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Lesson 64

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Lesson - 64

Aal Imran (Family of Imran)

"And those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men. And Allah loves the doers of good (to others). And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong their souls, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins. And who forgives sins but Allah? And they persist not knowingly in what they do." (Ch. 3:133,134)

Summary of the previous lesson

In my previous lesson I mentioned that the Holy Quran has promised two kinds of paradise for those who guard against evil. One of these is the garden or the external paradise of the Life Hereafter, the other being the garden of internal tranquillity with which the heart of such a person is blessed. This condition accompanies him in his journey to the Hereafter. The Holy Quran has unveiled some of the secrets of achieving and maintaining such a state. I also described in detail, how most of the human race is involved around the clock in an endless search to acquire wealth. This desire turns into greed for acquisition of more and more wealth in a man's heart and is likened to the appetite of hellfire described by the Holy Quran as: "Are there any more?" (50:30). Other religions have proposed monasticism, nunnery and asceticism as a cure for this spiritual malady. Such a course if adapted by whole of humanity would not only spell an end to all human effort, hard work and progress, but without marital relationship, the human race itself would end. These teachings are therefore not practical.

Islam has endorsed the earning of wealth by honest means. By laying emphasis on the spending of earnest wealth for the benefit of others besides the spouse and offspring, and for other good works, Islam has attempted to elevate man beyond the animal stage and to create in him the attributes or coloring of the Divine. Detailed injunctions in this matter are mentioned elsewhere in the Holy Quran. Spending only for the benefit of one's wife and children puts man only at the basic level of an animal, for all animals instinctively share with their mates and offspring. Unlike the hellfire created by hunger for wealth and greed, spending in the way of Allah, irrespective of personal circumstances of poverty or abundance, creates within the human heart the coolness of the Garden of Paradise.

Suppression of anger the key to serenity

In the first verse under discussion today, we are made aware of another action on our part which can help us acquire and sustain this state of tranquillity. The Holy Quran states that those who keep their duty are the ones who:

"who restrain (their) anger and pardon men. And Allah loves the doers of good (to others)."
All human emotions and desires carry the element of fire within them, but in comparison with anger they are easier to restrain. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has done us a great favor by informing us that anger is part of the flames of hellfire. We have all observed that anger can burst like the flames of a fire and under its influence a man can totally lose control, turn abusive or violent and even commit murder. Even if it is not openly manifested, the desire to seek revenge burns inside a man. All forms of conflict, break up of relationships including divorce, wars between nations etc. are provoked by the feeling of anger.

Psychiatrists may advise against the suppression of anger, but in my opinion such advise is absurd. All the adverse situations that I have mentioned above, arise as a consequence of such behavior. Anger instead of calming down smolders on, resulting in internal and external difficulties, in the form of grief within and the hellfire of suffering without. Just as a real fire if not immediately doused, tends to spread and results in great loss, the fire of anger progresses, if not promptly controlled. This fact has been described in the Chapter Al-Humazah (104) of the Holy Quran, where this fire is described as first appearing in the hearts of men, and then spreading into the external environment and engulfing mankind like huge pillars of fire. If anger which arises inside, is not controlled immediately, it can erupt outside and result in anguish lasting decades and affecting the hearts and minds of men.

Consequences of uncontrolled anger

It is the mistaken ideas of modern times which have caused the lives of men to be a living hell. I want to discuss this in detail so that those who come across this writing or hear about it can spread the word that the real remedy for anger is the one which the Holy Quran prescribes. We observe that the closest tie of kinship is the one between parent's and their offspring. It would be appropriate if the parents tremendous love, tenderness and numerous acts of kindness towards their children were reciprocated by them with respect and obedience towards their parents. On the contrary, we observe that most young people in this day and age are unhappy and dissatisfied with their parents. They claim that the reason for this rift is the gap between generations, i.e. the difference between their ages and their likes and dislikes. Such a difference is not a new phenomenon and has always existed. Children have always resented parental interference and advise. Religious influence which existed in prior times, by its endorsement of respect for parents and parental guidance, made it more acceptable. There was also a certain amount of fear of God in the hearts of men. In this day and age, religion and faith in God are no longer there and the problem is further compounded by the advise that psychiatrists give to get rid of anger. What we observe, therefore, are the consequences of these actions. As a result, the great majority of children are unhappy with their parents, and rebel against their authority. In extreme cases, this has resulted in open enmity between them even leading to murder. Similarly parents also do not suppress their anger and mistreat or physically abuse their children. In short, this relationship of love and pleasure for both parties has turned into one of pain and grief.

The other relationship which is the closest and extends over a lifetime is that of a husband and a wife. The difference in temperaments which exists between two individuals has always been there. Also the nature of this relationship is such that there is frequent contact between the two. A difference of temperament can, therefore, result in dislike and resentment for the words or actions of the opposite spouse. In the past such differences were tolerated. The influence of western culture has, however, unbridled the inner animal of man which by its very nature is incapable of suppressing its anger. As a result of this, mutual tolerance has been replaced by daily conflict, open fights, and a high rate of divorce amongst married couples.

Within the household, besides the relationship of the husband and wife there exists an interaction between the master of the household and his domestic employees. In the past such employees would tolerate any action of their master even though they may have disliked it. This is not the case now. They immediately show their anger and become abusive and disrespectful. They threaten to leave the job and at times may even become violent and commit murder. A similar situation exists between employees and owners in factories, offices, stores and on the farms. Mutual tolerance has deteriorated significantly, as a result of which employee shutdowns and other undesirable actions are quite common. Once again, this is because the animal within man has been allowed to go unrestrained, and a beast by its very nature does not know how to suppress its anger. The only remedy for this is the one given in the Holy Quran, i.e., the injunction to suppress one's anger. How very true is the Holy Prophet's saying that the real manifestation of strength is not to wrestle someone down, but the truly strong are those who can suppress their anger. This is a match of strength between a man and his animal soul (nafs al-ammara).

Forgiveness and doing of good complement suppression of anger

On another occasion, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated that whosoever suppresses his anger and forgives, Allah fills his belly with faith and security. The Quranic verse under discussion also enjoins us, not only to restrain our anger, but also to forgive the object of our ire.

How great is the wisdom in these words! If one only curbs his anger, he still seethes and burns on the inside. However, if this is also coupled with the act of forgiving, the fire inside one's soul is extinguished and is replaced with a sensation of coolness. If one goes a step further, and does good to the one who provoked his resentment, then the feeling of peace and tranquillity that is thus generated in his heart becomes in reality the Garden of Paradise on earth.

Suppression of anger a Divine Attribute

Is this teaching of the Holy Quran beyond man's capacity to act? This is certainly not so. In fact, it teaches man the great moral attribute which is manifested by Allah every day. Are the actions of man not enough to provoke Allah's wrath? For example, associating and equating others (objects and being) with God is quite common. The Divine ire that this provokes can be experienced to some degree by a married person who experiences spousal infidelity. Similarly atheism has flourished under communism in recent times. Even in those countries where communism is not the dominant force, atheism is increasingly popular. It is being said that either God never existed or He is (may Allah protect us from saying so) now dead. Can there be anything more disrespectful then this to provoke Divine wrath? Indeed are all the sins, evil actions and deeds of depravity that are committed in front of His eyes not enough to make Him angry? They certainly are, however, Allah suppresses His anger and forgives man every moment of the day as the Holy Quran states:

"and He pardons much" (42:30).
In fact, He continues to manifest His infinite benevolence towards mankind. His grace encompasses those who associate with Him, the atheists, the evil doers and the morally corrupt. There is a well known anecdote about Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is related that every evening he would seek out a wayfarer, feed him, and give him shelter for the night in his home. One day, he noticed that a person he had brought in failed to invoke the name of Allah while beginning to consume the meal offered to him. On being questioned by Prophet Abraham, his reply was that he did not believe in God. This answer made Prophet Abraham very angry and he asked the stranger to leave his house. Thereupon, Abraham received Divine revelation stating:

"O Abraham this man has always denied My existence, has been disrespectful to Me, and has even tried to convince others to follow his footsteps, but I never stopped his sustenance."
On receiving this Divine admonition, Prophet Abraham hurried to find the wayfarer, asked his forgiveness and brought him back to his house to give him food and shelter. This is a practical example of creating the moral attributes of Allah within oneself, something which the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) has enjoined. This is also taking the coloring of Allah in accordance with the Quranic teaching, for no one suppresses His anger more then Allah, or is more Forgiving and Benevolent than Him.

The life of the Holy Prophet was an example of the manifestation of such high moral characteristics. There are innumerable incidents to illustrate his noble character. For sake of brevity I will refer to only two of them. During the Battle of Uhud, the Holy Prophet fell down to the ground after receiving numerous injuries from the volleys of stones, spears and swords directed at him. One of his companions asked him to pray to Allah at that moment for the chastisement of those responsible for these acts. Instead, the Holy Prophet supplicated before Allah with the following plea on their behalf:

"O Allah forgive my people for they know not what they are doing."
This incident shows that not only did the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) suppress his anger, he forgave his enemy ,and in addition, bestowed a favor upon them by pleading for their forgiveness before Allah.

Also on the occasion of the fall of Makkah, he had opportunity to seek vengeance for twenty years of atrocities, crimes, murder and torture that he and his followers had been subjected to by the Makkan disbelievers. The bloodthirsty enemy that had committed all this barbarity against him and his companions was now standing helplessly before him. They had killed and maimed many of his companions. For twenty years, they had made every attempt within their power to take his own life. The woman who had arranged the murder of his beloved uncle, Hamza and committed the heinous act of chewing his liver in front of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was also there. It was also the opportunity to punish the savage who had murdered the pregnant daughter of the Holy Prophet with the thrust of a spear while she was riding a camel. How magnificent an example of suppression of anger, forgiveness and benevolence was set by the Holy Prophet on this occasion! when he said:

"No reproof be against you this day, may Allah forgive all of you."
With these words he exonerated all of them.

This is the high moral standard set by Allah and His Prophet. By meeting this standard man can rid himself of all his mutual conflicts, anguish, displeasure and anger. He can thus achieve the paradise of heart which not only blesses this life with true serenity and contentment, but also shows the way to the paradise of the Hereafter.
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