If one is unable to obtain justice, instead of becoming angry and planning for vengeance, it is best to leave the affair in the hands of Allah and hope for justice on the Day of Last Judgment.
Allah the Most High says,
“If you are able to forgive, it is a proof of your love and fear of your Lord,”
“Let forgiveness be a part of your nature, guide people to do good, and do not associate with the ignorant...”
Tirmizi reports from Eba Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s) said,
“Allah promises and honors the one who forgives, and the one who behaves humbly for the sake of Allah, and generosity never decreases one’s riches.”
It is commendable if one forgives the one who has done one wrong when one is unable to receive justice condemning him. But if one forgives someone who has done one wrong while one can easily punish him, it is more praiseworthy.
In some exceptional circumstances, it is better to pursue seeking for one’s right rather than forgive, such as the cases where forgiving the injustice will encourage the wrong-doer and cause him to tyrannize others, whereas fighting for one’s right may stop him. On the other hand, in these cases, one has to be very careful not to try to obtain more than what was taken from oneself. The punishment must be equal to the wrong done and never in excess because in that case, the victim may be tyrannizing the tyrant.
There are many evils which a vengeful person causes and suffers himself; some are envy, being happy about other people’s misfortunes, belittling, lying, gossiping, giving people’s secrets away, making fun, tyrannizing, hiding the truth, preventing justice etc. All these darken the heart, hurt others and cause him to sin.
Tirmizi reports from Wasila ibn Esha that the Prophet (s.a.w.s) said,
“Do not rejoice of the misery of your brother. For if you do, Allah will give him well-being, and try you with calamities.”
To rejoice of the misfortune befallen on your adversary, especially to believe that this is a response to your prayers asking for your punishment, is certainly blameworthy. If someone one dislikes is made to suffer, one should consider that this may be a test of how one will react, and fear Allah’s retribution. Instead of feeling avenged, one should feel sad and pray that this misfortune be lifted from one’s enemy. Only if this punishment of one’s enemy surely will prevent him from tyrannizing others and may be a lesson to other tyrants, then a feeling of satisfaction is not blameworthy.
Even amongst friends, when one is unjust to the other and causes him harm, the victim stops talking to his friend and cuts all relations. There is a tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.s) related by Eba Hurayra where he says,
“It is not lawful for a believer to be angry at another believer for more than 3 days. When they meet, they should salute each other. If both do, they will share Allah’s pleasure. If one does not respond, he will be sinning.”
In another version of the same tradition, it is said,
“Whoever is angry and hostile with a believer for over 3 days will risk hell fire.”
This reconciliation dictated by the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) only relates to adversities between believers relating to material matters. If the matter pertains to moral or religious matters, and if an immoral and irreligious person is guilty in persecuting a decent person, it is permissible, in fact advisable for him to seek justice and to keep away from the guilty party.
According to our religion, for a person who is unjustly maltreated by another, to belittle his adversary and act arrogantly, to lie about him, to gossip, to give away unsavory secrets which he knew about his opponent, to make jokes about him, to cause him pain in any way, to injure his relationship with his family and friends, to prevent him to perform his obligations to others, to prevent him to receive mercy and forgiveness are some of the sins which vengeance brings upon one.
Taberani reports from ibn Abbas who relates that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says,
“ There are three bad characters if one did not have them Allah may forgive his other sins; running partners to Allah, engaging in sorcery, vengefulness and hatred against Muslims.”
In another tradition reported by Taberani, Jalin ibn Abdullah relates that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said,
“ On every Monday and Thursday the angels report the states of all man, the ones who have realized, admitted and repented their sins are forgiven except the vengeful ones who cannot repent because of their vengeance.”
Yet in another tradition from the same source related by Muadz ibn Jahal, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) says,
“ On the night of the 15th of the month of Shaban, Allah Most High looks upon all his creation with love and compassion and forgives their sins except those who take other gods besides Him and the ones who seek vengeance.”
One of the principal causes of vengeance is anger. A rabid person, who does not have the strength to take revenge, swallows his anger and his inner being becomes inflamed with vengeance, destroying him.
Wrath is a passion produced by the agitation of the blood in the heart to encounter a danger. It is also a release of anger, which comforts one after being unjustly hurt. In some cases it is a necessary feeling as the world and things sacred to one may be protected by it.
Valor, courage is a character praised by man, religion and justice alike. But its lack or its extreme is blameworthy. The lack of courage is called cowardice. It is a sickness of the heart, which renders one paralyzed, unable to act either in helping himself or others. One becomes a rag under everyone’s feet, attracting tyranny and injustice by some people, causing them to sin.
Our Lord says,
“In defense of your rights, let the enemy find both patience and valor in you. Neither let your sense of gentleness and compassion prevent you from executing Allah’s orders against those who have broken the Divine Laws.”
Both Beyhaki and Taberani report from Hz. Ali r.a. that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
“ The best of my people are those whose strength of religion is like steel.”
To rid oneself of one’s fears one should face what one fears and gradually force oneself to fight it. And one should remind oneself that fear surely will lead one to defeat while there is hope of victory in courage, no matter how strong the enemy is, if one perseveres.
On the other hand the excess of anger is a sickness of the heart called fury, which will cause a lot of damage and injury to the one who is furious, perhaps more than to his adversary. Furthermore, it is a contagious sickness, which infects in full force whoever is around. It renders one totally mindless and unaware of the consequences of his ravings and violence.
The opposite of fury is forbearance and gentleness, a quality, which enables one to be patient, considerate and calm, instead of flying into passion when one encounters an unpleasant and aggressive situation. As the effect of anger is violence and destruction, the effect of forbearance is compassion and peace of mind. If one could remember that during the very few seconds before the flame of fury envelops one, one may be able to save oneself.
There are four medicines to cure anger: Using one’s intelligence to realize the consequences of one’s violence, taking certain actions to prevent flaring up, to foresee and prevent the occasion which may create anger and to learn forbearance.
Emotions are much faster than reasoning. But if one is intelligent and experienced enough to get hard on oneself even for a short while before the explosion of anger one may be able to stop it. That is only possible when the reason for anger is slight and not so devastating. If one knew and had the time to consider the following four losses one may suffer in expressing anger and the seven following benefits one may reap by swallowing one’s fury one may be saved.
1. Intelligence demands to consider the consequences of one’s actions, which are against one’s interest. The worst result of fury is a loss off all control, which in turn can make one do or say something so awful that it corrupts and subverts one’s faith and lead one to the loss of one’s faith and become an infidel. Both Beyhaki and Taberani report from Behz ibn Hakim whose grandfather told him that he heard the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) say:
“ Anger subverts one’s religious feelings as sour or bitter substances spoil honey.”
2. One should also consider in that rabid condition one is liable to inflict great unjust pain against one’s adversary especially if one is more powerful than one’s enemy. One should realize that Allah is All Powerful and on the Day of Last Judgement He may inflict upon you a punishment whose extent one cannot imagine.
3. By attacking one’s enemy in anger one should expect retaliation from him, perhaps much harsher than the punishment one has inflicted on him. And one will never know when it will come. This will poison one’s days for a long time till reconciliation is reached.
4. If one saw oneself in a state of fury, if one looked in a mirror, one will see that one’s face changes from that of a human being to a wild animal. It is not only the expression on one’s face, but the whole of one’s rational human nature turns into the worst of animal nature.
Even if one is unable totally to stop the negative feeling, but stop expressing one’s anger, one may save oneself of the disasters mentioned above. And it helps if one could remind the seven following benefits which one can reap in swallowing one’s anger.
1. Allah Most High says that He has prepared His paradise for the ones who are able to swallow their anger and forgive the ones who did them wrong.
2. To the one who has the strength to obliterate his enemy but restrains himself Allah promises to choose his own rewards on the Day of Last Judgement.
Eba Daud and Tirmizi report Sehl ibn Sa’d who heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) say:
“He who has the strength, the possibility and favorable conditions to act and win expressing his anger in violence, but restrains himself is shown to the resurrected crowds on the Day of Last Judgement as an honored servant of Allah and asked to choose his own rewards.”
3. Tabarani reports from Enes ibn Malik that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
“ Allah Most High rids of the punishment due to the one, if that person can get rid of his anger.”
4. Ibn Maje reports from ibn Omar that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
“ Not any other thing which a servant of Allah swallows is considered worthy of praise by Allah as much as swallowing one’s anger.”
5. Allah protects the one from misfortunes and afflictions who protects himself from the violation of anger.
6. Allah’s compassion reaches to the one who escapes from the battlefield of the manifestation of his anger.
7. Allah loves the one can put out the fire of fury in his heart.
Hakim reports from ibn Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said,
“Any man who possesses these three qualities are to be thankful of all what the Lord gives, to forgive instead of punishing, when one is wronged, to be able to restrain oneself from expressing one’s anger and hurting people.”
In addition to these seven benefits that one may hope to receive by suppressing one’s anger, if one could also forgive and forget the cause of anger, there is a much greater reward. Impatient and weak that we are, if we would be able to forgive, how could Allah the All Powerful and Most Merciful not forgive our sins. Indeed He says:
“Forgive and forget! Wouldn’t you want Allah to forgive your wrong doings?”
The anger that bursts out so quickly after the initial emotional reaction to an irritation could be subdued by 4 measures to be taken immediately:
The first is to take a ritual ablution with cold water. Eba Daud reports from Atiyya r.a. that the Messenger of Allah said,
“Anger comes from satan and satan is created from fire and fire could only be put out by water. So whenever one of you is stricken by anger, taken an ablution”.
The second remedy is to sit if you are standing, to lie down if you are sitting. Eba Daud reports from Eba Ger al Gifari that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
“If you become angry sit down; if it does not pass, lie down”.
The third remedy is to take refuge in Allah. Both Buhari and Muslim report from Suleiman ibn Sured that once in the presence of the Prophet two people cursed each other. Their faces became bright red from anger. And the Messenger of Allah said,
“I know a phrase that if you would have said it, the anger which you feel would have totally left you. Say “Eudu billahi min eshsheytan ar rajiym (I take refuge in Allah from the accursed devil)”.
To enable oneself total freedom from the maleficent effects of anger, one has to study the causes and effects of negativity and try to avoid them. As we have already learned the worst causes of anger are arrogance, selfishness and excessive ambition. Whosoever is afflicted with one of these moral ills, if he feels slighted with the smallest thing which he imagines is his due, erupts with fury, while if this sort of short exchange would happen to anyone else it has no negative effect whatsoever. The difficult cure for arrogance, selfishness and ambition has already been mentioned.
Then there are a number of exterior causes, not too grave in themselves, which may create anger in some people; bad jokes, criticism, opposition to one, lies, gossip, two facedness, harsh discussions and debates, stubbornness, cursing, hitting, destroying, stealing, injustice, etc. All this could be summarized as tyrannics, which invariable produce a negative reaction in most people. Certainly one should never participate in such behavior and unless one has the patience, strength of will and the compassion and ability to forgive, one should escape from places, where these kinds of people are present, if one cannot prevent oneself to respond negatively.
Amongst those who are not aware of the maleficiense of anger, there are some people who even consider anger as a sign of “manliness, valor, zeal and ardor, self respect and a sense of honor!” thus something commendable. This is stupidity, and a sign of a sick mind. In fact a stupid person or a sick person is liable to get angry quicker and more often than an intelligent and a healthy person and even are proud of it.
Alas! Some religious prelates who preach the truth of their religion in a harsh manner, blaming their listeners with sins they may not have committed, threatening them with the wrath of God become causes of anger. A house of worship is no place for anger and the ones who cause it are none other than hypocrites and pompous, arrogant and selfish creatures. Because at the tone of their speech, even if what they say is true, the words become their own instead of God’s and instead of preventing people from sinning they cause them to sin by getting them mad.
What is befitting for someone who advises people to do right is first to know certainly what is right. The certainty is in the Words of Allah, in the Holy Qur’an and in the words and in the actions of the Messenger of Allah that are not his but are from Allah Most High. Then to make sure that the people to whom he is addressing are able to understand his advice. He also has to be so convincing that they agree with what he says. And the advice should be such that people are able act upon it. If anyone of these conditions are missing it is best not to say anything. Obviously kind and sweet and encouraging words are the primary condition to obtain this result. And finally, if the one who preaches does not do what he advises others to do, it has no positive effect whatsoever.
As for the people who are listening to advice, even it is given in an aggressive way, is to consider the good intentions and the fervor of the speaker. They should consider the truth of the words, not the tone with which it is presented. If the words are critical of the behavior of the audience, even if it was unjustified, it is best to remember the words of the wise, that the ones who criticize us are our friends as they are the enemy of our enemy, our evil commanding egos, our arch enemy; and the ones who praise us are our enemies as they are the friends of our egos, our arch enemy. How often a stone thrown at something else accidentally falls on our heads and angers us against the one who casts the stone! Such unintended accidents hurt us or the ones we love or our property and create angry retaliation, and retaliation to our retaliation, sucking in others totally innocent into the conflict, resulting in wars! To avoid this accidental cause of anger, man should be heedful of what they are doing, especially in actions that may be dangerous. And if perchance one’s actions cause unintentional harm to someone one should immediately ask for forgiveness and try to compensate the harm done. While the one who has suffered from harm should realize that the negative act was accidental and show patience and acceptance and excuse the one who caused the accident.
Yet another cause of anger is excessive love and demand from the life of this world. Often when one desires a thing which is not his due, if one could only consider one’s own state rather than identifying with the state of the ones who do possess that which one desires, one may reconcile with what one has. But the poor wants what the rich has. And when he asks for it and gets refused, both the poor and the rich are angry. The one who wants what is not his due is guilty of arrogance, while the rich who does not want to part with what he owns is guilty of avarice.
When one is promised something and the one who promises breaks with his word is another cause of anger to both sides. Muslim reports from Eba Said al Hudri that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
“On the Day of Last Judgement there is a big sign pointing behind everyone who have promised something and broken their word.
If a promise is conditional, therefore breakable one should warn in advance the person who is promised; otherwise to break one’s word is unlawful. On the other hand to keep one’s word is a religious duty.
Promising something while knowing perfectly well that it will not be kept is treachery, which is a great sin. While its opposite that is trustworthiness is a great religious accomplishment. Taberani reports from Enes ibn Malik that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
“The one who is not trustworthy does not have faith. The religion of the one who does not keep his word is not true religion”.
Treachery and trustworthiness do not only apply to the loss or security of material things, it goes deeper than that. Eba Daud reports from Eba Hureyra that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said,
“ The one who is consulted has to be trustworthy. An ignorant person who gives opinion on a religious legal matter erroneously suffers the punishment for the sin he has caused. And the one who gives a bad advice to his muslim brother certainly has been unfaithful to him.”
Allah Most high declares:
“ Why promise something which you will not do or you are unable to do? A false promise draws Allah’s wrath on the liar.”
Muslim reports from Eba Hurayra that the messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said,
“There are three signs which indicate a hypocrite: He lies when he talks, he breaks his promises and he is a traitor to what is entrusted to him.”
In another tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) reported by Muslim from ibn Amir ibn As, the Messenger of Allah says,
“ Whoever is afflicted with these four bad character is certainly a hypocrite, and whoever has even one of them is liable to be insincere till he gets rid of it. The four bad characters are: To be a traitor to trust, to lie, not to honor one’s promise when there is a matter in dispute to try to distort the truth for one’s favor.”
To promise something knowing well one will not keep it is a purposeful lie and religiously unlawful. But the promise with a firm intention to keep one’s promise and not being able to, because of circumstances beyond one’s control is permissible according to our religion, because according to Eba Daud the Messenger of Allah says,
“ If one promises and cannot keep one’s promise it is not a sin.”
According to Imam Ahmed and his followers to keep one’s promise is an obligation and to break one’s without a valid excuse is a sin. As there are also Quranic verses on the subject, interpretation of which brings one in doubt. One should avoid doing things where there is doubt according to the religious law.
Other causes of anger is association with people who are depressed and irrational as with children in hysterics, as psychologically sick people who are raving, as animals which are not well trained. Indeed it is unreasonable to react in such situations, as the conditions that may cause anger are not the fault of the objects which one blames, but a fact of life and a part of natural affairs. But, worst still is to become angry at lifeless things, things falling, breaking, burning, disappearing or a stone, which causes one to trip… These things have no will of their own and indeed have no intention to cause trouble to anyone. In fact realizing this after one is angry with oneself which also is unreasonable and objectionable by our religion.
On the other hand to be annoyed by oneself because one has been lax in worship or one has realized that one has sinned is right, if one does not flagellate oneself, but decide to redeem oneself by good actions and extra prayers, this is commendable.
The worst of anger amongst all we have enumerated is to be angry with Allah and His Messenger. This usually happens as a reaction to someone who uses Quranic verses or traditions of the Prophet to substantiate his criticism of us. Our anger at him reverts to anger against our Lord and our Prophet and we take refuge in Allah from such eventuality. That is why our Prophet says,
“Anger corrupts one’s faith and one’s religion.”
On the other hand, to become upset when one observes sinning or hurting each other is right as long as one does not overreact. Because this is a feeling inspired with one’s faith and one’s attachment to the prescription of one’s religion as well as compassion for fellow human beings. But to accuse such people of infidelity, hypocrisy, dishonesty, adultery, etc. thus insulting them or attempting to punish them is a sin. But to try to advise them gently and reasonably if possible is a good deed. Many people sensitive to other people’s behavior and think of themselves as reformists unfortunately are too harsh in their criticism and they do more harm than good, and this is something to be aware of.