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Keeping Calm – A Skill We Should Develop

A man might look calm and composed on the outside, but be a raging volcano within.

If you can keep calm when you are angry, then you have genuine self-control.

We should always be just and balanced in what we choose to say, whether we are happy or upset, whether we like what is happening or detest it. Calm manifests itself in our tone of voice, in the words we choose, in our gestures, our facial expressions, and our deportment.

We should keep in mind that our worship is not restricted to prayer, fasting, and the pilgrimage. Life itself is worship. We need to conduct ourselves accordingly.

Abu Huraira relates that a man approached the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and said:

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“O Messenger of Allah! There is a woman who is well-known for how much she prays, fasts, and gives in charity, but she abuses her neighbors with her tongue.”

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

She is in Hell. (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

Self-control means to refrain from responding recklessly to what goes on around us. It means to condition ourselves to respond appropriately according to our personal past experience and what we learn from the experience of others.

It is part of human nature to experience periods of intensity and periods of listlessness. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Every activity has its period of intensity and then that intensity diminishes. (Ibn Hibban)

Love is the same. It can begin with an irrational intensity, and then becomes a healthy and balanced love after marriage. It might weaken, retreat, or even die if it was not established on a sound foundation or if it is ruined by selfishness.

Composure resides in the fraction of a second between the provocation itself and the gut reaction to it. This is why the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Patience needs to be exercised when calamity first strikes. (Al-Bukhari)

We need to deal with every provocation in our lives as if it is being monitored by a hidden camera waiting to record our reaction to it and broadcast that reaction to the world.

This will make us react more judiciously and help us learn to control ourselves. This is because we know that composure and self-control are praiseworthy qualities, while reacting recklessly is a sign of feeble-mindedness and weakness of character.

We learn from experience that it is much easier to say something than it is to carry it out. It is easy to get carried away by the heat of the moment because we do not want to accept that which upsets us.

Develop the Skill

Those who possess a measure of calm did not attain that skill overnight. They learned it after many attempts and just as many failures. They certainly suffered from indecision and disappointment on many occasions. However, they never gave up trying to better themselves. They took Allah’s promise to heart:

And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good. (29:69)

Here is where true piety and fear of Allah come into play. Allah says:

Indeed, those who lower their voices before the Messenger of Allah – they are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for righteousness. For them is forgiveness and great reward. (49:3)

This verse comes in chapter al-Hujurat which addresses a number of relevant issues, like commanding people not to raise their voices above that of the Prophet, not to spread rumors, not to slander people, not to make fun of them, and to avoid suspicion. This chapter of the Quran also strongly condemns racism, chauvinism, and dissension.

This chapter also includes the verse:

The Bedouins say, ‘We have believed.’ Say: ‘You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. (49:14)

This means that true faith is a moral practice carried out on a high level that entails concern for how we deal with others and acknowledge their rights.

Positivity and Calm

Looking at things positively, even the provocations and sorrows we face, is something that stems from our faith in the wisdom of Allah and our knowledge that nothing transpires in Creation except that He wills it so.

This gives us a new perspective on things. Since we expect the best from Allah, instead of reacting negatively, we act calmly and look to avail ourselves of the opportunities that our new set of circumstances presents to us.

Exerting our every effort in positive work is not antithetical to keeping calm. It is the other face to keeping calm. Productive and successful people are usually not the kind who are easily provoked. This is because they are people who are willing to work hard over the long haul to achieve results. They do not expect things instantly.

It is said that successful leaders react calmly to emergencies and provocations as if they were normal happenings. This does not mean that they are unconcerned about what is going on, but rather that they keep themselves composed enough to think clearly and come up with solutions.


When we speak about being calm and collected, it does not mean that we have discarded human nature and our natural qualities and feelings. It means to add a quality to our other natural qualities, one known as “composure”. It is a quality we need to try to summon when we face a problem or emergency, or when we are confronted by a provocation.

We can do this by immediately invoking the idea that this circumstance has been designed expressly to test our patience and self-control, and that it is something Allah has decreed.

Our inner natures are very strong. If you happen to be a person who is naturally calm, then you have been bleeds to have in your nature a quality that Allah loves. Otherwise, know that practice makes a difference. Like Abu al-Darda’ said:

“Clemency is acquired through practice and patience is acquired through practice.”

I have experienced bitter things in my life which I thought, at the time, I would have been better off not experiencing. I realized many years later that those experiences helped to shape my personality and made me into a better, more tolerant and forgiving person.

Those experiences also taught me how to keep my calm and retain composure under stress. In this way, Allah has blessed me to live a happy, contented life. I have learned that the arrows of life do not harm people except when the people bring harm to themselves. Otherwise, they help us grow stronger and more resolute.

Now I thank Allah for helping me to grow through those very circumstances that I lamented at the time.

About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.