Imam Shafi’i (ra) said, “Whoever does not get angry, he is a donkey.” Shocking I know! It was to me at first sight. But then he continues, “And whoever is not pacified (or quelled) when angry is a Shaytan!”
A powerful statement! He is referring to two extremes as far as a person’s “anger” is concerned. One in which you can either be in the “donkey” category or that of “Shaytan.”No offense to any one and that includes donkeys.
Honestly, I don’t know the nature of donkeys and I am not ready to go and search what science says about them. But from having seen and observed them from my parents’ home in Yemen—years ago—they always struck me as very patient animals. When burdened they passively endured, and when loaded above Allah’s “loading -limit” refused to budge.
Like the “donkey” some are provoked to every known human positive or negative limit and they are irresponsive–cold as cucumbers as the saying goes, or a two-tiered deep freezer! Excuse me, but that isn’t normal. Then there are others if provoked turn from kittens to roaring lions strutting around in their lair—no matter how much those around them try to quell their anger they are viciously bitten. Now that is, as Imam Shafi’i says a “Shaytan.”
Indeed the Prophet of Allah (saw) talks about the best and worst type of angers. He says, “Some are swift to anger and swift to cool down, the one characteristic making up for the other; some are slow to anger and slow to cool down, the one characteristic making up for the other; but the best of you are those who are slow to anger and swift to cool down, and the worst of you are those who are swift to anger and slow to cool down.” He continued, “Beware of anger, for it is a live coal on the heart of the descendant of Adam. Do you not notice the swelling of the veins of his neck and the redness of his eyes? So when anyone experiences anything of that nature he should lie down and cleave to the earth.” (Abu Sa’id al-Khudri ,Hadith – Al-Tirmidhi ,5145) The Prophet (saw) is not talking about a certain group of people, but about people in general. So, the issue is not anger as an emotion in and of itself, but rather how it is manifested. This brings me to a very important point. Anger is a blessing from Allah (swt). There you go, I uttered the unutterable! A blessing, you out of your mind! Indeed it is, like any emotion “anger” is a blessing from Allah (swt), one through which you come out as “best” as the hadith above so poignantly points out and, believe it or not, is also a way to Jannah.
When seen in this light, having anger is not the problem and we shouldn’t be doing away with it altogether. That’s impossible! We are all born with it as we are with fear, love, anxiety, etc. Originally it’s a blessing, but can turn into a curse when absent, taken to the extreme, aroused for the wrong reasons, or directed at the wrong target. Indeed, as is custom in our beautiful religion, anger can either win you rewards and Jannah, or it can pile up your sins high and lead you the only other way, hellfire.
There is that kind of anger that is one letter short of danger, as the saying goes. A human trait that is low, dirt-low, without exception. So, there’s no excuse for having any one of them in any degree, shape or form. They are a waste of your energy because simply put they are not worth getting angry over. Such as anger over the material world “dunya,” and for the self i.e. the “nafs.” These are two vast targets that your anger should not aim at. Furthermore, anger is a runner-up for violence; remember that a dog growls before it attacks. And violence is but the most severe and apparent form of anger, so beware of its undertones as well. Many don’t associate these hidden forms as “anger”: attempting to dominate by over asserting yourself; seeking faults of others; correcting others to the smallest detail of things; losing patience with others; being so brutally honest with others to the point that it hurts; holding an air of condescendence when dealing with others; constantly seeking out to debate with others; and being sarcastic. So, the kind of anger that transgresses moral boundaries, decency and propriety and cause one to be unjust is evil no doubt.
Guide your anger to a deserving target. I remember once a story I heard about a man on death row. His final request was to see his mother. When they brought her to him, he said, “I just wanted you to know that I am here because of you.” It distressed her to hear it. She had done all the right things a mother does towards her child—above all loved him unconditionally. He continued, “Remember when I was little boy and brought you a stolen egg and asked you to cook it for me?” Her face paled. “If only it had angered you to know that I had transgressed Allah’s limits, maybe you would have nipped it all in the bud. Maybe I would not have escalated from a thief to a murderer.” Her unconditional love for her son caused her to turn a blind eye to what displeased Allah (swt); by not being angry at the right moment and for the right reason she had failed her son. Actually, shared in causing his demise.
Let us look at our Prophet (saw) and how he guided his anger—his anger was never personal. It was always for the sake of Allah (swt). Narrated by Abu Mas’ud, “A man came and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! By Allah, I keep away from the fajr prayer only because so and so prolongs the prayer when he leads us in it.’ The narrator said, ‘I never saw Allah’s Apostle more furious in giving advice than he was at that time. He then said, ‘Some of you make people dislike good deeds (the prayer). So whoever among you leads the people in prayer should shorten it because among them are the weak, the old and the needy.’” (Bukhari, 670) In another instance, Abdullah ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet (saw) saw a gold ring on a man’s hand. He took it off and threw it aside, saying, “Would any of you take a burning coal and hold it in his hand?”When the Messenger of Allah (saw) had gone away, someone said to the man, “Take your ring and make use of it (i.e., sell it.)” He said, “No, by Allah, I will not take it after the Messenger of Allah (saw) has thrown it away.” (Muslim) This is an anger that gave us a ruling that Muslims abide by and will be abide by to the end of time. And don’t forget the incident that Aisha (raa) narrated about Quraish being anxious about the Makhzumi woman who had committed theft, and said, “Who will speak to Allah’s Messenger (saw) about her?” They said, “Who dare it, but Usama, the loved one of Allah’s Messenger (saw)?” So Usama spoke to him. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “Do you intercede regarding one of the punishments prescribed by Allah?” He then stood up and addressed (people) saying,” O people, those before you were destroyed, because if any one of high rank committed theft amongst them, they spared him; and if anyone of low rank committed theft, they inflicted the prescribed punishment upon him. By Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, were to steal, I would have her hand cut off.”(Sahih Muslim, 4187) Similar instances in the life of the Prophet (saw) are many, look them up.
Keeping your anger on a leash is key. Allah (swt) says, “Those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allâh loves Al-Muhsinûn (the good doers).” (3:134) The word in the Qu’an for “repress”[“kadhemeen”] is derived from a word that refers to a “string that ties the opening of a water bottle”—so basically Allah (swt) is asking us to keep our anger “bottled up,” never let it spill out of our heart, never act on it, and eradicate it completely by forgiving. And the Prophet (saw) reinforces this, “The real strong man is the one who gets intensely angry, so that his face reddens and his hair stands on end, but he suppresses his anger.” (Ahmad, 5/367)
Indeed, anger can win you Jannah as the Prophet (saw) says, “Whoever suppresses his anger when he is able to vent it, Allah will call him before all the people on the Day of Resurrection and let him choose whoever of the hoor al-‘iyn he wishes.” (Abu Dawood, 4777) Imagine if you weren’t blessed with “anger”! Apart from the fact that you would be abnormal, your parents would worry, probably take you to a psychiatrist who would diagnose you with a complicated disorder [I wonder if ‘donkey’ would be one of them—just kidding, I am just keeping Al Shafi’I in mind!], and prescribe you some meds. Not being blessed with the emotion of “anger” or completely doing away with it, would cause you to miss out on a door that would lead you to Jannah. So, indeed praised anger and the management of “wild anger” according to Qur’an and Sunnah can lead you to your ultimate destination in life–Jannah. It would be a pity if we were to find this door to Jannah and say, “Too bad, I was told that anger was all bad so I never used it for any reason.” Passivity is not part of our deen, and neither is wildness—but a responsible responsiveness to our surroundings.
Anas bin Malik narrated: “I was walking with the Messenger of Allah, and he was wearing a Najrani cloak with a rough collar. A bedouin came and seized him roughly by the edge of his cloak, and I saw the marks left on his neck by the collar. Then the bedouin ordered him to give him some of the wealth of Allah that he had. The Prophet turned to him and smiled, then ordered that he should be given something.” (Fath al-Bari, 10/375)
The Messenger of Allah said: “If a man gets angry and says: “I seek refuge with Allah,” his anger will go away.” (Sahih al-Jami, 695)
3) Whatever happens keep your mouth shut—you can never anticipate what may spew out of it when you are angry. You might even shock yourself :
The Messenger of Allah said: “If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent.” (Sahih al-Jami, 693)
4) Change your position:
“Abu Dharr was taking his camels to drink at a trough that he owned, when some other people came along and said to one another, ‘Who can compete with Abu Dharr in bringing animals to drink and make his hair stand on end?’ A man said, ‘I can.’ So, he brought his animals and competed with Abu Dharr and ended up breaking the trough. Abu Dharr was standing when he saw this, so, he sat down, then he laid down. Someone asked him, ‘O Abu Dharr, why did you sit down then lie down?’ He said, ‘The Messenger of Allah said, ‘If any of you becomes angry and he is standing, let him sit down, so that his anger will go away. If it does not go away, let him lie down.’”(Musnad Ahmad, 5/152 and Sahih al Jami, 694)
5) Remember the Prophet’s (saw) advice:
Abu Hurayrah narrated: “A man said to the Prophet, ‘Advise me.’ He said, ‘Do not become angry.’ The man repeated his request several times, and each time the Prophet said to him, ‘Do not become angry.’”(Fath al-Bari, 10/456)
6) Keep your ultimate goal in mind:
The Messenger of Allah said: “Do not become angry [means control your anger, and aim it at what it deserves, and be wise in how you express it, and overall be sincere in it being for the sake of Allah], and Paradise is yours.” (Sahih al-Jami, 7374)
7) Fear the wrath and punishment of Allah (swt):
Ibn Abbas (raa) narrated that the Prophet (saw) sent Mu’ad to Yemen and said, “Beware of the cry of the oppressed as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.” (Bukhari)
8 ) Remember that uncontrolled and unfounded anger humiliates:
‘Alqamah bin Wa’il narrated, “My father said to me, ‘I was sitting with the Prophet, when a man came to him leading another man by a rope. He said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, this man killed my brother.’ The Messenger of Allah asked him, ‘Did you kill him?’ He said, ‘Yes, I killed him.’ He asked, ‘How did you kill him?’ He said, ‘He and I were hitting a tree to make the leaves fall for animal feed, and then he insulted me, so I struck him on the side of the head with an axe and killed him.’”(Muslim, 1307)
In the Battle of Trench a man from the enemy’s side–by the name of ‘Amr bin Abdawud who was known for his strength, courage and swordsmanship– challenged the Muslims to a duel. There was a fierce fight between him and Ali bin Abi Talib, until Ali (raa) threw him down to the ground and mounted his chest, ready to kill him. At this very moment ‘Amr spat in the face of Ali (raa), and to the surprise of the spectators Ali (raa) dismounted ‘Amr’s chest and walked away. Shortly afterwards, ‘Amr attacked Ali (raa) again but was overpowered and killed. After the battle Ali (raa) was asked why he had spared ‘Amr the first time, to which he (raa) replied, “I had no personal animosity towards him. I was fighting him because of his disbelief, on behalf of Allah. If I had killed him after he spat on my face then it would have become my personal revenge which I do not wish to take” This is one of many examples of the righteous in our rich Islamic history—go and look up some more. Live with them through their words and lives, and imitate them for they were the best of examples after the Prophet of Allah (saw).
Know your anger, keep it on a leash, and guide it to a deserving target—it matters, it really matters. It could guide you to either Jannah or Jahanam!