Controlling and Steering the Emotions
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The second constraint is to control one’s emotions, feelings, and passions during involvement in certain events and in responding to the results and consequences of those events. When observed, this regulation embodies self-perfection in man’s progress towards Almighty Allah.
Many traditions, reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), emphasize such regulation as a means of attaining self-perfection.
In two books entitled Man-la-Yahdhuruhul-Faqih and Thawab al-A’mal, Shaykh al-Saduq has reported through a valid chain of authority on the authority of Shu’ayb al-’Aqarqufi that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: Whoever controls himself when he desires, fears, craves, or becomes angry, Almighty Allah shall ban Hellfire from consuming his body.1
According to another tradition that is reported by Shaykh al-Kulayni in al-Kafi through a valid chain of authority on the authority of Safwan al-Jammal, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: A true faithful believer is he whose rage does not induce him to abandon what is right, whose approval (of something) does not induce him to indulge in the wrong, and whose power does not induce him to take more than his due.2
Self-Building and Control of Emotions
Without a doubt, self-building is one of the most imposing acts that man adopts in his progress towards self-perfection. According to an authentic tradition, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have described self-building as ‘the major jihad’.3
One aspect of self-building is controlling emotions and steering them towards what is right and approved by religious laws and divine goals.
In its subjective aspect, the significance of this regulation stems from educating and strengthening the human will to be in a permanent state of harmony with reason and religious laws in its choice and activity. The Holy Legislator has conferred a special significance upon reason and granted it a vital role in the progress of humanity and in guiding human will towards uprightness and helping human souls accomplish the final goal of their existence by controlling emotions during interaction.
In an authentic tradition, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said: When Almighty Allah created the intellect (i.e. reason), He ordered it to come. So, the intellect did. He then ordered it to leave, and the intellect responded. Then, Almighty Allah declared, “By My Might and Majesty I take this oath, I have never created any creature dearer to me than you. I shall never deposit you in your perfect form except with those whom I love. Verily, it is you whom I will order, warn, punish, and reward.4
According to another validly reported tradition, ‘Abdullah ibn Sinan asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) whether the angels or mankind were more favored.
The Imam (‘a) answered: Ali ibn Abi-Talib, the Commander of the Faithful, (‘a) said: Almighty Allah installed in angels reason without appetite, and in beasts appetite without reason; while in human beings, He installed both reason and appetite. Thus, a human being whose reason overcomes his appetite becomes more favorable than angels, but he whose appetite overcomes his reason becomes lowlier than beasts.5
Nobility of Character and Control of Emotions
Controlling ones emotions contributes to self-perfection of individuals, which automatically has a great bearing on the self-perfection of the whole society.
Additionally, an individual characterized by uprightness and distinctive moral features leaves an undeniable impact on the other individuals of society. An upright individual’s social behavior will necessarily reflect his or her sound psychological reality.
For that reason, the Holy Qur'an, highlighting this ethical aspect in behavior, has praised the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) for the excellence of his morality: Most surely, you conform to sublime morality. (68:4)
1. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:132, S. 1, H. 8.
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:286, S. 53, H. 1.
3. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:122, S. 1, H. 1.
Al-Sakuni related the following on the authority of Abu-’Abdullah al-Sadiq (‘a): On seeing the armies returning from the battlefront, the Holy Prophet (s) said, “Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad, and have yet to perform the major one.” When asked what the major jihad was, the Holy Prophet replied, “It is the jihad of the self (struggle against self).”
4. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 1:10, H. 1; al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:160, H. 1.
5. - Shaykh al-Saduq, ‘Ilal al-Shara'i’ 1:4-5, H. 1; al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:164, H. 2.