Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Islam in Life | Al-Risala January 1988

Of all the human emotions, the most destructive is anger. It tears apart human relationships, shatters the harmony of the environment and can destabilize whole communities. As such, it must be recognised as one of the greatest negative forces in society and be kept under strict control.

Alas, it is an emotion which affects all human beings at some time or another and keeping it under tight rein is often a matter of the greatest difficulty. Fury can be so blinding that it causes a man to forget all norms of human decency - to the point of wishing to humiliate, injure or even kill an opponent. He descends to using vile, harsh language, even comes to blows, all in the attempt to beat his opponent either verbally or physically. His anger does not allow him to see that in so doing he degrades himself as much as the object of his rage. And it is not just the weak, the egoistic, or the ill-natured who fall a prey to such baneful impulses, but even the most morally upright and socially irreproachable members of the community.

Anger gives a momentary illusion of strength, but in actual fact it weakens, degrades and destroys. An otherwise excellent character is seriously marred by fits of rage, for that is what causes a man to forget all his moral precepts and throw his principles to the winds. It was not without good reason that the Prophet said, “A strong man is not one who overwhelms his opponent. A strong man is one who controls himself when he becomes angry.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 6114)

The advice which the Prophet gave to his companions is the advice which we need to follow today: “When one of you becomes angry, he should keep quiet.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No. 2136)

But, truly, there is only one thing in this world which can prevent an irate person from going beyond the bounds of decency, and that is the fear of God. When an awareness of God’s greatness is truly lodged in an individual’s heart, this enables him to rein himself in so that he does not stray beyond the limits laid down for him by Almighty. His consciousness of the fact that God will call him to account for each and every one of his actions, exercises a powerful restraint upon the anger surging within him. Such is the character of one who fears God, that when he is made angry by a human being, it is God who looms up before him, effectively quelling his anger.

The Quran makes it clear that any such strong, adverse, emotional reaction such as anger does not befit the true believer, and instead cites as a mark of excellence the quality of forgivingness: “…those who believe and put their trust in their Lord; who refrain from heinous sins and gross indecencies; who forgive when they are angry” (42:36-37). The true believer must cultivate the capacity to rise above negative sentiments in his dealings with people so that his relationships with them remain on a positive basis. When anger and bitterness well up inside him, he should not give vent to these feelings but should, instead, contain and suppress them within his own self. He should live in the world in the way that the flowers do – giving off a sweet fragrance even to those who give nothing but abuse and remaining unruffled even in the face of violent attack.