Food for Thought: Two Sides of Anger

The Message, June 1999 Issue, p. 16

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said,

“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say, ‘I am sorry’, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

The story is called The Fence. How many times do we say things in anger and haste, not realising that we can never undo the ill-effects and hurt caused by are attitude? How many times do we talk about people behind their backs believing that it is okay? Even our thoughts of anger, though not heard by man, can be heard by Allah. We must think before we act and choose our words carefully.

It is reported that medically anger is not good; emotionally, it is damaging; socially, it creates bad feelings; and religiously, it interferes with our relationship with Almighty Allah. But, this does not mean that anger is totally forbidden, or of no use to humanity. It is essential for man’s protection of self and property. Without it, he would be a coward, a victim of any evil, thief or invader. Anger regarding food, clothing, home and personal safety is good and natural. The Holy Prophet [Muhammad], peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, at times got angry, and his face became red, but he showed the middle way, which is the Islamic way of moderation with courage, manliness and excellent manner.