Muhasabah – Taking Accountability of Oneself: Part 1
To understand a subject which is not tangible, we often make use of metaphors to assist our understanding. Take anger as an example, while anger cannot physically be seen, its effects are very real and tangible.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Anger is a burning coal. It burns in the heart.” (Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Bayhaqi)
Anger is analogous to a fire residing in our hearts. It burns as an ember under a piece of charcoal, rather harmlessly. However, this ember can quite easily transform into a raging ball of fire. The impetus for the ember to turn into fire is pride. A prideful person is most easily offended and the most painfully stung by criticism. It is also interesting to note that it is from this fire that shaytaan was created. Anger, pride, fire and shaytaan share very similar connotations.
There are many prophetic traditions that caution against anger, for example Abu Hurayrah relates that a man said to the Prophet (PBUH): “Counsel me.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Do not get angry.” The man repeated his request many times, but the Prophet (PBUH) kept saying: “Do not get angry.” (Al-Bukhari)
There are two points worth mentioning. Firstly, it indicates the importance of controlling one’s anger, and that doing so has far-reaching implications for our welfare both in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. Secondly, it is interesting to note that the hadeeth is alluding to the fact that anger is a strength that resides within all of us and is not blameworthy since it is a natural, human emotion. The hadeeth is instructing us not to act upon that emotion when we are beset by it.
This brings us to a second narration:
Abu Hurayrah narrated, “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, ‘The strong person is not he who has physical strength but the person is strong if he can control his anger.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The strong one is the one who is able to become a king over his nafs. The Prophet (PBUH) here, expressed the word yamliku which comes from malik meaning to have kingdom over something. Having control or kingdom over your nafs is exactly what is required. For a king among people is one who no-one rules except God, the Most High, and who does not need anyone except God – Great and Glorious. Yet the kingdom proper to man is his own heart and soul, where his soldiers are his appetites, his anger and his affections; while his subjects are his tongue, his eyes, his hands and the rest of his organs. If he rules them and they do not rule him, and if they obey him and he does not obey them, he will attain the level of a king in this world.
Anger can be an effective tool when used in the right place and to the right degree. For instance, if your life or your property is at stake one would not deny that anger is a useful tool to repel the danger. Anger can also be felt for the sake of Allah. However, this anger, when sincere for Allah’s sake, will only inspire us to noble deeds and to personal sacrifice, and never to base, unjust, or ignoble actions.
It is when this strength of anger is misappropriated that oppression and violation of rights take hold. Indeed, the word dhulm means just that, putting something in a place that it does not belong to. That is when we become what is known as a concupiscent soul. What is required from us on the other hand is the equilibrium, the mutawassit. Achieving this will allow us to go some way in achieving the happiness we are all in pursuit of.
By Haroon Sidat of 1st Ethical Trust
Haroon Sidat writes on behalf of the 1st Ethical Charitable Trust, which encourages British Muslims to benefit wider society, thereby fostering improved social and religious cohesion.