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 Retaining One’s Composure in Anger

By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

All of us have to wrestle with the emotion of anger, an emotion that flares up and tests a person`s ability to control himself and keep himself from stooping to the level of the one who wronged him.

There are reasons why some people can keep their composure and exercise self-control. The following are nine of these reasons:

1. Mercy, sympathy, and leniency to the person who is in the wrong

Allah says, addressing His Messenger (peace be upon him): “It was by the mercy of Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough or hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs” [ Sûrah Âl `Imrân : 159]

This verse provides us with an extremely beneficial lesson. It teaches us that people are brought together by kindness and leniency. They are not brought together through severity and violence. Allah says: “...had you been rough or hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you.”

The people being referred to in this verse are the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the people who emigrated for the sake of their faith and those who welcomed the emigrants with open arms. These are the people who are described by the Qur`ân as “the foremost” among the believers. [ Sûrah al-Tawbah : 100] How can we hope to expect more from those who come after them? What can we expect for those who are in a far lesser position than Allah`s Messenger (peace be upon him), people like scholars and Islamic workers and others in leadership positions?

Therefore, it is not possible for people to unite except on the basis of mercy and clemency.

Abû al-Dardâ` said to a man who insulted him: “Do not become engrossed in cursing us. Leave some space for reconciliation. For indeed, we do not respond in kind to those who disobey Allah regarding us as much as we obey Allah Almighty regarding him.”

A man insulted al-Sha`bî, so al-Sha`bî said to him: “If I am as you describe me, then may Allah forgive me, and if I am not as you describe me, then may Allah forgive you.”

Once a person insulted Mu`âwiyah in a most direct and harsh manner. Mu`âwiyah responded by offering a supplication on his behalf and bestowing upon him a grant of money.

It is essential that we accustom ourselves to being more accepting, patient, and tolerant. A person practices kindness until he becomes a kind person. Abû al-Dardâ` relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Knowledge is attained only through learning and gentleness is attained only through being gentle. Whoever is intent on attaining goodness will be given it and whoever keeps away from evil will be spared it.”`Ammâr said: “There are three things that if someone possesses them all he will have comprehended faith: applying justice to yourself, greeting the world with peace, and spending in charity under straitened circumstances.”

This greeting has many meanings. One of these meanings is the person you are greeting will be safe from you – from your tongue, your heart, and your hand – and that you will not transgress against him with your words or your deeds. This greeting is also a prayer for peace, safety, mercy, and blessings. We should take these noble meanings that we say with our tongues and make them our way of life in our dealings with other people.

2. Magnanimity and assuming the best about the other person

Some people of wisdom have said: “The best of noble qualities is to pardon when you are able to take revenge and to be generous in poverty.” A person may have the power to take revenge upon his adversary, but instead he responds with forgiveness and forbearance. Allah says: “And whoever is patient and forgiving, indeed these are acts of great resolve.” [ Sûrah al-Shûrâ : 43]3. Nobility of spirit and high-mindedness

We must hold ourselves above banal insults and see that responding in kind is beneath our dignity.

We must accustom ourselves to being able to bear the insults of others while maintaining a cheerful countenance. We need to train ourselves, slowly but surely, to exercise self-restraint.

4. Seeking our reward from Allah

Anger is a bitter draught that we sometimes must force ourselves to swallow for the sake of Allah, for the blessings and rewards that we receive for doing so.

Allah`s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever restrains his anger when he has the ability to carry it out, Allah Almighty will summon him above the heads of all creation on the Day of Judgment and give him the choice of any the pure companions he pleases.” [ Sunan al-Tirmidhî , Sunan Abî Dâwûd , and Sunan Ibn Mâjah ]

It is easy for us to talk about such things. This requires practically no effort at all. I believe that almost anyone can get up and give a nice talk about the topic of restraining ourselves when we are angry. However, it is another matter altogether to put such things into practice when we are in a situation where tempers are on the rise. At such times, we will really need to have already cultivated the qualities of patience, magnanimity, and clemency, or we will suddenly come to realize that there is a big difference between words and deeds.