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in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

When does Islam permit and prohibit anger?

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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in English.
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In a Nutshell: Anger is an inherent human emotion, but it is controllable. We can choose when to express or suppress this feeling. Anger is permitted at times, sometimes even recommended, when it is for the sake of Allah, the truth or wrongdoing. However, it is highly dispraised when it is triggered by worldly matters. The acts based on anger follow the normal shari'a rules that are legislated for actions.

Introduction

Anger and frustration are increasingly visible in the modern world, as moral values diminish. We see exhibitions of anger across our daily lives, from road rage, workplace outbursts through to domestic violence.

In this answer, I will consider the Islamic stance with regards to anger as a psychological human emotion experienced by the heart as well as the situations when a Muslim is allowed or disallowed to show anger in their acts.

Misconceptions

Some argue that anger is an uncontrollable human emotion and therefore it is outside the area of halal and haram. This is incorrect and only applies in exceptional cases of mental ill-health or a total loss of control.

Evidences

Quran

1.    وَإِذَا مَا غَضِبُوا هُمْ يَغْفِرُونَ - الشورى 43/37

… and when they are angry, they forgive. (Qur'an 41:37)
2.    وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ – آل عمران 134:3

… and who restrain anger and who pardon the people - and Allah loves the doers of good (Qur'an 134:3)
3.    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ جَاهِدِ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَمَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ – التوبة 9/73

O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination. (Qur'an 9:73)
Sunnah

1.    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ رَجُلاً، قَالَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَوْصِنِي‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ تَغْضَبْ ‏"‏‏.‏ فَرَدَّدَ مِرَارًا، قَالَ ‏"‏ لاَ تَغْضَبْ ‏" – البخاري 78/143

Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated A man said to the Prophet (saw), "Advise me! "The Prophet (saw) said, "Do not become angry and furious." The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet (saw) said in each case, "Do not become angry and furious." (Bukhari 78:143)
2.    عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ لَيْسَ الشَّدِيدُ بِالصُّرَعَةِ، إِنَّمَا الشَّدِيدُ الَّذِي يَمْلِكُ نَفْسَهُ عِنْدَ الْغَضَبِ – البخاري 78/141

Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated Allah's Messenger (saw) said, the strong one is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong one is the one who controls himself while in anger. (Bukhari 78:141)
3.    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ مَا ضَرَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم شَيْئًا قَطُّ بِيَدِهِ وَلاَ امْرَأَةً وَلاَ خَادِمًا إِلاَّ أَنْ يُجَاهِدَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نِيلَ مِنْهُ شَىْءٌ قَطُّ فَيَنْتَقِمَ مِنْ صَاحِبِهِ إِلاَّ أَنْ يُنْتَهَكَ شَىْءٌ مِنْ مَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ فَيَنْتَقِمَ لِلَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ‏.‏

A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger (saw) never beat anyone with his hand, neither a woman nor a servant, but only, in the case when he had been fighting in the cause of Allah and he never took revenge for anything unless the things made inviolable by Allah were made violable; he then took revenge for Allah, the Exalted and Glorious. (Muslim 43:108)
4.    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ أَنَّهَا اشْتَرَتْ نُمْرُقَةً فِيهَا تَصَاوِيرُ، فَقَامَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِالْبَابِ فَلَمْ يَدْخُلْ‏.‏ فَقُلْتُ أَتُوبُ إِلَى اللَّهِ مِمَّا أَذْنَبْتُ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَا هَذِهِ النُّمْرُقَةُ ‏"‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ لِتَجْلِسَ عَلَيْهَا وَتَوَسَّدَهَا‏.‏ قَالَ ‏"‏ إِنَّ أَصْحَابَ هَذِهِ الصُّوَرِ يُعَذَّبُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، يُقَالُ لَهُمْ أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ‏.‏ وَإِنَّ الْمَلاَئِكَةَ لاَ تَدْخُلُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ الصُّورَةُ ‏"‏‏.‏

A'isha (ra) narrated: I purchased a cushion with pictures on it. The Prophet (came and) stood at the door but did not enter. I said (to him), "I repent to Allah for what (the guilt) I have done." He said, "What is this cushion?" I said, "It is for you to sit on and recline on." He said, "The makers of these pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said to them, 'Make alive what you have created.' Moreover, the angels do not enter a house where there are pictures.'" (Bukhari 77:73)
5.    عَنْ أَبِي مَسْعُودٍ الأَنْصَارِيِّ، قَالَ قَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، لاَ أَكَادُ أُدْرِكُ الصَّلاَةَ مِمَّا يُطَوِّلُ بِنَا فُلاَنٌ، فَمَا رَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي مَوْعِظَةٍ أَشَدَّ غَضَبًا مِنْ يَوْمِئِذٍ فَقَالَ ‏ "‏ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنَّكُمْ مُنَفِّرُونَ، فَمَنْ صَلَّى بِالنَّاسِ فَلْيُخَفِّفْ، فَإِنَّ فِيهِمُ الْمَرِيضَ وَالضَّعِيفَ وَذَا الْحَاجَةِ ‏"‏‏.‏

Abu Mas'ud Al-Ansari (ra) narrated: Once a man said to Allah's Messenger (saw) "O Allah's Messenger (saw)! I may not attend the (compulsory congregational) prayer because so and so (the Imam) prolongs the prayer when he leads us for it. The narrator added: "I never saw the Prophet (saw) more furious in giving advice than he was on that day. The Prophet said, "O people! Some of you make others dislike good deeds (the prayers). So whoever leads the people in prayer should shorten it because among them there are the sick the weak and the needy (having some jobs to do). (Bukhari 3:32)
6.    عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم رَأَى خَاتَمًا مِنْ ذَهَبٍ فِي يَدِ رَجُلٍ فَنَزَعَهُ فَطَرَحَهُ وَقَالَ ‏ "‏ يَعْمِدُ أَحَدُكُمْ إِلَى جَمْرَةٍ مِنْ نَارٍ فَيَجْعَلُهَا فِي يَدِهِ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ فَقِيلَ لِلرَّجُلِ بَعْدَ مَا ذَهَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خُذْ خَاتَمَكَ انْتَفِعْ بِهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ لاَ وَاللَّهِ لاَ آخُذُهُ أَبَدًا وَقَدْ طَرَحَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏

Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) narrated Allah's Messenger (saw) saw a person wearing a gold signet ring in his hand. He (the Prophet) pulled it off and threw it away, saying: One of you is wishing live coal from Hell. and putting it on his hand. It was said to the person after Allah's Messenger (saw) had left: Take your signet ring (of gold) and derive benefit out of it. whereupon he said: No, by Allah, I would never take it when Allah's Messenger (saw) has thrown it away. (Muslim 37:87)
7.           عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ كُنْتُ أَمْشِي مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَعَلَيْهِ بُرْدٌ نَجْرَانِيٌّ غَلِيظُ الْحَاشِيَةِ، فَأَدْرَكَهُ أَعْرَابِيٌّ فَجَبَذَهُ بِرِدَائِهِ جَبْذَةً شَدِيدَةً، حَتَّى نَظَرْتُ إِلَى صَفْحَةِ عَاتِقِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَدْ أَثَّرَتْ بِهَا حَاشِيَةُ الْبُرْدِ مِنْ شِدَّةِ جَبْذَتِهِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ مُرْ لِي مِنْ مَالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي عِنْدَكَ‏.‏ فَالْتَفَتَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ ضَحِكَ ثُمَّ أَمَرَ لَهُ بِعَطَاءٍ‏.‏

Anas ibn Malik (ra) narrated: Once I was walking with Allah's Messenger (saw) and he was wearing a Najram Burd with thick margin. A bedouin followed him and pulled his burd so violently that I noticed the side of the shoulder of Allah's Messenger (saw) affected by the margin of the burd because of that violent pull. The Bedouin said, "O Muhammad! Give me some of Allah's wealth which is with you." Allah's Messenger (saw) turned and looked at him, and smiling instructed he be given something. (Bukhari 77:27)
8.           عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم رَجُلٌ يَتَقَاضَاهُ فَأَغْلَظَ لَهُ فَهَمَّ بِهِ أَصْحَابُهُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏ "‏ دَعُوهُ فَإِنَّ لِصَاحِبِ الْحَقِّ مَقَالاً ‏"‏‏.‏

Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated: A man came to the Prophet (saw) and demanded his debts and used harsh words. The companions of the Prophet (saw) wanted to harm him, but the Prophet (saw) said, "Leave him, as the creditor (owner of the right) has the right to speak."  (Bukhari 43:17)

Jurist views

Linguistically, anger is the opposite of satisfaction. (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, Vol. 3, p. 485) Technically, it is defined by the jurists as a state of excitement of the blood of the heart for the purpose of revenge. (Jurjani, Al-Ta'rifat, p. 209)

Some scholars while discussing anger, mentioned at least two categories of anger: praiseworthy anger, and blameworthy anger. The author of Taj al-Arus quoted the Maliki jurist, ibn Arafah, as saying:

الْغَضَبُ مِنْه مَحْمُودُ وَمَذْمُومٌ. فَالْمَذْمُومُ: مَا كَانَ فِي غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ، وَالْمَحْمُودِ: مَا كَانَ فِي جَانِبِ الدِّينِ وَالْحَقِّ. – الزبيدي في تاج العروس 3/485

Anger may be regarded as praiseworthy or blameworthy. The blameworthy type of anger is that which beyond the context of truth and the praiseworthy type of anger is that which happens to support religion and the truth. (Zubaydi, Taj al-Aruws, Vol, 3, p. 485)
Imam Ghazali, further, categorized men with regards to their degree of anger into three classes where only one class is praised whereas the other two classes are dispraised.

  • First class has got no anger.
  • Second class has got extreme anger.
  • Third class has got moderate anger.
He then argued the first class of men are not good due to absence of anger in them. These persons are called men of impotence. Imam Shafi'i said: He whose anger cannot be aroused is a fool. Excessive anger, however, is harmful. This prevails upon good qualities. Such a man then goes out of intellect, deen and divine service. He then loses his sense of right and wrong and the power of thinking well. He then loses his power of freedom. He becomes then a man afflicted with danger. As for the third class, Allah praised the Companions of the Prophet (saw) as they are hard upon the unbelievers, but sympathetic towards one another. Allah also commanded His Prophet to fight the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be hard on them. This hard treatment is the result of excitement of anger. (Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din, Vol. 3, p. 167)

Analysis

Anger is an inherent quality in the human soul. Allah created man with different psychological emotions like love, hate, anger, etc. Thus, in essence, these emotions themselves are not declared as forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (saw), nor is one accountable for having or experiencing these natural emotions in his heart.

Thus, what one will be accountable for, is only what he displays or acts or utters when encountered with anger.

Anger is Controllable

Some may argue that anger is beyond our power to control and is involuntarily uncontrollable. This would be wrong because anger is within a person's control. Anger, by definition, involves a strong uncomfortable and hostile response (Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, 3rd ed.)

It only requires effort to rein it. For instance, an employee may exhibit anger over one of his subordinate's mistakes whilst he may suppress his feeling of anger if a similar mistake is done by his manager.

Forbidden Anger

Islamically, controlling anger is compared to a man's level of imaan as the Prophet (saw) indicated in the hadith numbered two in the evidences section:

 إنما الشَّدِيدُ الَّذِي يَمْلِكُ نَفْسَهُ عِنْدَ الْغَضَبِ - but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.
The strength here is construed to mean the strength of one's imaan. In the same place, Allah mentioned the quality of anger-control and that of pardon while describing the attributes of the mu'minoon (believers) and and mutaqoon (faithful) in the verses numbered 1-2 in the evidences section.

In addition, the Prophet (saw) forbade Muslims against anger in many hadiths as indicated in the hadith numbered 1 in the evidences section.

This kind of disallowed anger is the one which is provoked because of normal worldly issues. People in their daily lives may get angry in the home, workplaces or streets over trivial matters. If it was allowed for one's anger to overwhelm them, anger would become a destructive force. Akin to being drunk. one cannot physically or verbally control oneself, often harming others in physical or psychological ways.

Permitted Anger

The Prophet (saw), as described by A'isha (ra), never used to become angry over mundane matters. This indeed is proven in many ahadith as shown in the ahadith numbered 7-8 in the evidences section.

But, as shown in the hadiths numbered 3-6 in the evidences section, there are some occasions where the Prophet (saw) got angry. If we read the context of these hadiths, we will find the anger of the Prophet (saw) only arose for the sake of Allah and for the sake of the truth. This is the only permitted kind of anger. But the Prophet (saw) when becoming angry at wrongdoing or disbelief, he never expressed it with his hand or tongue. His companions knew that he was angry by looking at his face, however, he would remain quiet for a short while, maintaining control over himself.

Thus, the Muslim encountering oppression, wrongdoing, and disbelief or anything disobeying Allah is allowed to express his anger.

Conclusion

Anger is permitted and sometimes even recommended when arose for the sake of Allah, wrongdoings or the truth. But anger is highly dispraised when it is triggered by normal worldly or mundane matters.

References

Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab
Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din
Jurjani, Al-Ta'rifat
Zubaydi, Taj al-Aruws

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