Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Controlling Anger and Tertib of Censure

As a general principle, the following hadith of Rasulullah SAW and its respective explanation teaches us:

Rasulullah SAW has ordered:

"Do not become angry."

From the outwardly meaning, it may seem that the order is to refrain from something natural and unacquired, namely, anger when motives for it exist. But actually - the true meaning of this hadith can be rephrased as:

"Control yourself when angry and restrain yourself from its bad consequences."

It is for this reason that a Muslim must learn how to censure / reprimand / reproach - whilst controlling his / her anger. Anger does have its place in Islam, as that is part of reprimanding and advising. To ensure that we use it properly, we must learn based on the rulings stipulated in the Shari'ah.


Censure has various degrees of severity and has specific rules.

Knowledge of the Wrong Act

The first degree consists of knowing the wrong act. One should not eavesdrop at another's house in order to hear the sounds of musical instruments, or try to catch the scent of wine, or feel for an object concealed beneath someone's shirt to see if it is a flute, or ask a person's neighbours to see what he is doing. But if two upright witnesses come and inform one that someone is drinking, one may enter his house and take him to task.

Explaining that Something is Wrong

The second degree consists of explaining that an act is wrong, since an ignorant person will often do something he does not know is blameworthy, but will stop when he finds out. So one must explain it politely, saying, for example: "People are not born scholars; we too were unfamiliar with many things in Sacred Law until scholars mentioned them to us. Perhaps there are not many in your hometown," and thus lead up to it diplomatically so the person understands without being offended. To avoid the evil of remaining silent when there is something wrong, only to commit the evil of offending a Muslim when able not to, it like washing away blood with urine.

Forbidding the Act Verbally

The third degree of severity is to prohibit the act by admonition, advice, and making the other fear Allah, mentioning the hadiths of divine punishment for it and reminding the person how the early Muslims behaved, all of which should be done with sympathy and kindness, not harshness or anger. The great danger here which one must beware of is that a learned person explaining that something is wrong may be proud of his knowledge and gloat over the lowliness of the other's ignorance, which is like saving someone from a fire by casting oneself into it. It is ignorant in the extreme, a deep disgrace, and a delusion from Syaitaan.

The touchstone and test for this is to ask oneself whether one would prefer the censured person to stop at his own or another's behest, or whether one would prefer to forbid him oneself. If reproving him is difficult and weighs upon one, and one would prefer that someone else do it, then one should proceed, for religion is the motive. But if it is otherwise, then one is following mere personal caprice and using the censuring of others as a means to display one's merit, then one should fear Allah and censure oneself first.

Cencuring with Harsh Words

The fourth degree of severity consists of reviling the person and bearing down on him with sharp, harsh words. One does not resort to this degree unless one is unable to prevent the person by politeness, and he shows he wants to persist or mocks one's admonitions and advice. Reviling him does not mean vulgarity and lies, but rather saying "You degenerate," "You idiot", "You ignoramus," "Do you not fear Allah?" and so forth.

Allah SWT quotes in the Qur'an what Ibrahim AS said:

"Fie on you and what you worship apart from Allah! Can you not think?" (Surah 2: Ayat 67)

Fighting the Wrong by Hand

The fifth degree consists of changing the blameworthy thing with one's hand, such as by breaking musical instruments, pouring out wine, or turning someone out of a house wrongfully appropriated.

There are two rules for this degree:

(1) not to do so when one can get the person to do it himself, i.e. if one can get someone to leave the land he has unjustly taken, one should not drag or push him from it;

(2) and to break the instruments, for example, just enough to obviate them being used for disobedience and no more, or to be careful not to break the bottles when pouring out wine. If one cannot manage except by throwing rocks at the bottles or the like, then one may do so and is not obliged to cover the damages.

If it be wondered whether one may break the bottles or drag someone by the foot out of a wrongfully appropriated house to create fear, as an object lesson to others, the answer is that this is for leaders (of the Muslim caliphate, if it exists) alone and is not permissible for private individuals because of the obscurity of the decision-making criteria in the matter.


The sixth degree is threatening and intimidation, such as by saying, "Stop this or I will... "; and when possible this should precede actually hitting the person. The rule for this level is not to make a threat that one cannot carry out, such as saying "or I'll seize your house," or "take your wife hostage," because if one says this seriously, it is unlawful, and if not serious, then one is lying.


The seventh degree is to directly hit or kick the person, or similar measures that do not involve weapons. This is permissible for private individuals provided it is necessary, and that one confines oneself to the minimum needed to stop the reprehensible action and nothing more. When the action has been stopped, one refrains from doing anything further.

It must be noted here that discipline in this regard can only be obtained when Imaan of a person is strong. Thus such actions should be conducted by the Allah-fearing, who has more control over his anger and desire, InshaAllah.

Force of Arms

The eighth degree is when one is unable to censure the act by oneself and requires the armed assistance of others. Sometimes the person being reproved may also get people to assist him, and a skirmish may ensue, so the soundest legal opinion is that this degree requires authorisation from the caliph of the Muslim state where the issue occurs; since it leads to strife and the outbreak of civil discord.

Another view is that the caliph's permission is not required, though such preferences is dangerous without consulting the Ulama, as to what is the best course of action to fulfill Allah's command of Nahi Munkar. In whatever cases, Imaan and the sound mind should lead decisions, and the Nafs (desire) and anger should be supressed, as it is more than common for the Syaitaan to use - what may seem to be good actions - to architect a conflict producing greater damage. Wisdom must be sought from the people of wisdom in such situations.

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