Adapted from an article by Dr. Shalid Athar
When Allah(swt) created human beings, He created many emotions and desires within them, which we call human instincts. These include positive qualities such as recognizing truth and expressing it, love, compassion and pure physiological desires such as thirst, hunger and sexual desire.
Then there are some negative qualities such as hate and anger, with resultant violence and dejection. The angels who were the witnesses to Adam's creation knew about some of the negative qualities of man and questioned the creation of this new being who was to create "mischief on earth". (The People of Israel - Chapter 2, Verse 30)
However, at the same time, the Creator also instilled some protective mechanisms for fighting these negative instincts.
"Man was created weak," says the Qur'an. During moments of weakness, we succumb to the designs of our enemy, that is, the Devil, who "will attack us from front, from behind, from the side" in order to divert us from God and tempt us toward our animal nature.
Thus, anger by itself is not unnatural. It is the expression of anger that, if wrongfully indulged in, can lead to problems.
When a beast is angry, it does not think; it reacts according to its desire to lash out. When a man becomes angry, he has a choice of either controlling his anger and responding to it as taught by prophets and saints or forgetting all this and reacting like a wild animal. The latter implies a shift of control from our selves to the Devil.
Losing Your Cool
Anger is the most common dividing emotion between friends. It takes away judgment, leads to impulsive actions we often regret later and can be depressing. So why do we get angry to begin with? Normally, because of an unexpected provocation or a frustrating situation.
When angry, people physically or verbally abuse their victims and, in the aftermath, may even inflict pain on themselves.
When anger is directed towards a group of people, it can manifest itself in terrorism, whether against people of other faiths or nations, or against even one's own government as is seen in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing.
However, all anger is not of satanic origin. How can we blame the Devil for a child who is angry because he does not get his toy or when he is hungry?
The point I am making is that the fulfillment of normal desires is a prerequisite for prevention of anger. There are many chemicals and hormones that affect our moods and behavior. It is well-known that hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism precipitate irritability and anger. If deficiencies are dealt with, many instances of anger may be prevented.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)'s teachings on controlling Anger
Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) many times stated that his aim was to introduce the highest standard of moral conduct. He constantly spoke against being angry and was never seen to lose his temper when dealing with others.
Once a companion asked him, "Give me some advice by virtue of which I may hope for good in the life Hereafter!"
The Prophet (pbuh) replied, "Avoid being angry."
Another person asked, "What will save me from the wrath of God?"
And the reply was, "Do not express your anger."
A third person asked, " O Prophet of God, what deed can I perform to gain the pleasure of God?" and he was also told, "Don't be angry."
The prophet also said on a different occasion, "The strongest of men is the one who can control himself at the time of anger." He likened anger to a fire that destroys a person from within.
In Islam, being angry is most commonly compared to begin drunk. In both cases, a person does not know what he is doing and may end up hurting either himself or others. Most often the intoxication is followed by regret.
Anger is a Natural Response to Wrongdoing
A person who has no feelings about oppression, wrongdoing and disbelief is, in fact, an impotent person emotionally. It has been said that evil flourishes when good people do not do anything to oppose it. Thus, response to injustice in a civilized way is an appropriate expression of anger. Being neutral to injustice is equal to contributing to injustice. Sometimes taking arms in order to fight oppression is a justified basis of war. However, this does not apply on a personal level.
Once Ali bin Abu Talib was fighting in a battle imposed on Muslims and the chief of the enemy army, Amr, confronted him. During the fight, Ali was able to overcome him and Amr, seeing the face of his opponent about him, spat on Ali.
Ali immediately got up and left him alone. When the people of his army came running to him and asked, "Why did you withdraw when you had him defeated?" Ali replied, "I have no personal animosity toward him. I was fighting him on behalf of God. If I had killed him after he spat on my face, then my action may have been tainted with my personal revenge.
Having established that anger is a natural instinct and may even be positive if used well, it is then necessary to understand that one need not remove anger from one's character, as much as learn to control it and use it at will in the right ways and at the appropriate times.
Here are 12 tips on regaining and strengthening your control over your rage.
1. AVOID BEING SENSITIVE
The first step is to avoid being too sensitive. Adhere to the 'stick and stones' philosophy and learn to disregard provocation as much as possible. This will also allow you to be more confident of your own opinions and actions.
2. DIVERT YOUR ATTENTION
Have a diversion ready for when you suspect you are losing your temper. It can be a mantra you chant, counting to 10 or just a conscious stepping back from the situation at hand. This way, you distance yourself from immediate reaction and allow your logic to take over.
3. WATER THERAPY
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) recommended the following for keeping your calm during verbal spats. Take a sip of water and do not swallow it or spit it out. Keep it there until the other party has calmed down. It's a foolproof way to keep your mouth shut and avoid adding fuel to the fire!
4. SEEK REFUGE IN GOD
Since we believe that anger is an expression of satanic control, we must not let this control take us over. The Prophet (pbuh) has advised us when angry to repeat often the words: "I seek refuge of God from Satan."
5. CHANGE YOUR PHYSICAL POSITION
Another tradition states that when angry one should sit down or lie down, as it is not easy to lash back when in these positions. Naturally, if such an actioin will give the impression that you are ignoring the other person and lead to greater insult, you should try one of the other methods instead.
6. GOD'S ANGER
Think of God's Anger. Is His wrath less powerful than yours? And what would happen if He were to express it as easily as you are willing to yours?
Those who seek forgiveness from God must first forgive others. When one forgives, it establishes peach and tranquility in one's heart. In imitating the perfection of our Creator we must be as forbearing with others as He is with our imperfections.
The first attribute of God that Muslims are reminded of is the He is Raheem meaning Merciful. God Himself tells us, "My Mercy overtakes My wrath." Thus, remembrance of God keeps us on the right track. One of the best titles of God to meditate on is Yaa Haleem meaning The Mild One.
Praying often increases one's reliance on God and makes it easier to control the need to get angry and seek revenge for harm done to oneself. If one learns to trust and leave all matters to God, the one will entrust the matter provoking anger to Him too.
10. WATER - THE BEST COOLER
The simplest and most straightforward of all advice given: Wash your face with cold water or take a cold shower!
11. DO THE OPPOSITE
The height of virtue is to return evil with good. When faced with an angry opponent, the best thing you can do is to keep calm and be positive.
12. MAKE PEACE WITH YOURSELF
When a person makes peace with himself, his Creator and his surroundings, he automatically begins to view misdirected anger as an irritating habit that serves only to disrupt his calmness. An even temper is the natural result of a balanced mind.