The Reality of Anger
By: Saffia Reza
Anger is a psychological state that results from inner agitation and desire for vengeance. And when this agitation becomes more violent, it intensifies the fire of anger. A violent commotion engulfs ones brain on account of which, the mind and the intellect lose control and become powerless. At that time, the inner state of the person resembles a cave where fire has broken out, filling it with flames and suffocating clouds of smoke that leap out of its mouth with intense heat and a fiery howl. When that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to pacify such a person and to extinguish the fire of his wrath; whatever is thrown in it to cool it down becomes a part of it, adding to its intensity. It is for this reason that such a person becomes blinded to etiquette and deaf to guidance. In such a condition, all such efforts as counsel, advice, and exhortation fail to appease him. The more one tries to pacify him through humble entreaties and tearful supplications, the more violent he becomes until the angry person physically harms someone or seeks revenge.
Imam al‑Baqir (AS) said: “Indeed, this anger is the spark lit by Satan in the heart of the son of Adam..” [Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi, vol. 2, p. 304, hadith # 12]
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) said: “Anger is the key (that opens the door) to all kinds of vices.” [Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi,vol. 2, p. 303, hadith # 3]
It is narrated from Imam as-Sadiq (AS) that he heard his father Imam al‑Baqir (AS), as saying: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet(SAW] and said: ‘I live in the desert. Teach me the essence of wisdom.’ Thereupon the Prophet (SAW) said to him: ‘I command you not to get angry’. After repeating his question thrice (and hearing the same reply from the Prophet[SAW]every time) the Bedouin said to himself: ‘After this I will not ask any question, since the Apostle of God (SAW) does not command anything but good’.” Imam as-Sadiq (AS) says: “My father used to say, ‘Is there anything more violent than anger? Verily, a man gets angry and kills someone whose blood has been forbidden by God, or slanders a married woman’.”[Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi, vol. 2, p. 303, hadith # 4]
The devastating effects and consequences of Anger
Anger may lead one to use abusive language or revile the prophets of God and His awliya’. Or he may desecrate sanctities and utter slanders about venerable persons. He may murder a pious or innocent soul, wreck the lives of creatures of God, destroy a family, or reveal the secrets of others tearing up the veils that cover them. There is no limit to such cruel and oppressive acts that a person can commit at the time of outbreak of faith‑consuming fire of anger which can also destroy many homes.
As to the moral hazards, it may cause malice towards creatures of God, leading sometimes even to the enmity not only of prophets and awliya’, but also of the Holy Essence of God, the Nourisher. It may also give rise to other vices, such as hasad (jealousy), hidden enmity and provokes revenge.
The similitude of anger in this world is the fire of Divine Wrath in the hereafter. In the same way as anger emanates from the heart, perhaps the fire of Divine Wrath, that is the abode of one’s anger will also emanate from the inner depths of the heart and spread over the external being, and its tormenting flames will emerge from the external sense organs such as the eyes, the ears, and the tongue.
If anger becomes permanently part of one’s nature, it is more catastrophic. It deadens ones heart and affects the faculty of wisdom. The form that such a state shall acquire in the barzakh and on the Day of Resurrection will be a beastly form that has no match in this world; for the brutality of the person in this state cannot be compared with any of the ferocious beasts. In addition, from the aspect of his moral degeneration and meanness and his leaning towards perverseness, such a person cannot be compared with any other creature
It is reported from Imam al‑Baqir (AS): “It is recorded in the Torah regarding which God Almighty confided to Moses (AS), saying: “O Moses, control your anger towards those over whom I have given you authority, so that I may spare you from My Wrath.” [Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi, vol. 2, p. 302, hadith # 7]
Imam Ali (AS) said: “Protect yourself from anger for its beginning is insanity and its end is remorse.” [Al-Amidi, Ghorar ul-Hikam wa Dorar ul-Kalim, hadith # 2635]
The attribute of controlling anger
…Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men: and Allah(SWT) loves the doers of good (to others). Al Imran:134
A person given to anger behaves unreasonably like a lunatic without rationally considering the consequences of his actions, and commits ugly and indecent acts. His tongue, limbs, and other parts of the body go out of his control. But the behaviour of a courageous person is based on reason and tranquillity of soul. He gets angry on the proper occasion and is patient and restrained. His anger is to the proper extent and he uses his reason. He knows well as to whom he should forgive and what to overlook and ignore. In the state of anger, he does not lose control of his reason, and he never makes use of indecent language nor acts indiscreetly. All his acts are based on rational considerations and are in accordance with the norms of justice and Divine law. He always acts in such a manner so as not to regret later on.
Imam Ali (AS) said: “The most powerful person is the one who is victorious over his anger with his forbearance.” [Rayshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, hadith # 15027]
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) said: “One who retrains his anger (on someone), God will cover his secrets.” [Al-Majlisi, Bihar ul-Anwar vol. 73, p. 264 hadith # 11]
Imam al-Baqir (AS) said: “One who restrains his anger in spite of having power to do so, God on the Day of Judgement will fill his heart with tranquillity and faith.” [Al-Majlisi, Bihar ul-Anwar vol. 7, p. 303 hadith # 62]
When Anger is provoked…
One of the practical remedies of anger when it is provoked is to restrain it and calm it down in its earlier phase when one’s power of wisdom is still in control. Several hadith are reported from Holy Ahlul Bayt (AS) in this regard.
Imam al-Baqir (AS) said “….whosoever is angry with someone let him sit down immediately if he is standing; for, indeed, it would repel from him the uncleanliness of Satan. And whoever gets angry with his kinsmen, let him approach him and pat him; for the feeling of consanguinity, when stimulated by touch, induces calmness.” [Al‑Kulayni, al‑Kafi, vol. 2, p 302, hadith # 2]
Imam Ali (AS) said “When a person gets angry, and if he is standing, he should immediately lie down (sit down) on earth for a while as this removes the filth of Satan from him at that time.” [Al-Rayshahri, Mizan al-Hikmah, hadith # 15059]
The Prophet (SAW) of God said: “Anger is from Satan and Satan is created from fire. As fire is extinguished with water, whenever someone of you gets angry he should perform wudhu (minor ablution) at that time.” [Ibid, hadith # 15061]
Advice to cure anger
A person with the habit of often getting angry should know that anger is the faculty that is granted by God Almighty for the discipline and order of the family system, protection of human rights and safeguarding Divine laws. And if he acts contrary to this divine purpose and makes use of the power of anger against the design of God, it will be a breach of trust that deserves severe punishment from Him. What an act of ignorance and injustice it is not to fulfil the Divine trust and incur His Wrath ! Hence he should think seriously about the moral vices and vicious deeds that are the outcome of anger, and try to remove their evil effects, each one of which is capable of afflicting a person till eternity, causing many a calamity in this world, as well as chastisement in the Hereafter.
Among the fundamental remedies of anger is to exterminate the factors responsible for its provocation. These include self‑love, which in turn begets the love of wealth, glory, and honour and the desire to impose one’s will and expand one’s domain of power on the creatures of God. These inherently excite the fire of anger, as the individual infatuated with them tends to hold them in high regard. He gets excited and angry if any one of these aspired goals is not achieved and when his desire faces any obstacle, he loses control over himself. Another factor that arouses anger is that it is imagined to be a merit and confused with bravery due to one’s ignorance. Anger is thus the product of spiritual weakness, insufficiency of faith, immoderation of character and soul.
A wise person when pondering anger’s evil consequences and the benefits of restraint, thus makes it incumbent upon himself to put out this fire from his heart with every possible effort. He clears from his heart the love of wealth, honour and the like that provoke his anger. If he resolves to act against his inner self and its desires, with the help and blessings of God, his attachment becomes less intense and he gives lesser importance to them. His inner calm and contentment, resulting from giving up the love of wealth, honour and the like, will not allow his self to act against the demands of justice. Gradually, he will not lose the grip of self‑restraint at times when anger is provoked in his heart. Finally, he will achieve complete control over his anger. [Adapted from Al-Khumayni, Forty Hadith, chapter 7, ‘Ghadhab’]
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) said: “A Mo’min (believer) is the person when angered, his anger doesn’t lead him away from what is the truth...” [Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 186, hadith # 11]