Q: I live in an environment of angry people. I try to receive their anger, but after a while I become reactive. How do we confront anger when it’s right in front of our faces?
A: Most people, unfortunately, don’t live in the present. They live between fear and anxiety about tomorrow, and grief and depression and disappointment about the past. For a lot of people who have anger issues, that anger is anchored in something that happened in the first 18 years of their lives that they have not resolved.
Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba of Senegal said that anger is a symptom of discontent with God’s decree in that instant. Anger is a learned behaviour, a natural human emotion, and it’s part of our faculty of power. We have three faculties of power:
- Appetitive faculty for food and base desires
- Irascible anger which is supposed to be used for justice and truth
- Imaginative/creative faculty
These 3 [faculties] are essential to our psychological universe.
If you don’t resolve that issue in your past by the time you’re 17 or 18, that experience will affect you for the rest of your life until you deal with it. A lot of us experience anger as a reproduction of an unresolved issue. I would advise the person to look at their lives and figure out whether they had these kinds of experiences in the past.
Rasulullah salAllahualayhiwassalam said that anger is a manifestation of Satan. If you’re standing, sit. If you’re sitting, lie down. Just like when you want to control a fire, you throw sand over it and try to bring it down.
This question was answered by Shaykh Muhammad Mendes at a public lecture entitled “Confronting Evil: Where is God in All This?” in 2016.