A folktale rewritten..
Once there was and once there wasn’t, a long time ago, a young boy named Tariq with a VERY bad temper. When his mother called him to get up for school in the morning he would yell at her, “I’m up, leave me alone!” even though he had just opened his eyes.
If he wanted spaghetti when his mother made macaroni and cheese, he would get mad at her for not asking him before cooking.
When his little sister accidentally touched his toys he would yell at her. Always. He HATED it when someone touched HIS stuff, especially his sister.
When his friend missed the ball in a soccer game and their team lost, he yelled really bad words and his friend decided not to be friends with him anymore. Well, it WAS all his friend’s fault anyway, and who needs friends!
His father was a sailor and left home often to sail on ships around the world. He wasn’t home a lot. One day, his father came home from a long trip while Tariq was working on a model ship on the table.
His father roared out “Assalaamu ‘alaikum, I’m home!” and his mother and little sister came running happily from the back rooms to greet him. A gust of wind from the open door blew down the newly glued mast of Tariq’s model ship. Tariq screamed in rage. “Shut that door! You just ruined my model!”
Tariq’s father, mother, and little sister stared at him in shock. Everyone stayed away from Tariq for a while, while Tariq’s father had coffee and talked with his wife and daughter. There was lots of news of the family to catch up on.
Then, when Tariq’s mother went to start supper, Tariq’s father called him out to the storage shed in the back yard.
“Tariq, see these nails? See this hammer? I want you to take a nail to the back fence and hammer it in, for getting mad about the breeze disturbing your model earlier today. And from now on, I want you to pound in a nail each time you get angry.”
Tariq didn’t understand why he should hammer a nail, but he did as his father ordered. It was hard to hit the nail square on the head, and once he hit his finger instead of the nail. He got mad at the hammer and threw it across the yard. Tariq’s father made him nail in another nail, for throwing the hammer in rage.
The next morning, Tariq was almost late to school because he had to hammer in 5 nails for yelling at his mother, father, and sister for 5 different reasons before breakfast. By the end of the day he had hammered in 37 nails, and he was pretty tired of hammering. He was getting better about not hitting his fingers though.
Day by day Tariq hammered nails. Why did his father insist on it? Looking at the fence, with its many nails, Tariq was embarrassed by all the proof of his bad deeds.
Some of the kids from school knew about the fence, because he accidentally told them. They called it the “Mad Fence”. They asked many times to come and see it but Tariq wouldn’t show it to them. But little by little, he found that the thought of the fence made it easier to hold his tongue and he gradually began to yell less often, and when he yelled, he was able to stop more quickly.
Then, one evening, he was building a block castle and his sister, who had come over to watch, dropped her stuffed bunny on the blocks, making the whole thing come down. Tariq stood up quickly, took a big breath to yell, and, instead of saying something mad, suddenly burst out, “OK, I’ll get a nail!”
His father came out to the fence as Tariq pounded in the new nail. They talked about how he was pounding in fewer nails now. He had made great progress. He was even starting to have some friends again. Friends were nice to have! That was slow going though, because they remembered how mad he used to get and didn’t trust him yet.
“I’m glad I don’t have to pound so many nails anymore, Dad. Seeing all the nails in the fence is ugly.”
Then his father suggested that Tariq could remove a nail each day that he went all day without losing his temper. Day by day Tariq looked forward to removing a nail from the fence before Isha prayer. It was often difficult to pull them out and he had to struggle, but it felt good to remove the signs of his bad deeds.
Finally, the day came when he removed the last nail. He called his family to witness the great event. He felt very proud.
His mother was so happy, she kissed him and promised to make his favorite dessert for after supper.
His father, however, 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. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say, “I’m sorry”. The wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”
The family stared at the fence solemnly. It was a witness of Tariq’s battle with himself. Then his father hugged him and said, “May you grow to be a strong man, Son”.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “A strong man is not a good wrestler but one who controls himself when he is angry.” (Bukhari)