Anger Management
by Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali

The Qur'an and Hadith contain cures for anger.

Medicine removes the root cause of disease. When Jesus (as) was asked to define the most difficult thing, he replied: "Allah's wrath." John the Baptist (Yahya, as) then asked: "What moves one closer to His wrath?" and Jesus replied: "Anger." Yahya than asked: "What grows and increases anger?" and Jesus said: "Pride, prestige, hope for honor, and haughtiness."

Self-conceit, self-praise, jest and ridicule, argument, treachery, and greed for wealth and fame exacerbate anger. Those who combine these characteristics within themselves manifest unbearable conduct, cannot escape their anger, and can remove them only if they apply their opposites: self-praise by modesty; pride by introspection, greed by remaining satisfied with necessary things, and miserliness by charity.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: "A strong man is not one who defeats his adversary by wrestling, but one who controls his anger."

He also said: "No one has swallowed anything excellent in the sight of Allah ...than the anger he restrains, seeking to please Allah most high." (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1324)

Anger can be quelled by mixing six kinds of knowledge and action:

  1. Remember what the Qur'an and Hadith say about controlling one's anger. The hope for obtaining rewards will restrain one from taking revenge.

  2. Fear Allah's punishment and consider it greater than any human punishment.

  3. Realize that there will be consequences to expressing your anger. You may get revenge on your enemy here, but he or she might get revenge on you later on, either here or in the next world.

  4. Remember that an angry person looks like a ferocious beast, while one who appeases his or her anger looks like a sober and learned person.

  5. Ignore Satan, who tells you that you will be weak if you do not become angry.

  6. Ask yourself: "Why should I be angry? What Allah has willed has happened."

The Prophet (saw) advised angry people to say: "I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan" (A'udhu billahi min as-Shaytan ar-rajim).

When 'A'isha (ra) became angry, the Prophet (saw) told her to say: "O Allah, You are the Lord of my Prophet Muhammad. Forgive my sins, remove the anger from my heart, and save me from misguidance."

The Prophet (saw) said: "Anger is a burning coal. Don't you see your eyebrows wide and eyes reddish? So when one of you feels angry, sit down if standing and lie down if sitting." In other words, make yourself calm like the soil if you are still angry. The cause of wrath is heat, and its opposite is to lie on the ground and make the body calm and cool.

The Prophet (saw) also said: "When one of you gets angry, make ablution with water, as anger arises out of fire." In another narration, he said: "Anger comes from the devil, and the devil is made of fire." In other words, if you are still angry after lying on the ground, make wudu' or ghusl with cold water, for water extinguishes fire.

Caliph 'Ali ibn Abi Talib said: "The Prophet did not get angry for any action of the world. When any true matter disturbed him nobody knew it, and nobody got up to take revenge for his anger. He got angry only for truth."

Based on Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali's (d.505 AH/1111 CE) book Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences)