Winter is here, well at least for those in the Northern Hemisphere. And, depending on which part of the world you are, you either can’t wait for it to be here, or you are just dreading the winter.
In more tropical areas, you either do not have a winter, or you have a winter that is very pleasant. Whereas in more Northern areas of the world, it can be quite dreadful.
So much so, that there is something called “the Winter Blues” that occurs to many people who suffer from depression and anxiety during these months. As Muslims though, Winter is like a training academy. How so?
It is narrated from the Prophet Muhammad that he said:
Winter is the best season for the believer. Its nights are long for him to pray in, and its days are short for him to fast in. (Al-Haythami)
It is also narrated from the eminent companion of the Prophet, Umar ibn al-Khattab that he said:
“Winter is the prize of the worshipers.”
Training 1: Patience through Fasting
One of the easiest deeds to do during winter is to fast! The days are so short, that it hardly causes any hardship to fast. In fact the Prophet said:
Fasting in the winter is the easy prize. (Ahmad)
Fasting teaches us to be patient, and teaches us delayed gratification i.e. that the reward for something is better when delayed rather than getting everything whenever we want.
Allah’s reward for patience is nothing but Jannah, as He says in the Quran:
Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account. (39:10)
Thus, fasting in winter in general teaches us to be patient, and wait to eat our food. It is an important life lesson, and will continue to be beneficial for us not only in getting paradise without any accounting, but also in our paths in this world.
Moreover, the Prophet says about the fasting person:
No servant fasts on a day in the path of Allah except that Allah removes the Hell Fire seventy years further away from his face. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
He also said:
The fasting person has two occasions for joy, one when he breaks his fast because of his breaking it and the other when he meets his Lord because of the reward for his fast. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So, pick up on your missed fasts from before, or just fast some extra nafl, but make sure you do lots and lots of fasting during the winter, to take yourself away from hellfire, and closer to paradise, to take yourself away from the anger of Allah to His pleasure, to take yourself from being hasty to being patient!
Training 2: Learning to Pray the Nights and Asking Allah
The best of prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayers!
If you are fasting, and waking up for sohur, that is the best time to make Tahajjud prayer. Try pushing in a two units of prayer at that time of the night, and make lots of dua to Allah as well! Imam ash-Shafi said that the dua made at Tahajjud is like an arrow which will hit its target!
Moreover, Qiyam al-Layl, or the Night Vigil prayer does not need to be prayed at the time of Tahajjud. It is more rewarding to do so, but can also be prayed at the early part of the night after Isha. Isha comes very early in winter, and this allows us to add 2, 4, 6 or even 8 rakahs of extra worship after Isha and still it would be two hours to bed time!
The Prophet said:
Hold fast to night prayer, for it was the way of the righteous before you, a way of drawing closer to your Lord, an expiation for wrong deeds, and a shield from sin. (At-Tirmidhi)
There is very little we can do that is actually better than the Night Prayers. And winter is the training academy that can help us make a habit of worshiping the nights!
Two of the greatest acts of worship can be combined in winter. Along with it comes the making of wudu in cold water, working while in the cold, and so much more.
Winter teaches us patience. It teaches us that Allah is the Master of the Heavens and the Earth and He does what He wills. And through this we are reminded of the Majesty of Allah as well.
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali says about winter:
“Winter is the springtime of the believer because it is a time he grazes in the orchards of obedience, frolics in the fields of worship and frees his heart in the gardens of righteous deeds that are made easy at that time. Just as cattle graze in the lush springtime pastures. They fatten up during that time and their bodies recover [from the hardships of winter]. Similarly, the religion of the believer is reformed during the winter owing to the acts of obedience Allah has made easy for him.”