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IslamQA: On avoiding anger and dislike when arguing with people about religion

As-salaamu 'alaykum. May Allaah bless you. I benefited greatly from two of your books: "The Sayings of Ibn al-Jawzi," and "The Sayings of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah." ….. ….. One of the sayings by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy on him, stood out for me. He said that, as we increase in knowledge, we must also increase in humility. One of my character flaws, which I have also seen in many other people, is the tendency to "jump at another person's throat" as soon as they disagree with us. Perhaps that is what the Shaytaan wants us to do. I have noticed that it is very easy to attack someone's thinking; and I have noticed that is easy, and tempting, to become angry when discussing things with other people. ….. ….. Could you talk about these dynamics in more detail? How we are actually supposed to become more humble, rather than seeking to dominate others with our knowledge? May Allaah reward you.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I believe the source of that anger is our ego’s desire for power and control. Our ego likes to overpower and subdue people, because this gives us a sense of power. So the root of the issue is the seeking of power over people. And the solution is to become a non-power-seeker, to believe that God is already in charge of the universe so that all power belongs to Him.

Once your heart is content in that knowledge, then you will never desire changing another person or defeating them in argument, because you will leave it all to God. You will know that even if all the people agreed with you it would not add the slightest amount of power to you because all power already belongs to God.

So the solution is to detach yourself from seeking power, from seeking results. It is to feel God’s power all around you, and to know you can never make the slightest change to another person unless God wills it, and if God wills it, He can do it without your help. God can erase you from this world and create a thousand people just like you in an instant. God has no need for our work or favors. He can do anything He wants without our help.

But keep in mind that recognizing these things intellectually is not enough, because as soon as you forget them and get distracted you will just go back to behaving like before. The solution is to do something that constantly make these insights your felt reality. And that is done through never-ceasing, daily work. Your ego will always reset itself to normal unless you work every single day to defeat it. You need to dedicate half an hour (I recommend a whole hour) to extra worship that makes God’s power real to you and that creates humility and submission in you. I recommend spending an hour every day reading the Quran.

There is no way to permanently defeat the ego. The ego is a natural part of being human, and the ordinary happenings around us always make the ego respond in its own natural, instinctive ways, which is to seek power and control. So you have to resign yourself to having to spend an hour or so of every single remaining day of your life in some form of extra worship, because you have to maintain an unnatural state in your heart that’s foreign to the ego. This is how saints are made. They work daily to defeat their ego, so that they go about in the world never seeking power, always relying on God and always treating people with more love and kindness than they deserve.

Alhamdulillah through my practice of reading the Quran for an hour every day I am able to have arguments with people without getting angry and without in any way wanting to force them to agree with me. I just do what’s right and speak the truth as I see it, and I couldn’t care less whether they agree with me or disagree. I do my duty and leave the rest to God. God can always change them and help them see the truth later without my help.

Best wishes.

And God knows best.
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