Dr Zeerak Attari
According to psychologists, we have six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, worry, surprise and anger. Whether we are young, middle-aged, or old, in every turn of life, we encounter anger somewhere. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy emotion, which no one can evade. Everyone feels angry at times, but it is our ability to manage this emotion, and what we do with it, that matters. In this article, we will explore this powerful human emotion and learn about key strategies that we can employ to control it and stop it becoming a destructive force in our lives.
Human beings have many material needs, without which life is near impossible. While some are essential to our survival, such as food, drink, and sleep, others, such as financial security, suitable shelter, and healthy relationships, ensure our safety and well-being. Beyond this, we have emotional needs, such as love and affection from our parents, siblings, relatives, and friends, because that has a profound effect on our personalities. In conjunction with this, confidence in oneself and cultivating necessary skills is essential for mental wellbeing.
Our material and emotional needs are interconnected. We have already learnt that emotions are essentially six categories: happiness, sadness, fear, worry, surprise and anger. If the needs mentioned in the previous paragraph are fulfilled, we will remain happy. Otherwise, we will have to face the emotions of sadness, fear, worry or anger.
Just as needs and emotions are directly linked, so are emotions and our behaviour.
As children, we immediately begin to cry when our needs are not met and we feel sad or angry, implying that emotions control our behaviour. However, as we grow up and develop our understanding of the world, we learn to control our behaviour. Through socialisation at home and in society, we learn the appropriate times and places to express our emotions and feelings. This skill of being able to control our emotions is called emotional intelligence. According to common understanding, we can call this intelligence.
Up to now, we would certainly have understood that if our basic needs remain unfulfilled, then different kinds of emotions arise within us, amongst which anger holds a foundational position. The greater our emotional intelligence, the better our manner of control over anger will be. Not only will our own life remain pleasant, rather its positive effect will also spread to our family members and other members of society.
The following matters are crucial in controlling anger.
Firstly, one will have to attain basic Islamic knowledge about anger. Familiarizing yourself with the destructive effects of uncontrolled anger and the worldly and otherworldly benefits of managing anger is from the primary needs of the age. In this regard, one should definitely read Shaykh al-Tareeqah, Amir Ahl al-Sunnah’s pamphlet ‘Cure for Anger’. In fact, one should study it repeatedly.
At the onset of anger, ask yourself, “Why am I experiencing anger? Which need of mine is not being fulfilled?” Sometimes, anger arises due to a bodily need remaining unfulfilled. For example, hunger, thirst, and a lack of sleep are enough to make us irritable and angry. At this point, one should fulfil that need, and the anger will dissipate by itself.
Often the cause of anger is the behaviour of others; someone did not accept my opinion or someone embarrassed me, so and so did not afford me the respect I deserve, I told him to do such and such a task and he did not. In actuality this is not the behaviour of others, rather it is our own demeanour that we only give preference to our personal needs. The solution for this is that we give preference to the needs of others. This is a lofty characteristic, which you should try to adopt. When we give others preference over ourselves, we naturally receive respect and honour. Our opinion begins to be accepted, and there is no opportunity for anger.
Some people respond to anger with self-harm, tearing out their hair, hitting their heads against the wall, cutting their arms with a blade, or burning themselves with a cigarette. Such people often suffer from an inferiority complex, which makes them very sensitive. These people should contact a therapist or their GP. Psychotherapy can be very effective in treating this issue.
Arrogance and conceit are also major causes of anger. Worldly status and dignity, status, and rank can make a person heedless of the punishment of the afterlife and turn him into an oppressor. Such people can only be treated through the company of Allah’s saints. Participating in Dawat-e-Islami‘s weekly gatherings, travelling in Madani qafilahs, and completing the Pious Deeds Booklet are powerful instruments to improve one’s spiritual state and treat inner sins such as arrogance and conceit.
As Muslims, it is vital to learn that in certain circumstances, our faith and commitment to Islam requires us to be angry. There are many scenarios where, according to the rulings of the Shari’ah, not only is it necessary that anger arises, but it should be expressed as well.
Just as Islam prescribes roles and responsibilities for the head of state, it expects the heads of households to fulfil certain responsibilities towards those under their care. Sometimes, those responsibilities call for anger for the sake of Allah and for the sake of the family’s wellbeing. The head, whether governmental or familial, is accountable before Allah Almighty, and so he too should understand this point well.
May Allah Almighty grant us success in acting upon these points.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم