Anger is a common emotion that people feel on a day-to-day basis. We often get mad for many different reasons. It is important to be able to be in control of our anger and manage this emotion. We should recognize that it has a direct effect on our souls that can lead us to committing acts of sin and transgression. Thus, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) says, “Indeed, anger is a spark lit by Satan in the heart of the son of Adam.”1 God, His prophet (pbuh&hp), and the holy household of the Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) have given profound advice to help us find contentment when the emotion of anger and rage overcomes us.
Lessons from Imam al-Baqir
In the powerful tradition mentioned above, the fifth Imam from the holy progeny of the Prophet (pbuh&hp) demonstrates the profound effect that anger could have on the heart and soul of a human being. When we allow anger to overcome our reason, we see the horrific potential of the human being, which includes inappropriate language, abuse, and even violence. These are all fueled by allowing our emotions to get out of control.
In the life of Imam al-Baqir (p), we see that his effort to control his temper helped a disbeliever to become a Muslim. Narrations tell us that there was a man who came to the Imam and wanted to insult him, so he called out, “Are you a cow?” (The word for cow in the Arabic language is baqarah which is close in pronunciation to the Imam’s title, al-Baqir). After trying to insult the fifth Imam and realizing that he could not upset him, he began trying to insult the Imam’s mother.
The Imam (p) responded, “If what you say about her is true, then may God forgive her. And if you have lied about her, then may God forgive you.” After hearing these words, the man was in a state of shock at the level of composure the Imam had. He recognized the character of the Imam and became a Muslim.2
Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Anger corrupts faith as vinegar destroys honey.”3 When we mix honey with vinegar, it loses its sweetness , and its flavor becomes unpleasant, thus altering its nature. In the same way, when a person gets angry, his nature becomes altered. His morality diminishes, and this may lead him to take actions that may later cause regret. Thus, it is important to implement the teachings of the holy infallibles to control our temper.
What to do in The State of Anger
1. Stay calm: Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) said, “Whoever is angry with someone, let him sit down immediately if he is standing. Indeed, doing so will repel from him the uncleanliness of Satan. And whoever gets angry with his family member let him approach and (gently) touch [them]; for the feeling of family affiliation, when stimulated by touch, induces calmness.”4 In this tradition, the Imam offers some practical insight on how we can work to control our temperament before taking any sort of action. Essentially, sometimes we can quell anger by the simplest measures.
2. Learn to forgive others: Often, anger is a direct result of our failure to emphasize mercy and forgiveness of others. God states in the Quran, “Hasten to obtain forgiveness from your Lord and to qualify yourselves for Paradise. Paradise, as vast as the heavens and the earth, is prepared for the pious. Those who spend their property for the cause of God in prosperity as well as in adversity and who also harness their anger and forgive the people. God loves the righteous ones.”5 It is important in these verses to recognize that God is the All-Forgiving and loves those who “harness their anger and forgive the people.” For us to spiritually progress and overcome the potential dangers of our own anger, it is vital that we learn to forgive.
3. Channel anger appropriately: We should not always see anger in a negative light, for sometimes it can be a virtue and we may use it appropriately to enjoin good and forbid evil. God states in the Qur’an, about those who are in proximity to the Prophet (pbuh&hp), “Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those with him are stern to [those who cover and deny the truth] yet kind among themselves.”6 It is vital to recognize that standing bravely and courageously against vice, sin, and oppression requires us to be angry about their effect or impact. Therefore, we have a responsibility to positively channel our anger against the ills that harm humanity.