundations on how to rid himself of these demerits, and consequently turn into a modest and calm person who respects the others and feels that the rights they owe him do not exceed the favors he makes for them. Moreover, he would get to feel their difficult circumstances and situations that drive them to act in an offensive way and make mistakes in their relations with him and other people. Thus, through such peaceful spirit he has acquired, he could find excuses and justifications for them, which makes him accept any out-of-the-ordinary situations with a serene and unagitated spirit.

As one would expect, reaching this state requires making huge efforts and undergoing a lot of suffering, in which the intellectual and spiritual orientation goes hand in hand with the practical training and strong freewill. Actually, this is what Islam seeks to build in the Muslim’s personality, as made clear in some traditions by the Imams of Ahl El-Beit (a.s.) that depict a live example on how a true believer ought to act in life.

It is narrated that Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said that the believer: “should maintain his dignity when calamities befall him, he should be patient when he is in trouble, he should be grateful when he has plenty of blessings, he should be content with his share of God-given daily bread, he should not oppress his enemies, he should not be a burden on his friends, he should use his body (to perform his duties) and people should be safe from him. Knowledge is the friend of a believer, forbearance is his minister, wisdom is the commander of his army, politeness is his brother and virtue is his father.

We deduce from this Hadith the significant features of a true Islamic personality that Islam wants every believer to embody, through the long painstaking suffering that makes him experience an internal state of emergency that makes him acquire a solid strong personality that does not fall for the elements of impulsivity, whether internally or in its relations with the others,

There are various religious texts that demonstrate for man the demerits of haughtiness and its repercussions on the life of the individual and the society. Then, they compare this image with the image of modesty and its good results on people’s life, and encourage man to engage in a long training process that employs various methods until he reaches the level in which modesty marks and labels his very nature, so he would respect the others, taking into consideration their private and public circumstances and situations.

In this respect, we notice calls for adopting this methodology in several Hadiths that call for forbearance and seeking it by exhibiting the great positive results man attains in this world and the Hereafter by adopting this trait, knowing that forbearance means: “the tranquility of the soul in a way that it would not be easily angered or instantly agitated, for it is the real opposite of anger that prevents its outbreak and its eruption.”

Forbearance might also be embodied in the serene psychological state capable of facing the elements of anger calmly, and it might also be embodied in the serene practical training that enables man to face anger after it breaks out and erupts.

Actually, Islam called for both methods in several Hadiths, in which it demanded man to train himself to acquire the merit of forbearance if it is not part of his innate nature, so as to turn into a forbearing person.

In Nahjul-Balaghah, Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “If you are not forbearing, act as if you are, because it is rare that somebody endeavors to resemble a group of people, without becoming almost one of them.” It is also narrated that the Prophet (p.) said: “A person can reach the level of a person who prays all night and fasts all day by his forbearance,” and: “Whoever has forbearance, Allah will never disgrace him.” It is also narrated that Imam Ali Bin Al-Hussein (a.s.) said: “I like the man whose forbearance controls his anger.” Moreover, in Nahjul-Balaghah, Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “The first remuneration that one can gain for showing clemency (forbearance) is having the people as his supporters against the ignorant.

Perhaps one of the shortest methods to reach this goal, meaning the “internal cooling”, is getting accustomed to the idea of pondering over any situation one might encounter and any problem he might face, and looking into its causes and results, so that he would react to them calmly, consciously and deeply, for most of the causes of anger can be summed up in understanding the situation from one aspect hastily… It is narrated in the biography of the Prophet that a man once came to him and said: “Offer recommendations to me, O messenger of Allah!” The Prophet (p.) said to him: “Will you follow my recommendations?” He repeated that three times. The man said: “Yes I will, O messenger of Allah.” So, the Prophet (p.) said: “I recommend you that when you intend to do something, you are to think deeply on its result; if it is good, you can do it, and if it is bad, you are to give it up.”

The second: Controlling what triggers anger and its results, for we know that the internal anger tries to express itself on the outside in various ways that vary according to the mentality of the person as well as his culture and environment. Therefore, his reaction might be physically violent, such as hitting or killing and the like, or it might be verbally abusive, such as cursing and saying filthy words and the like, or he might wreck the furniture and the like, or it might turn into a practical plan based on the method of indirectly trapping the offender in his speech, which is rather a polite method.

There are many religious texts that touch upon anger through its negative results. For example, it is narrated that Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “My father used to say that nothing is more severe than anger; a person might get angry and kill someone unlawfully or slander a chaste woman.”

Other Hadiths touch upon the methods that call on man to prevent himself from reacting impulsively to the state of anger, for they remind the one in anger of Allah’s anger on him when he sins, just as his anger erupts when others offend him, and they promise him that withholding his anger from the people would make Allah withhold His anger from him. The believer who seeks Allah’s satisfaction and fears His wrath ought to make his best to attain the positive result of withholding his anger from the others whenever he encounters anger-erupting situations that call on him to act bad, for it is narrated that the Prophet (p.) said: “He who withholds his anger, Allah will withhold His punishment from him on the Day of Judgment.”

Moreover, it is narrated that Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s.) said: “It is written in the Torah is what Allah whispered (words) to Moses: ‘Restrain your anger from those over whom I have made you king, I will restrain my anger from you.’” It is also narrated that Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “Allah revealed to some of his prophets: “O son of Adam, remember Me when you get angry, and I will remember you in My wrath.” Perhaps, we can deduce another meaning from this Hadith, which is that man ought to remember Allah when he gets angry so that the feeling that Allah is supervising him and watching over what he is doing would prevent him from acting against what pleases Allah and satisfies Him; thus, he would calm down. The reason is that thinking about the consequences and fearing Allah drive man to understand the situation profoundly in a way that prevents him from committing mistakes most of the time.

Other texts pointed to the ways that could prevent the turning of anger into an uncontrolled outrage, for example by seeking refuge from Satan, sitting down if one was standing and lying down if one was sitting, performing Wudu’ or Ghusl with cold water and “whoever gets angry with his family members, let him approach and gently touch him, for the feeling of family affiliation, when stimulated by touch, induces calmness.

Perhaps the value of these acts lies in that they take man out of the ambience of anger into a new ambience in which he would regain his temper and start thinking of the situation in a way that changes his feelings and what drove him to get angry in the first place.

Suppressing anger

There are many religious texts, whether Quranic Ayahs or noble traditions, that talked about suppressing anger, considering it as one of the great traits that elevate man’s status and position before Allah and the people, for Allah said, when talking about the traits of the pious whom He promised with the heaven, forgiveness and satisfaction: “And those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others).” (03: 134).

We cannot but notice in this Ayah that it does not only talk about suppressing anger; rather, it also calls on man to forgive and pardon the other, so that the suppressed anger would not turn into a complex within himself, and to do good to them so as to efface any possible trace left…

It is narrated that the Prophet (p.) said: “Whoever suppresses his anger - while being able to execute it - Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Judgment Day,” and: “No one drinks a greater dose than the dose of forbearance at the time of anger, and the dose of patience at the time of affliction”. Moreover, it is narrated that Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “Allah will increase the honor of whoever quenches his anger in this world and the Hereafter…

Actually, these texts aim at getting man accustomed to this conduct through the great rewards it brings about, so that man would practice it on the basis of acquiring its rewards at first and gradually get used to it, until it turns into a new element in his character that enables him to react spontaneously according to it without taking notice of anything else, just as the natural innate characteristics he enjoys…

Never discipline when angry

It is narrated that the Prophet (p.) prohibited disciplining when one is in a state of anger.

Perhaps the secret in that is that disciplining aims at straightening the deviation of the deviated, correcting the mistakes of the mistaken and strengthening the points of weakness. Therefore, the one who goes through this process through these goals ought to be fully aware of his role and in control of his tempers so that he can know what he should do and what he should not do, for disciplining has a delicate balance that ought to be regarded. Therefore, forbearance might be the best means for discipline in some cases, in a way that if one resorts to violence, the entire situation would turn against him.

Some people can be disciplined by words, so it is not acceptable to resort to hitting when it comes to dealing with them, for that would create an opposite complex in them, while others can be disciplined by hitting, so words would never hurt them or affect them in any way.

In the light of this, the disciplining process cannot fulfill its role in cases of anger, for any action might emanate from angry psychological states; thus, the situation might turn into a process of awakening and erupting the suppressed psychological complexes from previous situations that have nothing to do with morals and the upbringing process, as we witness lately in many cases where the parents or teachers go to their homes and classes suffering from acute psychological crises as a result of their disagreement with some people or their failure in certain positions.

Extracted from the book “General Islamic concepts”

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