How to fight the winter blues with worship.
By Amreen Pathan
My good friend put up a reminder on social media a few weeks ago which inspired me to write this piece.
She quoted Hasan al-Bisri (may Allah have mercy on him) who 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.”
At this time of the year in the UK, festivities are in full swing. Calendars are bursting at the seams and quite honestly, it’s all too easy to be swept away in the feverish wave of it all. Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, so on and so on.
Sadly though, none of the aforementioned occasions are in any way Islamic. I say ‘sadly’ not because I harbour a yearning to participate in these events, but because celebrating them is rife in the Muslim community.
Islam expressly forbids the celebration of any occasion that holds no value or goes against the grain of Islamic teachings and beliefs. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says in a Hadith:
“Whoever imitates a people, he is one of them.’ (at-Tabarani & Abu Dawud)
Similarly, Anas ibn Malik (RA) said, “When the Prophet (PBUH) came to Madinah, the people has two holidays from the days of Jahiliyyah [Age of Ignorance pre-Islam].
He (PBUH) said, ‘When I came to you, you had two days in which you used to celebrate in Jahiliyyah. Allah has replaced them for you with better days: the days of slaughter and the day of Fitr [the two ‘Eids].”
I don’t mean to spread festive doom and gloom – winter is a favourite of mine and I take full advantage of snow (sparse as it may be), time off work and shopping in the sales – but un-Islamic beliefs, capitalist greed and mindless consumerism is essentially what is endorsed at this time of the year.
I’d like this article of mine to serve as a reminder to myself foremost. How can I celebrate winter in way that assimilates and compliments my Islamic faith and values?
Five ways to make winter work for you
- Hasan al-Bisri mentions the long nights for prayer. The merits for Qiyam ul-Layl or Tahajjud are numerous. In Islam, Tahajjud is considered to be the most superior optional prayer. We can comment on the superiority and virtue of Qiyam ul-Layl as suggested by this quote attributed to Imam as-Shafi (RA):
‘The Du’a (supplication) made at Tahajjud is like an arrow that does not miss its target.’
Clearly, the portion designated for Qiyam ul-Layl is extra special. If we could purchase tickets for Tahajjud, they would be in the exclusive, limited category; not everybody would be able to afford them.
With the day ending at around 4pm now in the UK, the scope for Qiyam ul-Layl is longer and easier. Making Wudhu (ablution) in the cold is also considered virtuous in itself. Ablution in cold weather coupled with prayer in the dark of the night is a force to be reckoned with.
- Hasan al-Bisri also mentions the short days. With sunset being as early as 4pm and dawn as late as 6am, fasting becomes incredibly easy. In a period where we are assailed with sales and bargains, this one is unquestionably too good to miss!
- ‘Tis the season of giving. Yes indeed it is. Allah in His Infinite Mercy has blessed us with shelter, warmth and sustenance. As such, there is no better time than winter to express our appreciation for these blessings especially when there are thousands of people, young and old, vulnerable to the cold cruelty of winter. What better way to express our thanks than helping those in need?
There is a lovely story about Safwan ibn Salim (RA) who went out on a cold night. He saw a man with little clothing on which prompted him to remove his own cover and cover the man. In a dream, a citizen of Shaam (Great Syria) saw Safwan ibn Salim entering paradise with a shirt with which he had clothed him. This person travelled miles to narrate his dream to Safwan who had earned this status as a recompense for his kind deed. (Lata’if al-Ma’arif)
- Reciting the designated supplications. There are two that come to mind for the winter months:
For excessive rain: ‘Oh Allah, bring beneficial rain clouds.’
For the cold: ‘There is no deity but Allah. How severe is the cold of today! Oh Allah, protect me from the severe cold of Jahannam (Hell).
The Arabic for the above can be found here and here.
Just the simple act of reciting a prayer like the ones above can result in an individual’s salvation.
The Prophet of Allah is reported to have said, ‘When a person recites the following supplication, Allah (SWT) says to Jahannam, ‘Indeed, a servant of mine has sought refuge in Me from you, bear testimony that I have granted him salvation from you.’
- Being neighbourly is an exceptional act of worship in Islam. In winter, there are many ways we can be neighbourly. Clear icy paths, check in on the elderly, alert the authorities if you see someone who requires shelter from the cold, offer to do the shopping, send some soup over… the list is endless.
Rumi had something beautiful to say about winter:
‘In Winter the bare boughs that seem to sleep
Work covertly, preparing for their Spring.’
Winter blues are a real thing, medically known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder which affects around 2 million people in the UK.
Winter doesn’t have to be blue though as Rumi suggests in his couplet. A believer can truly make it their most productive and positive season in preparation for the seasons to come.
What do you do to fight the winter blues and how productive can you make your winter months?
#WinterBlues #FestiveSeason #ProductiveMuslim #Rumi