I’ll admit it: part of me wrote this post because I found the title catchy. Can you blame me?
But beyond that, I was reminded of an incident between myself and an acquaintance in the not-too-distant past. The brother, a friend, and I were discussing a lecture he had recently attended; it was one that I wanted to attend myself, but the lecture was at a university in DC, and commuting to DC during rush hour on a weekday is something I actively avoid. In the course of our discussion, the brother launched into a somewhat extensive diatribe concerning what appeared to be a fairly indistinctive point the lecturer had made during a tangent. The brother ledged the bulk of his criticism on this one tangent, using it as a foundation to undermine the speakers reliability, manhaj (ideological persuasion), and at times, even his Islam. It would be unfair for me to say that the brother made anything close to takfeer (apostasy-claims) of the speaker, but he made it quite evident that the ‘Islam’ the speaker was following was what’s wrong with the ummah.
To characterize the indignation on display as an overreaction is an understatement. But to claim it to be indicative of a larger culture, one that thrives on sanctimonious condemnation, would be, by all accounts, accurate.
The politics surrounding situations have become as central to modern news as the stories themselves. We not only care about an impending snowstorm, but why the local city legislature hasn’t invested more into snow removal services. We read articles and hone in on solitary sentences, de-contextualize them, and publicize why the said sentence is so incredibly offensive. We are, in short, a society given to impetuousness, and we demand that every article, news story, lecture, khutbah, Islamic Studies class, and youtube video satisfy our personal standards of appropriateness/correctness. When they don’t, we cry foul.
This behavior is on full display in the comments sections of any heavily visited blog, forum, or news story/article. It is also on display whenever groups of Muslims feel the need to insistently ‘convince’ people on a fairly controversial religious position as being the only acceptable position on earth. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, we need to learn to disagree with one another without becoming violently disagreeable.
The dangers of anger are many, and indignation more often than not cultivates in the heart a sense of resentment– and that is truly a dangerous disease. I’m not arguing that we need to agree with every khutbah we hear or love every lecture we attend. To the contrary, I find even within myself the propensity to evaluate messages khateebs/lecturers deliver. I’m merely arguing that our standards of offensiveness have become far too sensitive, and that rather than constantly focusing our attention on a misplaced or ‘inartful’ statement, we need to spend more times focusing on our hearts.
As a final note, this is as much a reminder for myself as it is for anyone reading this article. As the saying goes, the ears of the speaker are the first to hear what emanates from his mouth.
And Indeed, Allah Knows best.
“…who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allaah loves Al-Muhsinoon (the good doers).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:134]
“And those who avoid the greater sins, and Al Fawaahish (illegal sexual intercourse), and when they are angry, they forgive.” [al-Shooraa 42:37]
Al-Bukhaari narrated in al-Saheeh (6116) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that a man said to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “Advise me.” He said: “Do not get angry.” The man repeated his request several times, and he said, “Do not get angry.”
Al-Bukhaari narrated in al-Saheeh (6114) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The strong man is not the one who can wrestle (fight); the strong man is the one who controls himself at the time of anger.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) made some important points in Fath al-Baari (10/520) in his commentary on the hadeeth “Do not get angry”. He said:
Al-Khattaabi said: The meaning of the phrase ‘Do not get angry’ is, Avoid the things that cause anger and do not expose yourself to that which provokes it. Anger itself could not have been forbidden, because it is something natural which cannot be removed from human nature.
Someone else said: what is meant is that which can be achieved by training oneself… It was said that it means, Do not do that which anger provokes you to do.
Ibn Battaal said: the hadeeth indicates… that striving to control oneself is more difficult than striving against the enemy, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) described the one who controls himself at times of anger as being the strongest of people.
Someone else said: Perhaps the person who asked this question was hot-tempered; the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to command each person to do that which was most appropriate for him, so he summed up his advice to this person by telling him not to get angry.
Ibn al-Teen said: in the words ‘Do not get angry’, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) brought together the good of this world and of the Hereafter, because anger results in cutting off ties and withholding kindness, and it may lead to one doing harm to the person with whom one is angry, which diminishes one’s religious commitment.