Anger in Islam
Anger and its Varieties
Anger is a psychological state that Allah has instilled in humans. It serves as a mechanism to protect oneself and defend personal interests, contributing to the preservation of humankind. However, when taken to extremes or mismanaged, this psychological state can lead to undesirable consequences.
Ethical scholars have defined anger as “the eruption of force (and aversion) towards another, driven by the intent of revenge and satisfaction.”
Imam Khomeini stated: “Realize that the instinct of anger is among the divine blessings which can be utilized to build both this world and the hereafter. This instinct ensures the survival of the individual, the human race, and the familial structure. It plays a significant role in establishing a virtuous city and a societal system. Had this noble instinct not been present in animals, they would not defend themselves against the challenges of nature, leading to their eventual demise and decay. Similarly, without this emotion in humans, we would not have achieved many developmental stages or perfection.
Promoting righteousness, forbidding wrongdoings, enforcing the limits set by divine laws, and executing religious and intellectual teachings can only take place under the influence of this noble force of anger. Those who believe in completely suppressing the instinct of anger and stifling its influence are gravely mistaken. They overlook the true pinnacle of perfection and the realm of moderation.”
The act of struggling in the path of Allah and fighting aggressors is indeed blessed anger. The resistance struggles against enemies of humanity are but sparks from the divine rage that has fueled the endeavors of the striving prophets, the sacrificing imams, and the sincere saints.
The Reprehensible Anger
Anger, when misused or displayed without just cause, is termed “reprehensible anger”. Such anger is a gateway to malevolence, the epicenter of sins, and a precursor to crises, dangers, and calamities.
This form of anger is among the most perilous emotions in a human being. If not controlled and regulated, it can manifest in irrational behaviors, rendering the individual incapable of maintaining their composure. A multitude of dangerous behaviors and heinous crimes in human society arise from such anger, often resulting in significant penalties and retributions. In contrast, patience is a commendable virtue. The Holy Qur’an has emphasized the importance of this quality considerably.
Anger resembles a raging fire, capable of destroying both the verdant and withered aspects of a person’s life. A mere spark of it can incinerate entire homes and cities, reducing them to ashes.
Historically, numerous societal tribulations have stemmed from the intensity of this anger. It has been the cause of many tragic incidents, grave crises, senseless wars, and monumental losses on both individual and societal levels. Various narratives have criticized this type of anger. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stated: “Anger spoils faith, just as vinegar spoils honey.”
From Imam Abu Abdullah, peace be upon him: “It is written in the Torah, during Allah’s discourse with Moses, peace be upon him: ‘O Moses, restrain your anger towards those under your dominion, and I shall withhold My wrath from you.'”
Luqman advised his son, “My dear son, control yourself when angry, lest you become fuel for Hell.” . He also said, “My son, avoid excessive anger, for intense anger destroys the heart of the wise.” . Numerous other narratives caution against excessive anger.
The Detrimental Effects of Anger
Anger bears numerous negative consequences, including:
1. Loss of Rationality
During bouts of anger, an individual often loses their sense of judgment and behaves erratically, invoking astonishment among onlookers. Once the anger subsides, they too might be shocked at their own actions. In such a state, they might lash out at their closest confidants, acting without comprehending the severity of their actions. Such intense anger might lead to acts of violence, causing harm, destruction, theft, and chaos, behaving akin to a wild beast. As Imam Ali, peace be upon him, has said: “Anger corrupts one’s sensibilities and steers away from rationality.” Furthermore, he stated, “One’s true wisdom is recognized only during anger.”
It’s often advised in Islamic narratives that if one wishes to gauge an individual’s wisdom, intelligence, and perspective, one should observe their demeanor when they are angry, noting how well they can control this fierce emotion.
2. Threat to Faith
Anger can erode one’s faith, making it frail and diminishing. An angered individual often commits sins, which taint the heart. With each sin, there’s a fear of one’s faith deteriorating. As the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Anger spoils faith just as vinegar spoils honey.”
3. Loss of Reason and Logic
Anger can distort a person’s logic and speech, leading them to utter falsehoods and irresponsible remarks. Imam Ali, peace be upon him, remarked: “Intense anger alters one’s logic, disrupts the essence of an argument, and scatters understanding.”
4. Exposure of Flaws
Anger reveals the concealed imperfections of the enraged. Normally, an individual operates from a position of self-control, keeping their weaknesses and flaws hidden from others. Thus, they maintain their reputation and dignity in the eyes of the public. However, when the flames of anger ignite within, they tear down barriers and masks, shattering the restraints of the mind and unveiling those concealed flaws. This could lead to a fall in one’s personal stature and standing among people. Imam Ali, peace be upon him, noted, “The wretched companion, anger, discloses faults, draws one closer to evil, and distances one from goodness.”
5. Dominance of the Devil
Anger paves the way for the devil to take control of an individual, ensnaring them in his plots and schemes. This may lead them to commit sins and immoral acts. Faith and reason act as crucial shields against the devil’s onslaughts. However, during fits of rage, these shields weaken and become ineffectual, lifting barriers for the devil to easily penetrate, reaching the heart of the person, exerting control over their faculties, and activating the elements of evil within their soul and conscience.
In a narration, it’s mentioned that after Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, prayed to Allah against his people, Satan approached him saying: “I want to reward you” Noah said “For what” Satan said “You invoked Allah against your people, causing their destruction, leaving none for me to tempt. Now, I’m at ease until another generation arises for me to deceive.” Noah asked, “What do you want to give me in return for this?” Satan replied, “Remember me in three situations, for I am closest to a servant during these times: remember me when you are angry when you judge between two, and when you are alone with a woman, with no one else present.”
Causes and Motivations of Anger
Anger is triggered by various factors and reasons. Understanding these factors is essential for prevention and treatment of the risks of this negative emotion. Among these triggers are:
Imam Ali, peace be upon him, stated, “A characteristic of the ignorant is to quickly resort to anger in every situation.”
2. Arrogance and Vanity
The disciples once asked Jesus, peace be upon him, “O Teacher of Goodness, which of things is the most severe?” He responded, “The severest of things is Allah’s wrath.” They inquired, “How can one avoid Allah’s anger?” He said, “By not allowing yourselves to become angry.” They asked further, “What kindles anger?” He replied, “Pride, arrogance, and looking down upon people.”
3. Envy and Malice
This was alluded to by Imam Ali, peace be upon him, when he remarked, “Malice is the spark of anger.”
4. Greed and Love for the Material World
Following the previously mentioned narration about Jesus, peace be upon him, it is indicated that, “Extreme eagerness for unnecessary wealth and status” can be a cause of anger.
Treatment for Anger
As previously mentioned, there are underlying causes for anger, such as envy, malice, love for worldly pleasures and prestige, ignorance, hasty judgment, arrogance, and vanity, among others. By addressing these root causes, one can significantly and decisively treat the affliction of anger. Here are some additional helpful measures:
1- Remembering the Negatives of Anger
Recalling the disadvantages, dangers, consequences, and severe repercussions of anger on an individual serves as a potent deterrent and strengthens one’s resolve. Furthermore, reflecting on the virtue of forbearance and its commendable outcomes, and looking back at the life of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) and the pure Imams, observing how they confronted others’ mistakes and offenses with patience and calm, can guide and encourage one to avoid anger.
There is a narration that once, a servant was pouring water on Imam Ali bin Al-Hussein (peace be upon him) as he performed ablution for prayer. The pitcher slipped from the servant’s hand, injuring his face. Ali bin Al-Hussein looked up at her, and the servant recited: “And those who restrain anger,” to which he replied, “I have restrained my anger.” She continued: “And pardon the people,” and he responded, “Allah has pardoned you.” Finally, she added, “And Allah loves the doers of good,” and he declared, “Go, for you are free.”
This incident references the noble verse: “Those who spend [in Allah’s Cause] in prosperity and adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon people; verily, Allah loves the good-doers” .
2- Remembrance of Allah Almighty
One of the significant methods for treating anger is remembering Allah, seeking His refuge from the accursed devil, and prostrating to Him. The more an individual remembers Allah, the more distant he is from devilish insinuations. A person’s actions originate from impulses, thoughts, and imaginations. If your thoughts and imaginations are occupied with Allah, devilish suggestions will not penetrate your mind.
Allah says: “And if an evil whisper from Satan tries to turn you away, then seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Those who fear Allah, when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember Him, and at once, they have insight.” 
There’s a narration that recommends saying, “I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed devil,” when one feels the onset of anger. 
In another account, it’s advised to say, “There is no might nor power except with Allah, the Most High, the Great,”. 
Another narration recommends, “placing one’s cheek on the ground or prostrating to Allah Almighty,”. 
The latter tradition is perhaps a remedy for the ailment of arrogance, which can be a cause of anger. By prostrating to Allah and placing one’s cheek on the ground, one is reminded of his humble origins, that he was created from dust and to dust he shall return. This serves as a reflection on death, the destroyer of pleasures.
3- Altering One’s State
Changing one’s current state can have a profound effect in alleviating anger. As mentioned in Islamic traditions, if an individual is overtaken by anger while seated, he should stand. If he’s standing, he should sit. He might also turn his face away from the situation, lie down on the ground, or, if possible, distance himself from the scene. Engaging in another activity is also beneficial. This shift in the present state greatly aids in calming the anger and intensity. As narrated, “When the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) got angry while standing, he sat down, and if he got angry while seated, he would lie down, thus dissipating his anger.” 
4- Inner Struggle
If the soul gets accustomed to anger, it becomes easily angered. But if trained in forbearance for a period, it becomes gentle. Hence, it’s narrated from the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him): “If you are not naturally patient, then train yourself to be so. For rarely does one emulate a group without soon becoming one of them.” .Thus, wrestling with one’s inclinations, resisting the impulses of anger, and not succumbing to this blazing fire plays a vital role in preventing the consequences of this destructive and perilous flaw. This resistance begins by compelling the soul to do good and opposing what the soul dictates when the flames of anger rage within.
1- Explanation of the Principles of Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 227.
2- Imam Khomeini, Forty Hadiths, translated by Sayyid Al-Ghrawi, Beirut, Lebanon, Dar Al-Taaruf, 1411 AH / 1991 AD, p. 132.
3- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 302.
4- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 303.
5- Al-Ikhtisas, p. 336.
6- Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wa’l-Nihaya, Vol. 2, edited by: Ali Shiri, 1st ed., Beirut, Lebanon, Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-Arabi, 1408 AH / 1988 AD, p. 152.
7- Mustadrak Al-Wasail, Vol. 12, p. 11.
8- Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 75, p. 113.
9- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, p. 302.
10- Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 68, p. 428.
11- Sayyid Al-Boroujerdi, Collection of Shiite Hadiths, Vol. 13, Qom, Madinat Al-Ilm Publications, 1407 AH, p. 467.
12- Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 60, p. 222. (Edited by: Al-Bahbudi)
() As in the source, perhaps the correct is: “To be with you”.
() As in the source, perhaps the correct is: three.
13- Gharar Al-Hikam, Hadith 6875.
14- Al-Khisal, p. 6.
15- Gharar Al-Hikam, Hadith 6776.
16- Al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p. 268-269.
17- Surah Aal-E-Imran, Verse 134.
18- Surah Al-A’raf, Verses: 200-201.
19- Al-Muhajja Al-Bayda, Vol. 5, p. 304.
20- Collection of Shiite Hadiths, Vol. 13, p. 472.
21- Al-Muhajja Al-Bayda, Vol. 5, p. 308.
22- Kanz Al-Ummal, Vol. 7, p. 414.
23- Nahj Al-Balagha, (Edited by Al-Salih), p. 506.