Youth: One Outburst at a Time
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B i s m i l l a a h i r R a h m a a n i r R a h e e m
Youth Muslim Youth
"We relate to thee their story in truth: they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We advanced them in guidance: We gave strength to their hearts: Behold, they stood up and said: "Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth: never shall we call upon any god other than Him: if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity!" (Al-Kahf 18:13-14)
Learning to Control Anger
One Outburst at a Time
By Altaf Husain
Do you get angry? Often? How do you express your anger? Do you think you are unique in your family in the way you express your anger? If not, do you find yourself repeating another family member's style of expressing anger? Have you witnessed someone become angry recently? What about in your own family? How did their reaction make you feel?
The popular advice we often hear these days about handling anger is "don't hold it in, let it out." We are told that it is unhealthy to hold in our anger. Television shows, movies, and video games tend to sensationalize outbursts of anger, often showing in too much detail the facial expressions of angry people and the wanton destruction they wreak. Although the great debate as to how much popular entertainment influences personal lives rages on, one thing is for sure: Anger hurts not only the person becoming angry but also people close to that person. Frequent outbursts of anger ultimately will negative affect a person's physical health as well.
According to Islamic teachings, outbursts of anger are supposed to never occur. Our role model is the best of creation and the beloved of Allaah the Almighty, Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. So here is the challenge: Find one instance in which Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam had an outburst due to becoming angry or upset. You will never meet the challenge because it just did not happen. There are instances in which we are told his face became red and he was visibly upset. We are told that his demeanor changed. But we never find an instance in which the emotions of Prophet Muhammad sall Allaah `alayhi wa sallam betrayed him to the degree that he had an outburst of anger. And neither did he tolerate anger in his beloved Companions (peace be upon them all). How odd, indeed, that despite claiming our sincere desire to emulate the Prophet, you and I continue to exercise little self-restraint when we are angry. Instead, we say hurtful things and sometimes, in our weakest moments, we resort to pushing, hitting, or punching others, or throwing things at them. This is a shameful situation indeed. Each of us must come to terms with our own inability and weakness to exercise self-restraint when something upsets us or does not occur according to our plan. Let's get started.
We all have to spend some time on self-reflection, on getting to know ourselves. Young people are often too busy growing up, trying to answer the questions "who am I?" and "what do I want to be?" When it comes to restraining ourselves from anger, the first step must be to increase our self-awareness so that we have a sense of what makes us upset. Too often, we see and feel the signs of the onset of anger, but not having enough self-awareness, we miss all the cues until it is too late. Think about it. What gets you all worked up? What annoys you a little? What annoys you a lot? Not sure? Think of the last time you got angry. Do you remember why you got angry? What was the cause of your anger? Did that cause suddenly occur or did you see the warning signs? Can you recall if you were aware of the warning signs at that time? Did you ignore them? Increasing self-awareness is challenging, and many young people opt to keep a journal so that they can document their thoughts and keep track of whatever enlightening thoughts they have about themselves. How will you increase your self-awareness?
Among the teachings of the Qur'an and our beloved Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam, the most relevant advice about controlling anger encourages self-restraint. Allaah the Almighty describes the best of us as, [those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; for Allaah loves those who do good] (Aali `Imraan 3:134).
We must all strive not only to restrain our anger but to be ready to forgive and pardon those whose actions or words might have angered us. Indeed, we have three relevant teachings from Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam:
"When Allaah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, 'My Mercy overpowers My anger.'" (Al-Bukhaari, Book 54, #416)
"The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself when in anger." (Al-Bukhaari, Book 73, #135)
The height of self-restraint, of course, is not to get angry to begin with. This is enjoined upon us by Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam in the following hadeeth:
A man said to the Prophet, "Advise me!" The Prophet said, "Do not get angry." The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said each time, "Do not get angry." (Al-Bukhaari, Book 73, #137)
It is worthwhile to remember that peace, solace, and tranquility are the outcomes of the absence of anger, and it is therefore fitting that all of these teachings of Prophet Muhammad sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam were narrated by a Companion known for his self-restraint, namely, Aboo Hurairah radhiallaahu`anhu.
One Outburst at a Time
Suppose after reading this far you say, "I will do my best to increase self-awareness and self-restraint, but what if, during that time, I do get angry, then what?" You should develop a plan of action to help you recover gracefully. The best first response to the onset of anger is to seek refuge in Allaah Almighty from the Shaytaan because most often it is Shaytaan who deludes us with thinking that we will feel relieved if we unload our frustrations or get them off our chest. Sometimes we are so caught up in expressing our anger and in righting a wrong that we ignore the simplest way to control our anger: to turn to Allaah and away from whatever it is that is causing us to be angry. Sulaiman ibn Surad radhiallaahu`anhu narrated:
A man from the Companions of the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said: Two men abused each other in front of the Prophet and one of them became angry and his anger became so intense that his face became swollen and changed. The Prophet said, "I know a word the saying of which will cause him to relax if he does say it." Then a man went to the angry man and informed him of the statement of the Prophet and said, "Seek refuge with Allaah from Shaytaan." On that, the angry man said, "Do you find anything wrong with me? Am I insane? Go away!" (Al-Bukhaari)
How tragic indeed that this angry man's rejection to the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam's advice has been recorded for all times. Instead of heeding the advice, the man's anger overcame him and he mocked the advice of the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam, saying in effect, am I crazy to think that saying this word or that will actually curb my anger? How misguided indeed was this man! Remembering Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala helps us to monitor our speech and our actions as well, since so often the first lowly instinct is to speak ill, to curse, or to raise one's hands in retaliation. The reminder to turn to Allaah at the onset of anger in reality reconnects us with Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala at a moment when it seems we are being overpowered by Shaytaan's temptations to anger.
When you feel the onset of anger, in addition to seeking refuge in Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala from Shaytaan, you should shift your posture so that you attempt to regain some sense of control of yourself and regain your composure.
It once happened that Aboo Dhar Al-Ghifari radhiallaahu`anhu was being taunted by some people who wished to take their camels to drink in a trough he owned. One of those people said to the other, "Who can compete with Aboo Dhar (in bringing animals to drink) and make his hair stand on end?" A man said, "I can." So he brought his animals and competed with Aboo Dhar, with the result that the trough was broken. Aboo Dhar was standing, so he sat down, then he lay down. Someone asked him, "Aboo Dhar, why did you sit down then lie down?" He said, "The Messenger of Allaah sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said, 'If any of you gets angry and is standing, let him sit down, so his anger will go away; if it does not go away, let him lie down'" (Ahmad).
By focusing on yourself and your inner thoughts enough to change your posture and position, you prevent yourself from saying or doing anything rash in a fit of anger. There are positive physiological effects as well from changing your position, all of which lend to a more calm state of mind and body.
In the early years of our eldest son's life, we are constantly encouraging him not to get upset and not to throw tantrums. We remind him that he will almost never achieve his desired goal by getting upset. If he restrains his frustrations and asks politely and his mother and I can accommodate his request, we do so willingly and remind him that his politeness and his self-restraint have paid off. The common refrain one can hear him saying is "You can be hungry, but just don't be angry."
As youth and young adults, you must practice the art of self-restraint. Turn to Allaah Almighty, make sincere du`aa' asking Him for guidance and assistance as you strive to increase self-restraint. You know best your own strengths and weaknesses. If you find it hard to control your anger, then start today to learn how to control it, one outburst at a time.
Previous"Youth" installments at:
1. Anti-Islamic Rhetoric: Respond with Dialogue and Discussion.
2. Prophet Muhammad - The Best Example For Youth Today.
3. Seven Habits Of Highly Successful Muslim Youth.
4. Cool or Fool? Choosing the Right Friends.
5. My Sheikh, Your Sheikh, Let's Go Have a Milkshake.
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