It will be easier to control your temper if you remember Allah
Imagine this: You’re running ten minutes late in the morning, you didn’t sleep well last night, the baby is screaming, you’ve burned the toast, the two big kids won’t eat and keep fighting, your husband is calling from another room that he can’t find his tie, the kids just spilled a carton of milk on the floor, the telephone is ringing, you just realize you forgot to wash the dress you want to wear today, and then your husband walks into the kitchen and tells you, “Be patient!” Should you punch him in the mouth or just scream at him? Of course you shouldn’t do either of those!
Perhaps the hardest time to be patient is just when someone tells us to be patient! And yet that is the time we need patience most.
In stressful times it is good to be able to take things calmly and not get upset. We should be able to close our eyes, take a deep breath and whisper something like, “Please, Allah, get me through the next five minutes and through this day!”
In a situation like the one described above, being able to control your temper when everything is going wrong is a great virtue to nurture. Unfortunately, it’s an ability that doesn’t come easily to everyone. (It helps if you can train your husband to say “Let me help you” rather than “Be patient”.) Taking care of body as well as soul does help. If you’re not getting enough iron and calcium in your diet, it can decrease your ability to deal with stress. (Ladies, this is particularly true for you. Insufficient calcium makes you more likely to turn into a monster once a month on “those days”.) Regular exercise also helps relieve stress. When you really feel you’re going to lose it, try taking a long walk instead.
So much for body. What about soul?
Patience comes from having a certain mindset. And that mindset comes from following the advice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He taught us that when we are angry we should sit down, and if we are still angry we should lie down. We should also say, “I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the accursed.” That should give you some idea of where anger comes from.
Allah has prepared Paradise for those who control their anger
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further taught us that the strong one is not the one who can punch another but the one who can control himself when angry.
Take time out now and then to reflect on this. (And if you’re one who gets angry easily, do this often — even several times a day.) Convince yourself that you want to be a strong person, that you want to control yourself. And remind yourself often that Allah has prepared Paradise for those who control their anger: (And vie with one another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off evil; those who spend (of that which Allah has given them) in ease and in adversity; those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loves the good;) (Qur’an 3: 133–134) A reward as big as Paradise ought to be enough motivation to get you to restrain your hands and bite your lip more often!
Reading or listening to the Qur’an is a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress
It will also be easier to control your temper if you train yourself to remember Allah frequently. The Qur’an tells us (Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!) (Qur’an 13: 28 ) Remembering Allah frequently brings you closer to Him and keeps Him at the back of your mind. It’s a lot easier to call Him to mind when He’s at the back of it rather than not in it at all.
And then there is the Qur’an itself. Reading or listening attentively to the Qur’an is a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress. If you’re just learning to read it, it might be stressful to do so and thus be contrary to the purpose. Practice reading when you’re already relaxed. You can play a tape or CD of someone reciting. Close your eyes, relax and listen to the words, even if you don’t understand anything. You can read a translation afterwards.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us a beautiful prayer (du‘aa’ or supplication) to say to when filled with sorrow or distress. Say this prayer, then immediately read or listen to the Qur’an. It never fails to help me.
O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release of my anxiety.
So next time you’re having one of those days when everything is going wrong, take a deep breath and remember Allah. Remember that nothing can happen without His permission. Ask Him for the strength to control yourself and deal with your situation. Then get a rag and clean up the spilled milk. Sometimes things can get very bad, but you should always ask Allah for help
But What If Things Are Really Bad?
But what if you’re in a really bad situation, something long-term that you can’t get out of? Like your economic situation forces you to live with your in-laws? Or you’re miserable in your marriage? Or your child is born with a serious birth defect?
In times like these, if someone tells you “Be patient” it may sound like he’s telling you to do nothing but to just sit and take whatever problems come your way. Big help, huh? Thanks, buddy.
But the Arabic word sabr, which is usually translated as patience or as patience and perseverance, is much more than that. It has the basic meaning of restriction and detention, and means to prevent one’s soul from reaching the point of despair and panic. But it also means to prevent yourself from evil, to control your desires, and to persevere in whatever you’re doing.
But of course in order to persevere you have to be doing something. That is, something other than suffering.
In these types of situations, to have sabr means to patiently and rationally — and prayerfully — seek solutions to your problems. It means to not ask for a divorce the first time you and your spouse have a major fight, but to look carefully at the situation (perhaps with the aid of a counselor or family members) and see what the source of the problem is and what the two of you can do to amend it. It means to seek whatever information you need, to weigh your options, to seek others’ aid. For example, if your child is handicapped, you need to know what medical and social services your community offers, as well as what aid you can get from the Muslims and others around you in terms of helping you with transportation, therapy, counseling, babysitting, et cetera.
Ask for a change in your heart to bear with your difficulties until the situation changes
Be sure to examine things critically. Maybe there really are some things that you can change to ease your problems even if you can’t totally solve them. For example, a simple change in your daily routine might ease the pressure of living with in-laws. (I’m not suggesting that you start working the night shift so that you don’t have to see them, but then again . . .)
A good prayer (though not from the Sunnah) is: “Lord, grant me patience to bear the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
While you are searching for solutions, always ask Allah for His help. Ask not only for a change in your situation, but also for a change in your heart to bear with your difficulties until the situation changes. Praying is doing something; it’s not sitting back and just putting up with things. Praying is asking the Only One Who can change your conditions to do so. On this the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us: “The supplication of every one of you is granted if he does not grow impatient and say: I supplicated but it was not granted.”
And always, always bear in mind that this life is short. The hardships we bear now are nothing compared to those we will face on the Day of Judgment.
By Ælfwine Mischler