A few weeks ago I and other brothers listened attentively one evening to a Bayan, or lecture, conducted by one of our learned scholars of Islam at a musjid here in Elmont, New York. The topic: anger.
I’m not referring to the manifestation of anger, however; and I’m sure this learned scholar was not concerned about that, either, as his mission that night was to inform us of strategies for “diffusing” anger, as enshrined in the Sunna of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam), the one Deputed by Almighty Allah (SWT) as the Seal of the Prophets, for all mankind until the Day of Judgment. And who better understands each of us than the One Who created each of us, along with the Heavens and the Earth and whatever it contains, from the first man, Adam (alaihis-salam), from which Almighty Allah (SWT) created the whole mankind, male and female, to those of us that have been born aforetime and those of us who were born and are still living, to those of us who will be born after we, who are currently living, are in the graves, etc., etc., until a Day when the whole mankind will be raised up and Judged by Almighty Allah (SWT)?
The manifestation of anger is a “feeling” of anger, and is based solely on an interpretation of what we see with the naked eye, or hear with our ears, within a social context, as when we witness two persons shouting at each other, with hands flailing to and fro. We are here talking about the Unseen, and only Almighty Allah (SWT) is aware of both the Unseen and of all of what He has Created. This learned scholar spoke to us about the machinations of the Shaitan, or, the Bruised One. The Shaitan incites us to anger through his whispering. And Almighty Allah (SWT) Knows Best.
The learned scholar who conducted the Bayan that night informed us that this “feeling” of anger is in Truth instigated by the Shaitan, the Bruised One, when he whispers in the hearts of mankind. Almighty Allah (SWT) has informed us in the Holy Qur’an that the Shaitan disobeyed Almighty Allah’s (SWT) Command by refusing to prostrate unto Adam (alaihis-salam) through arrogance and puffed-up pride; besides, he remonstrated that he is made of fire, and Adam (alaihis-salam) is made of clay. And Almighty Allah (SWT) clearly informs us that the Shaitan is our “worst enemy”. The Reality of the Creation of Adam (alaihis-salam) informs us that Almighty Allah (SWT) Fashioned Adam (alaihis-salam) from clay, or the mud of the Earth. The Gospel of Barnabas, one written by Barnabas himself who was one of Isa’s (alaihis-salam) closest Companions, has written that Isa (alahis-salam) is reported to have said that the Shaitan despises the human being through pride.
Muslims believe that whatever the Noble Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam) said during his Prophet-hood until he left this mortal world is the Truth from Almighty Allah (SWT), and what his Companions witnessed as to what actions the Noble Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam) did that informed his excellent conduct is the concrete guidance for those who want to understand the “sweet taste” of Eeman and therefore the only way to gain a closeness to Almighty Allah (SWT).
So the manifestation of anger, as witnessed by the five senses, is not the Truth, for what we see of events here in this mortal world is only apparent.
This learned scholar reminded us that one of the most learned of all the scholars of Islam – Maulana Mufti Muhammad al-Shafi’I (rahmatullah-alaihi) – once remarked that if someone doesn’t feel anger that person may as well be a donkey.
At the end of the Bayan this learned scholar informed us that a Pew research study concluded that by far the angriest of people are today’s Muslim teenagers.
We’re staring at a “which comes first: the chicken-or-the-egg” scenario: Is the foundation for a strong sense of self (by this I mean the development of a strong “rational” self) the way to “diffuse” anger? As a Muslim I say no.
Now this “rational” self is a concept wherein we are “naturally” rational creatures. This “rationality” is a “faculty” or “power” of the mind whose mission is, according to Freud, to “control” the passions – one of which is anger, and thus allows the individual to navigate today’s secular societies. Is the development of a strong “personal identity” more important than the development of a “strong Muslim”, or vice-versa? In other words, is the development of a “personal identity”, of secular individualism, of more importance than a “Muslim identity?” Humanist philosophers have postulated a “subject” or “I” and object (both animate and inanimate) dichotomy that has served the scientific development of the social sciences, including psychology.
I go on to say that the “diffusion” of anger, the method of which is enshrined in the Sunna of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam) and the “control” of anger during our sojourn here within modern, democratic societies today should not overlap, if the person’s intention to “control” her or his anger is to seek the Pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Is the “diffusion” of anger, as enshrined by the Sunna of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam) of more significance in this society for Muslim teenagers than the development of a secular, “personal identity”?, wherein a person, through the “faculty” or “power” of the mind, can effectively “control” her or his passions, one of which is anger? I certainly think so. My sincere opinion on this issue is that a “Muslim identity” is the foundation for a strong “personal identity” or “sense of self”, thereby “diffusing” anger “when calamity strikes” by remembering Almighty Allah (SWT), The Most High, The Most Great.
One report on the issue of anger among Muslim teenagers in the U.S. declares that they are “…more religious and more willing to defend Islamic extremists than are their elders”. How is it so that a Muslim teenager, with a strong “Muslim identity” that is infused into her or his “sense of self”, is more willing to “defend Islamic extremists than are their elders?”
One concerned Muslim author wondered aloud whether we (the Muslim community) should investigate “…what is it about the non-Muslim lifestyle that attracts the [Muslim] kids so much?” We are losing a whole generation of Muslim teenagers, this author says, to the whims and fancies of today’s secular world-view – through peer-pressures at public schools and rapid technological progress (i-pods, i-phones, smart phones, etc., etc.), along with “…how the culture appeals to all those budding desires…” Those of us who care to empathize with the pressures of adolescence – to conform to social “cliques” or “groups” – understand only by harking back to our own experiences as teenagers. The author suggests some ideas on how to turn the tide of such a secularized “world-view” among young Muslim teenagers, such as encouraging concerned parents to tap into their young adult’s self-absorbed condition or “narcissism” in a constructive way, in other words, to give them your attention. One factor that is key to a healthy Islamic life-style among young Muslim teenagers, this author declares, is to adhere to the Delphic Oracle “Know Thyself”: “We complain about our kids having an identity crisis. To be frank, most of these kids don’t even know who they are… forget about who they are as Muslims (italics mine), they don’t even know their own personalities”. The author goes on to say that a key foundation to being a strong Muslim is to be a strong person, to know who you are “at your very core” so as to pinpoint and actualize their own potential “characteristics and values” that “will remain unchanged no matter what situation you’re put in”.
I say the reverse: a “strong Muslim identity” is the foundation for a strong personality, for a “diffusion” of anger, through a sincere remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT), is of more significance than of “controlling” anger without the sincere remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT). This doesn’t mean that a teenager should not be angry at all; they are, after all, not plants. We are “naturally” prone to anger, as the materialists are wont to say, but only that we manifest that anger at something or someone else, and this manifestation is only apparent. What the Christian say about “turning the other cheek” is applicable here. Almighty Allah (SWT) Commands that we act mercifully towards others, even to those who are our enemies. An Alim, who conducted a khutbah some weeks ago, illustrates this point. There is a member of your family who despises you, who tells you they don’t want to see you, but your sincere belief in Almighty Allah (SWT) compels you to visit that person anyway, to find out how she or he is doing.
A corollary to the humanistic conception of the “I”-“object” distinction is “ressentiment”. The term is often used within a context whereby one person exhibits hostility towards another; the English equivalent is “resentment” as in one person “resenting” another over someone or for something a person has. Ressentiment is generally described as a hostility directed at one which one identifies as the ‘cause’ of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The term, however, has a special significance within the annals of philosophical and psychological discourse, indicating at once a “social context”. There is, say social scientists, “a special relationship between a sense of inferiority and the creation of morality”.
The creation of “morality” is based on our whims and desires, specifically in reference to “dominating” others through “ressentiment”. For anger is a key ingredient to injustice and domination. A person who sincerely believes in Almighty Allah (SWT) cannot be angry at all, at anyone or anything, even in the face of extreme hardships (May Almighty Allah [SWT] Elevate us to this stage!) Previously, I have spoken about the political ideology of Marxism, one predicated on “ressentiment”. Somehow, a poor person should, or even have the right, to be “angry” at a person who is financially well-off. But Marxism goes further. The followers of Marxism envision a “dialectical materialism”, where history is to proceed where one “social group” - the have-nots, engage in perpetual conflict (through violence, if possible) with another “social group” – the ones financially well-off, until there finally will be no economic disparity among all mankind. The “ressentiment” of one social group against another, however, cannot be viewed within the abstract; this conflict is not something one thinks about; this conflict is real. So anger is a key ingredient in any social conflict, even though it is not apparent.
Frantz Fanon, a philosopher and psychiatrist, took it a step further. His philosophical orientation was a unique blend of Nietzschean philosophy, which postulates a “will to power” – that is, a “willing beyond ‘good and evil’”, Hegelian philosophy, which postulates a “master-slave morality”, and Marxism. The “will to power” gives rise to what Fanon refers to a “new species” – individuals who are capable of a unique “equilibrium” of the passions (considered by others as “positive” and “negative”) in order to live fully as a human being, without the trappings of government or society with its legal and moral rules (devised by individuals who benefit morally from such rules) of what is “good” and what is “evil”. What differentiates Fanon from the rest, however, is his concrete application of the Hegelian “master-slave morality” to the colonial situation in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, with Whites (with a master morality), dominating the Blacks (with a slave morality). Fanon wants to invert this moral equation and thus give those with slave moralities the impetus to “free” themselves from colonial domination. Thus, once again, anger and even violence is necessary for this social transformation.
There are many definitions of morality as there are people today. One person defines it as X, while another defines it as Y, ad infinitum. There are many definitions among people of what conduct is “good” and what conduct is “evil”. We find ourselves in a most damning situation where we, as human beings, are defining for ourselves and acting upon what is “good” and what is “evil”. Almighty Allah (SWT), through the Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam), Commands human beings to perform “Good Deeds” and to refrain from “Evil Deeds”, or else face Eternal Ruin. Such “Good Deeds” should not be based on our personal whims and desires, while our “Evil Deeds” are. Almighty Allah (SWT) has informed us through His Book that human beings are prone to Evil but that we must refrain from doing so, if we are to be vicegerents on Earth.
This study concerning the attitudes of young Muslim teenagers toward “religious extremism” is of no surprise when we adults consider the bewildering number of global political and social upheavals affecting the Muslim Ummah today, especially Muslim teenagers. Many of these conflicts are based on anger. Along with the horrific events of 9/11/01 that exacted thousands of innocent souls here in the United States, a Florida fundamentalist pastor here in the U.S., Terry Jones, authorized that a Holy Qur’an be burnt after declaring, through a mock trial on March 20th, 2011, that the Holy Qur’an is found guilty of “…crimes against humanity”, before “…sentencing it to death by execution”. The author of this article, Emily Dobler, declared that “His stupid mock trial led to the death of 12 people”, and further, “He disgraced the religion and practically spit in all Muslims’ faces”. We adults are also witnessing here in the United States a Congressional Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Muslim radicalization”, conducted by its current chairman, New York State republican representative Peter King. We are also witnessing a national debacle in France concerning a ban on “burqas”, presumably enforced to preserve the French social identity of secularism and equality; and as I write this there has already been an incident on French soil whereby a Muslim sister has been fined for wearing it in public.
We, as adults however, are no longer “adolescents”; we are not so easily swayed or confused by these geopolitical events, thereby becoming “resentful” at the detractors of this glorious religion. For those who are Guided by Almighty Allah (SWT) to explain to others what Islam really is (and May Almighty Allah [SWT] Grant each of us the ability to do so), they are not worried about such events, if only to understand that we, the Muslim Ummah, must hold on to “the Rope of Allah (SWT)”. We are, however, talking here about children and adolescents.
Our task is to learn this glorious religion with sincerity, practice it sincerely, cajole those who have strayed away from this glorious religion, and convince others about the spiritual benefits of this glorious religion. This requires effort. This requires going back to fundamentals. And we must pay attention to our Muslim teenagers, for they are angry at their parents, and of what they see around them.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) Guide us in this worth-while effort, Ameen.
The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: email@example.com
 Landsdale and Laura Ragg. The Gospel of Barnabas. With a Facsimile Notes and Commentary, M.A. Yusseff. Published by Abdul Naeem for Islamic Book Service, New Delhi, pg. 46.
 Kelman, J. Some Young American Muslims Take Extreme View. Overall Picture Looks Good, Survey Reveals.
Posted May 23, 2007.
 The Lost Boys (and Girls): Bringing Back Young Muslim Teens, by Zainab for MuslimMatters.org
 Ressentiment. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
 Dobler, Emily. Pastor needlessly spurs violence after burning of Muslim holy book. The Tarter. April 11, 2011.