Masoud Ahmad Khan: (Anger & Forgiveness)
The Muslim Link . Posted April 8, 2012
I hope and pray you are doing well and am sorry for this very late reply, and hope you won’t mind it being shared with others so we may all benefit.
I suffer similarly to you in regards to not coping well with anger and find that I am one having little patience with oppression and injustices as well, and with me, it is an ongoing struggle [more] easily remedied in discussion than in practice.
Some passing thoughts on the subject is to give you glad tidings as it is a sign of faith to feel anger for the sake of Allah when injustices occur. The Prophet never got angry except for the sake of Allah which is the first step to achieve. The second step is to find the correct way to vent our anger according to the circumstances, without resorting to an unhealthy accumulation of suppressed anger.
Before venting our anger prematurely, we need to purify it first for the sake of Allah so we can release it properly for the right reasons and in the right way. Generally, anger, when not for the sake of Allah, is from satan, and the Prophet indicated in this instance to seek refuge in Allah from satans prodding’s and suggestions, whose influence can be brought on by our indulgence in sins, which weakens our resolve and defenses against him. In [addressing] this state of anger, our Prophet further advised us to perform ablution, prayer, and sit or lie down to cool the effects brought on by the heat of anger, as well as to cool and calm the circulation of blood traveling through the body, as satan is similarly wont to course through man as mentioned in a narration.
Some other points to realize in addition to this, is that all of mankind make mistakes and Allah in His great Mercy is All-Forgiving. So in emulation of this Divine attribute we should, likewise, seek to control our anger in hope of receiving the same from Him, Whose Mercy supersedes and overcomes His Wrath.
Also injustices in the world occur for a wise reason some of which is to motivate us to rectify the wrongs within ourselves in relation to our Lord, and in our environment, and to appreciate the values of justice which cannot be known and experienced except by the allowance of injustices to first take place. In this sense everyone is destined to taste their fair share of oppression, whether appearing to be brought on justly or unjustly, the confirmation of which is mentioned in a narration, the gist of which is that had mankind not fallen into sin then Allah would have removed them and brought in their place a people who transgressed and thereafter sought forgiveness, so they could come to know that they have a Lord Who Forgives.
Allah also mentions in many verses that much of the oppression and calamities that inflicts us in this world is brought on by our own sins, which is in itself an oppression against our own souls and against others whom we may come in contact with, and is bound to effect them in one way or another.
So the appearance of oppression can be a form of veiled Mercy and a means of purification from sins, and often times spiritual stagnation cannot be risen above except by way of a calamity that kicks into gear the motivation needed for overcoming the steep climb ahead. When we try to understand the apparently hidden wisdom behind the Decrees of our Lord, we will be able to control our emotions and direct them towards their intended purpose and thereby vent them accordingly, rather than being controlled by our emotions with no idea of how to release them from their pent up accumulation. This is not to say that we should submit to oppression fatalistically, but it is to say that we should try to understand it so we can come to understand how best to deal with it.
Anger, when not for the sake of Allah, usually has a negative base of being projected by an extreme unwarranted hate; and even if the anger is warranted due to injustices but was not purified solely for Allah’s sake, then focus can easily be lost in misunderstanding its causes and the wisdom of its occurrences and lead to an anger which is misdirected or unbalanced in being vented in an extreme reactionary fashion.
Some of the ways that can motivate us to purify our anger for Allah’s sake is to know that control over anger signifies the strength of a truly strong individual as the Prophet may have said “the strong person is not the one who is quick to overcome their opponent but is one who has domination over their anger“.
Allah has also promised His Aid and declared war on any who seek to oppress His servants as mentioned in another narration, and this is, perhaps, even truer in instances when a Muslim is in a state of weakness and unable to fend it off themselves. This is also true for Non-Muslims as well, or anyone who is mistreated and oppressed, there being no hindrance whatsoever from Allah in answering the call of one being oppressed as mentioned in a narration.
Similarly in another narration or saying, it says that Allah raises or gives respite to a just people even if they may be unbelievers, and He brings down and levels a people through their injustices even if they be believers. Consequently, Allah has destroyed many nations for their oppression and iniquities as a sign and lesson for us so that we may perceive the values of truth and justice and by it, steer the right course for our own betterment. This is all possible only by witnessing oppression and its outcome and from it a recorded supplication emerges which roughly means:
O’Allah don’t make me a lesson for others (due to their witnessing and taking heed from the outcome of negative behavior) nor make others happier or more grateful for me than I for myself (which can only happen when others are grateful for someone else’s misfortune due to their having learned by it how to avoid the repercussions of wrong doing).
As far as when a Muslim has the upper hand, then it was the practice of the companions as mentioned by Ibn
Taymiya regarding verses in Sura Shura, that after subduing their oppressive opponents, they would practice forgiveness rather than seek justly deserved revenge when able. Sayid Qutb mentioned that exercising either forgiveness or punishment towards wrongdoing and oppression is dependent on which serves to bring about the best outcome and benefit according to the particular circumstance.
This can all be seen in these verses in Sura Shura:
“And those who, when an oppressive wrong is done to them, take revenge. The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah. Verily, He likes not the thalimoon (oppressors). And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong, for such there is no way (of blame) against them. The way (of blame) is only against those who oppress men and rebel in the earth without justification; for such there will be a painful torment. And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives, that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah“.
This last verse with Allah’s recommendation, was something practiced by not only the companions but by their role models in the example of the Prophets such as Yusuf with his brothers and our Prophet with the Pagans of Mecca when they both gained the upper hand, and it was through this recommendation that led to the guidance of those who were given to much oppression. So in the endeavor to eradicate evil and in the prevention of oppression, sight is never lost that it may be only through long suffering patience that the enlightenment of wrongdoers may lie in the mercy shown to them in that moment when the upper hand is gained over them. This is and should be the ultimate goal, to save as many souls from the perdition of hellfire by patiently seeing them through the phases that will lead to their realization and salvation without any forced coercion, rather than hastening to seal their fate in everlasting doom to the joy of our avowed enemy.
Once we have reached a reasonable level of control by purifying our anger for the sake of Allah, we will then be able to properly vent and relieve it by the ways directed to us by our Prophet, who mentioned that
“If you should happen to see an injustice, then seek to remedy it by your hand, and if unable, then by your speech, and even if still unable, then by your heart, and verily that is the weakest condition of faith”.
And in regards to changing the condition of oppression by the action of our hands, the Prophet has said “support your brother whether he is being oppressed or is himself an oppressor“. He was consequently asked, we understand how to support our brother when he is oppressed but how shall we support him if he is the oppressor?, to which the Prophet replied “Take him by his hand so he will refrain from oppressing others“.
So, depending on the situation, these are three ways one can vent their anger for the sake of Allah without it being suppressed unnaturally with no outlet. If we find that we are unable to exercise change by our hands due to the overall state of weakness of faith affecting our particular environment, we should seek to rectify the injustices by the various forms of speech at our disposal and if that becomes detrimental as well then we should resort to pouring out our hearts in earnest prayer and supplication beseeching our Lord to address the rampant injustices inundating the world. In this instance our Prophet said “…and do you receive victory except by the earnest supplications of the weak and helpless“.
Perhaps it is by the occurrences of oppressions and calamities that Allah seeks to return His servants towards Him and draw them closer as He said:
“Evil (sins and disobediences to Allah) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon)”, and He says: “And verily, We will make them taste of the near torment (i.e. the torment in the life of this world, i.e. disasters, calamities) prior to the supreme torment (in the hereafter), in order that they may (repent and) return…”
These are only just some of the reasons why oppression takes place and through further contemplation much
more will become evident. In the meantime we should supplicate Allah for our well-being from all kinds of
misfortunes, seek His forgiveness for our sins that have brought on this state of affairs, and be grateful by
comparing ourselves with the conditions of those less fortunate.
Another way to relieve stress and anger may be by physical exertion through exercise which causes many chemical reactions to take place such as the release of dopamine, a known source for initiating feelings of well-being and happiness. it is very important to strive to be both physically and spiritually balanced and we will find that both these states are a reflection of each other in that both exhibit and testify to the balances and imbalances inherent in each of the two.
Finally a criterion that helps in determining the strength of our leverage over our anger can be seen in the
following categories one falls in and how much work may be needed to improve. There are four general
categories that reactions to anger fall under, namely: The first where one is quick in anger and slow to recover
and it is the worst category when it is for other than Allah’s sake. The second is when one is quick in anger and
quick to recover. The third is when one is slow to anger and slow to recover, and last but not least, the fourth one which is the most difficult one to achieve, is when one is slow to anger and quick to recover from it.
I hope this may have been helpful in someway to you, and may Allah give us the knowledge and understanding
to see the wisdom behind His Decrees and guide us with the correct action that best addresses the situation at
hand and Allah knows best.