The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: “The strong man is not the one who can overpower others (in wrestling); rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself when he gets angry.”
Anger is one of the evil whispers of Shayṭān, which leads to so many evils and tragedies, of which only Allāh knows their full extent. For this reason, Islām has a great deal to say about this bad characteristic, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) described cures for this “disease” and ways to limit its effects, among which are the following:
(1) Seeking refuge with Allāh from the Shayṭān
Sulayman ibn Sard said: “I was sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and two men were slandering one another. One of them was red in the face, and the veins on his neck were standing out. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘I know a word which, if he were to say it, what he feels would go away. If he said “I seek refuge with Allāh from the Shayṭān,” what he feels (i.e., his anger) would go away.'” (Reported by al-Bukhārī, al-Fath, 6/337)
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “If a man gets angry and says, ‘I seek refuge with Allāh,’ his anger will go away.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ al-Saghīr, no. 695)
(2) Keeping Silent
The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “If any of you becomes angry, let him keep silent.” (Reported by Imām Aḥmad, al-Musnad, 1/329; see also Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 693, 4027).
This is because in most cases, the angry person loses self-control and could utter words of kufr (from which we seek refuge with Allāh), or curses, or the word of divorce (tʿaláq) which would destroy his home, or words of slander which would bring him the enmity and hatred of others. So, in short, keeping silent is the solution which helps one to avoid all that.
(3) Not Moving
The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “If any of you becomes angry and he is standing, let him sit down, so his anger will go away; if it does not go away, let him lie down.”
The narrator of this ḥadīth is Abū Dharr (may Allāh be pleased with him), and there is a story connected to his telling of it: he 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 Abū 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 Abū Dharr, with the result that the trough was broken. [i.e., Abū Dharr was expecting help in watering his camels, but instead the man misbehaved and caused the trough to be broken]. Abū Dharr was standing, so he sat down, then he laid down. Someone asked him, “O Abū Dharr, why did you sit down then lie down?” He said: “The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: . . .” and quoted the ḥadīth. (The ḥadīth and this story may be found in Musnad Aḥmad, 5/152; see also Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, no. 694).
According to another report, Abū Dharr was watering his animals at the trough, when another man made him angry, so he sat down . . . (Fayd al-Qadīr, al-Manaawi, 1/408)
Among the benefits of this advice given by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the fact that it prevents the angry person from going out of control, because he could strike out and injure someone, or even kill – as we will find out shortly – or he could destroy possessions and so on. Sitting down makes it less likely that he will become overexcited, and lying down makes it even less likely that he will do something crazy or harmful. Al-‘Allāmah al-Khaṭṭābi, may Allāh have mercy on him, said in his commentary on Abū Dāwūd: “One who is standing is in a position to strike and destroy, while the one who is sitting is less likely to do that, and the one who is lying down can do neither. It is possible that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told the angry person to sit down or lie down so that he would not do something that he would later regret. And Allāh knows best.” (Sunan Abī Dāwūd, with MaʿĀlim al-Sunan, 5/141)
(4) Following the Advice of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allāh be Upon Him)
Abū Hurayrah, may Allāh be pleased with him, reported that a man said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “Advise me.” He said, “Do not become angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and each time the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told him, “Do not become angry.” (Reported by al-Bukhārī, Fath al-Bari, 10/456)
According to another report, the man said: “I thought about what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, and I realized that anger comibnes all kinds of evil.” (Musnad Aḥmad, 5/373)
(5) Do not become angry and Paradise will be yours
(a ṣaḥīḥ ḥadīth, see Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 7374. Ibn Hajr attributed it to al-Tabaraani, see al-Fath 4/465):
Remembering what Allāh has promised to the righteous (muttaqeen) who keep away from the causes of anger and struggle within themselves to control it, is one of the most effective ways of extinguishing the flames of anger. One of the aḥādīth that describes the great reward for doing this is: “Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allāh will fill his heart with contentment on the Day of Resurrection.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani, 12/453, see also Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 6518).
Another great reward is described in the Prophet’s words: “Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allāh will call him before all of mankind on the Day of Resurrection, and will let him choose of the Hoor al-‘Iyn whoever he wants.” (Reported by Abū Dāwūd, 4777, and others. It is classified as ḥasan in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 6518).
(6) Knowing the High Status and Advantages Offered to Those Who Control Themselves
The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The strong man is not the one who can overpower others (in wrestling); rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself when he gets angry.” (Reported by Aḥmad, 2/236; the ḥadīth is agreed upon). The greater the anger, the higher the status of the one who controls himself. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The strongest man is the one who, when he gets angry and his face reddens and his hackles rise, is able to defeat his anger.” (Reported by Imām Aḥmad, 5/367, and classified as ḥasan in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 3859)
Anas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed by some people who were wrestling. He asked, “What is this?” They said: “So-and-so is the strongest, he can beat anybody.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Shall I not tell you who is even stronger than him? The man who, when he is mistreated by another, controls his anger, has defeated his own shayṭān and the shayṭān of the one who made him angry.” (Reported by al-Bazzār, and Ibn Hajr said its isnād is ṣaḥīḥ. Al-Fatʹh, 10/519)
(7) Following the Prophet’s Example in the Case of Anger
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is our leader and has set the highest example in this matter, as is recorded in a number of aḥādīth. One of the most famous was reported by Anas, may Allāh be pleased with him, who said: “I was walking with the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and he was wearing a Najrāni 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 Allāh that he had. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) turned to him and smiled, then ordered that he should be given something.” (Agreed upon. Fath al-Bārī, 10/375)
Another way in which we can follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by making our anger for the sake of Allāh, when His rights are violated. This is the kind of anger which is praiseworthy. So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) became angry when he was told about the imām who was putting people off the prayer by making it too long; when he saw a curtain with pictures of animate creatures in ‘Āʿishah’s house; when Usāmah spoke to him about the Makhzoomi woman who had been convicted of theft, and he said “Do you seek to intervene concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allāh?”; when he was asked questions that he disliked, and so on. His anger was purely for the sake of Allāh.
(8) Knowing that Resisting Anger is one of the Signs of Righteousness (taqwá)
The righteous (al-muttaqūn) are those praised by Allāh in the Qurʾān and by His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Paradise as wide as heaven and earth has been prepared for them. One of their characteristics is that they (interpretation of the meaning)
“spend (in Allāh’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, [they] repress anger, and [they] pardon men; verily, Allāh loves al-muhsinoon (the good-doers).”
[Āl ʿImrān 3:134]
These are the ones whose good character and beautiful attributes and deeds Allāh has mentioned, and whom people admire and want to emulate. One of their characteristics is that (interpretation of the meaning)
“. . . when they are angry, they forgive.”
(9) Listening to Reminders
Anger is a part of human nature, and people vary in their anger. It may be difficult for a man not to get angry, but sincere people will remember Allāh when they are reminded, and they will not overstep the mark. Some examples follow:
Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that a man sought permission to speak to ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (may Allāh be pleased with him), then he said: “O son of al-Khaṭṭāb, you are not giving us much and you are not judging fairly between us.” ʿUmar (may Allāh be pleased with him) was so angry that he was about to attack the man, but al-Hurr ibn Qays, who was one of those present, said: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, Allāh said to His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (interpretation of the meaning):
‘Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish’
This man is one of the foolish.” By Allāh, ʿUmar could go no further after al-Hurr had recited this āyah to him, and he a man who was careful to adhere to the Book of Allāh. (Reported by al-Bukhārī, al-Fath, 4/304).
This is how the Muslim should be. The evil munāfiq (hypocrite) was not like this when he was told the ḥadīth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and one of the Companions said to him, “Seek refuge with Allāh from the Shayṭān.” He said to the one who reminded him, “Do you think I am crazy? Go away!” (Reported by al-Bukhārī, al-Fath, 1/465). We seek refuge with Allāh from failure.
(10) Knowing the Bad Effects of Anger
The negative effects of anger are many; in short they cause damage to one’s own self and to others. The angry person may utter words of slander and obscenity, he may attack others (physically) in an uncontrolled manner, even to the point of killing. The following story contains a valuable lesson:
‘Ilqimah ibn Waa’il reported that his father (may Allāh be pleased with him) told him: “I was sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when a man came to him leading another man by a rope. He said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, this man killed my brother.’ The Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 he slandered me, so I struck him on the side of the head with an axe, and killed him.’ . . .” (Reported by Muslim, 1307, edited by al-Bāqi).
Anger could lead to less than killing, such as wounding and breaking bones. If the one who caused the anger runs away, the angry person turns his anger in on himself, so he may tear his clothes, or strike his cheeks, or have a fit, or fall unconscious, or he may break dishes and plates, or break furniture.
In the worst cases, anger results in social disasters and the breaking of family ties, i.e., divorce. Ask many of those who divorced their wives, and they will tell you: it was in a muʿmīnt of anger. This divorce results in misery for the children, regret and frustration, a hard and difficult life, all as a result of anger. If they had remembered Allāh, come to their senses, restrained their anger and sought refuge with Allāh, none of this would have happened. Going against the Sharīʿah only results in a loss.
The damage to health that results from anger can only be described by doctors, such as thrombosis, high blood pressure, tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat) and hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing), which can lead to fatal heart attacks, diabetes, etc. We ask Allāh for good health.
(11) The Angry Person Should Think about Himself During Muʿmīnts of Anger
If the angry person could see himself in the mirror when he is angry, he would hate himself and the way he looks. If he could see the way he changes, and the way his body and limbs shake, how his eyes glare and how out of control and crazy his behaviour is, he would despise himself and be revolted by his own appearance. It is well-known that inner ugliness is even worse than outer ugliness; how happy the Shayṭān must be when a person is in this state! We seek refuge with Allāh from the Shayṭān and from failure.
Duʿāʾ is always the weapon of the believer, whereby he asks Allāh to protect him from evil, trouble and bad behaviour and seeks refuge with Him from falling into the pit of kufr or wrongdoing because of anger. One of the three things that can help save him is: being fair at times of contentment and of anger (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ, 3039). One of the duʿāʾs of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was:
“O Allāh, by Your knowledge of the Unseen and Your power over Your creation, keep me alive for as long as You know life is good for me and cause me to die when You know death is good for me. O Allāh, I ask You to make me fear You in secret and in public, and I ask You to make me speak the truth in times of contentment and of anger. I ask You not to let me be extravagant in poverty or in prosperity. I ask You for continuous blessings, and for contentment that does not end. I ask You to let me accept Your decree, and for a good life after death. I ask You for the joy of seeing Your face and for the longing to meet You, without going through diseases and misguiding fitnah (trials). O Allāh, adorn us with the adornment of faith and make us among those who are guided. Praise be to Allāh, the Lord of the Worlds.”