Inexplicable rage: I experienced this yesterday lunchtime. I usually walk to the mosque for the midday prayer, for it’s just fifteen minutes away, but with heavy showers coming and going all day I decided to take my car. My journey would be quicker that way and I was sure not to get a soaking as I had before when I decided to brave a break in the rain, my umbrella left behind.
I arrived there about five minutes after my departure from work, avoiding a traffic jam on the way by taking an earlier turning, and made my way into the mosque car park. Wary of the double parking much beloved by my Muslim brethren, I chose a parking space from which I would be able to escape easily straight after the prayer, for I had a meeting to attend on my return and I could not be late. So I drove on towards it, squared up and quickly did a three point turn in order to reverse neatly into the space so there would be no awkward manoeuvring afterwards: I have been trapped into such a space before. But it was not to be.
As I put my car into reverse, another weaved right around me and popped himself neatly into my space. I was stunned. For a second I sat there at a complete loss. Witnessing this, another chap shook his head at me, expressing similar disbelief. And then it happened.
My chest tightened and my whole body seemed to suddenly flush with this great heat. I took my foot off the brake and flew back towards his car—for a second I planned to park on his bumper and leave my car there, but I stopped myself, slamming on the brakes again a moment later. In the next instant I was hurtling back out of the car park. That other chap tried to wave me towards another space, but I did not want to park there because I had been trapped in there by a minibus parking across me in the past. My rage drove me out of the car park and almost back to work without stopping for my prayer, but, no: no, I had come here for the prayer.
I parked in the rough overflow car park instead, and now I was looking in on at myself. It was as if I was outside myself, witnessing all of this as a stranger. It was like it all had happened in slow motion. Harbouring that tightness in my chest, I began wondering: was I upset because that brother was completely oblivious to everyone around him, or because I had flown into inexplicable rage over absolutely nothing?
I went inside, sat down in the washroom and did my ablution. It provided only a little relief, for I was still tense throughout the prayer: still upset, my skin still tight. I left almost as soon as we had finished without staying to offer sunnah prayers. Outside, the car park was as I expected—the double parking blocking other cars in—but I was free to leave.
As the afternoon wore on, sitting in that meeting, I tried to reconstruct the day’s events, to find some reason for my rage, but I could fine none. I felt a bit dizzy and I had a splitting headache, but I hadn’t had a bad morning. All I could think of was my tiredness brought on by my lack of sleep two days before, but was that an excuse for my behaviour? No: my rage was simply inexplicable. Returning to the mosque this lunchtime, driving there once more, I reflected on the previous day quite bemusedly: I could not even imagine it, although I knew that it had indeed occurred.
When someone repeatedly asked for his advice, the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said, “Do not get angry.” He also said, “Forbearance is the best of traits.” When somebody got angry in front of him, he told his companions, “I know some words that would make his anger leave, if he said them. They are, I seek refuge in God from Shaitan.” He also said, “If you get angry, stay silent.” And of course he said, “The strong one is not one who can out-wrestle others. Rather, the strong one is he who can restrain himself when angry.”
We know all this. I know all this. There are no words to justify my anger yesterday lunchtime, on my way to the prayer of all things. There are no words to justify it or excuse it. The only words are those which our blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) passed onto his wife: “O Allah, forgive my sin, remove the anger in my heart, and protect me from Shaitan.” The only words are those of repentance, as the Qur’an makes plain:
“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 fear God; Those who spend in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath, and are forgiving toward mankind; and God loves the good. And those who, when they do an evil deed or wrong themselves, remember God and implore forgiveness for their sins. And who forgives sins but God?” — Qur’an 3:133-5
To some my tale may sound like a trifling affair, exaggerated out of all proportion, but all the words of the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) indicate to me that such behaviour is not insignificant at all. The rage that we Muslims are famed for in the West these days is a problem, even when it is explicable. So what of my inexplicable rage? “And vie with one another for forgiveness from your Lord…”