Allah has perfected our religion and completed His favor upon us and has chosen for us islam as a way of life [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:3]. Islam means to submit and surrender to the will of Allah. It contains internal and external aspects such as purification.
Practicing Islam as a Process for Purification
A Muslim is required to purify himself from the inside as well as the outside. Spiritual and physical cleanliness is a main component of Islam. Taqwa (fear of God) and iman (faith) reside in the hearts of true Muslims. When properly cultivated, taqwa and iman bring serenity to the pure heart and one can taste the fruits of these internal traits. Islam provides a means for our purification.
The people with iman have it for a reason. They understand that it is only Allah in whom they can place their trust and never be disappointed. They want to earn the pleasure of Allah and they accomplish this by believing in Him and doing good deeds. They try to fulfill the obligations Allah has commanded them to do. They seek knowledge to gain nearness to Allah by implementing what they learn of His religion. They are the people of understanding and wisdom, who apply and share their knowledge. Their iman increases day by day by following the instructions of Allah. May Allah give us the best of understanding and allow us to earn His pleasure.
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Allah informs us that in the creation of the heavens and the earth are signs for people who are wise [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:164]. He apprises us to look again and again at His creation and He challenges us to find any flaws in it. He tells us that our sight will return to us frustrated and weary, unable to find any imperfections in His creation [Sûrah Al-Mulk, 67:3-4]. He has left us many, many signs to ponder on —which include, but are not limited, to the alternation of the day and night, rain, vegetation, animals, the seasons, etc. We as Muslims believe in the signs from Allah and look at them as a blessing and mercy. Winter is one of those signs to be pondered.
Winter as a Special Opportunity for Purification and Blessing
Winter is sometimes perceived negatively as a month that brings coldness, illnesses, and destruction of agriculture. It may not seem like a blessing with the chilly winds, freezing temperatures, frosty rain, and slippery snow, but it actually brings us its own conditions. If it were meant to bring damage to humanity, why do you think Allah has created winter in the first place? Everything Allah created has its place, form, and purpose, and does exactly as Allah has ordained for it to do. In fact, according to various sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ), winter is to be considered the best season for the believer.
The virtues of winter are discussed by Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali in his book Lata’if al-Ma’arif, an excerpt of which is found at: www.imanislam.com/info/winter-best-season-for-a-believer. Quotations [some unattributed] are found on that website:
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) 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.” (Reported by al-Haythami in Majma’ al-Zawa’id, 3/203)
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote:
Winter is the best season for the believer because…Allah strengthens his practice in it by making worship easy for him. This is because, in winter, the believer can fast during the day with ease without suffering from hunger and thirst. The days are short and cold, and he, therefore, doesn’t feel the hardship of fasting…As for praying at night in the winter due to its long nights, one can have his share of sleep and then get up to pray afterward and recite all that he usually recites of the Qur’an after he has had enough sleep. So, he can combine between the sleep that he needs and the usual amount of recitation of the Qur’an that he completes in a day. So, he fulfills the interests of both his religion and the comfort of his body… (Lata’if al-Ma’arif p. 276)
And it was narrated that Ibn Mas’ûd said:
“Welcome to winter! Blessings descend in it, its nights are long to pray in, and its days are short to fast in.”
When it was wintertime, ‘Ubayd bin ‘Umayr would say:
“O people of the Qur’an! Your nights are now long for you to recite in. So, recite! Your days are now short for you to fast in. So, fast! Night prayer in the winter equals fasting during the day in the summer.”
This is why Mu’adh wept on his deathbed and said:
“I weep because I will miss the thirst I felt when I fasted, praying at night during the winter, and sitting knee to knee with the scholars during the gatherings of knowledge.”
Allah tells us to preserve our prayers:
“Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.” [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:238]
The middle prayer is identified as asr salah by the majority of ‘Ulama. During the midday, people are busiest, so it is emphasized to take special care to perform asr salah excellently at its assigned timing.
During the winter, the salawat during the day come and pass very quickly due to the shortened daylight hours. Asr is prayed when the shadow of a thing is equal to its height; its length of time is especially limited during the winter. The prayer timings start much earlier than they did during the summer, so Muslims should take great care in performing their prayers at their respective timings. It isn’t right for a Muslim to delay their prayer, rushing to pray it at the last minute. It is preferred to pray each salah at its earliest time (awalîn waqt). For the most beloved deed to Allah is the prayer prayed right at the stated fixed time. This shows Allah that we prefer his company above that of all others. So let us try our best to guard and protect our salawat.
A Time to Correct our Thinking
In fact, winter can be a slow time for the activities of the rest of the year, so it is a good time to think about correcting some of the misconceptions or ignorance some might have about our religion.
We ask Allah to complete His mercy on us through the difference of opinions within the ummah. There have come to be four major schools of thought in Sunni Islam and we respect each madhhab. Even if a person disagrees with a particular view from a scholar or a madhhab, the ‘ulama’ (scholars) have their own mutual agreement to respect the others. Whatever madhhab you follow, each school of them has agreed that it is not permissible for their students to ridicule the others. It may be that the person you are mocking is better than you and more beloved to Allah.
Accordingly, it is not right to say that a person is offering his or her Salah at the wrong time or in the wrong manner. But if you desire to ‘correct’ him, do so respectfully and with kindness. For example, it is agreed upon by the ulama’ that if a group of people are coming to a particular masjid to pray at a certain time behind a particular iman who differs in opinion from that masjid, they should not be stopped. They too want to worship their Lord and there is nothing impermissible about this. Conflict should not be initiated due to varying opinions in religion. It is not permissible to create divisions amongst the ummah based on a different fiqhi masa’il (issues of Islamic jurisprudence). Rather we all should understand one another and perfect our understanding of Allah’s religion; we should communicate and share our knowledge with one another so that we can be strong and united in our religion.
Allah tells us in the Quran not to mock a group of people in front of the others for it may be that the group being ridiculed is better and closer to the truth than the mockers. Ibn Taymiyyah () said that if a person has a difference of opinion when it comes to the fiqh of the religion, it is not permissible for others to reject him and ridicule him. It is not allowed to abandon a brother because of a difference of opinion. He () said that if there was within a particular madhhab, a particular ruling that has two or more opinions, then a person should understand that the correct opinion for him to follow is to be chosen by himself based on whatever he can understand. Each of the scholarly opinions is a correct choice. Then it is for that individual to act on whichever he thinks is most correct for himself. But if he doesn’t know and is confused, then he should “refer to the Quran.”
If you are confused due to your ignorance, it becomes wajib (obligatory) upon you to find a knowledgeable person who will answer you based upon the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ). The Prophet (ﷺ) is reported to have said,
“People from before you were destroyed because they used their book to fight one another; they used their book to destroy one another; they used their book to reject one another; and left aside parts of their book.”
The correct opinion is what you understand from the text of the Quran and the Sunnah over or in preference to what you do not know at all.
Permissible in Winter
During the winter it is made permissible for the imam of the masjid to combine Maghrib and Isha Prayers if there is a difficulty for people to come to the masjid. Ibn Abbas () narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) combined maghrib and isha prayers in Medina to teach the ummah that there is to be no hardship placed upon this ummah. In this case, he (ﷺ) wanted to ensure there was no difficulty on his ummah in regard to arriving at the mosque. The combining of prayers should be done for a valid reason. Bad weather is a reasonable excuse because it can make it too difficult for people repeatedly to come to the mosque and then go back home. The continuous unfavorable weather could prevent people from arriving for prayers in the mosque at the fixed timings. Ibn Hajr’s view on this is that it is allowed to combine prayers as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
Zakat and sadaqah are to be given out in times of special need, for example when due to the harsh coldness of winter. This is another opportunity to aid and meet the needs of those who are less fortunate than we are. The Prophet (ﷺ) made a direct connection between the weather and the paying of zakat/sadaqah. In fact, neglecting to pay it leads to the downfall of goodness:
It was narrated that ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said:
“…No people ever withhold the Zakah of their wealth but that rain is withheld from the sky…” [Sunan Ibn Majah 4019]
Beneficial provisions will be withheld by Allah from those who don’t give charity. There are people who are living amongst us under or at the poverty line. They too are our brothers and our sisters, so it becomes wajib (obligatory) for us to help them. It is our responsibility to take care of those who are in need, to the best of our ability. We can buy new articles of clothing, collect canned edibles in food drives, and donate money for the sake of Allah to those who are in need of it. In the cold of winter, we can donate even our old clothes that are still in good condition to help people with barely anything on their backs to keep warm.
Extra Rewards of Winter
Why is winter the perfect season for fasting? The days in the heart of winter are shorter, so fasting from sunrise to sunset is much easier to endure.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
“Fasting in the winter is an easy reward.” [Sunan Al-Tirmidhî, 797]
Fasting allows Muslims to attain taqwa, to rectify themselves, earning the pleasure of Allah. This gift from Allah ﷻ gives the believer ample opportunity to reap the rewards of fasting with minimal effort. On top of that, the shorter days in winter make it the most comfortable time to catch up on any days of missed fasting, which for adults is compulsory. So, if you’ve missed some fast days because you were ill or traveling, winter is the perfect time of year to make amends.
As we increase our acts of worship, our tawhîd and iman will also take a rise as a result. The conditions we experience in performing salah, wudu, and tahara vary due to the weather. If there isn’t enough water for wudu then tayammum (in which clean earth is substituted for water) can be done. And in extreme weather conditions, wudu can be limited to the fard (obligatory) acts. Of course, whoever wishes to do the sunnah acts of wudu can get extra reward for doing so. Siyam (fasting) and zakat can also be done abundantly in winter to gain the extra rewards of performing these actions.
Learning Patience in the Winter
As Muslims, we should remain patient with the oft-changing weather. To have patience means to refrain from complaining and especially from panicking at its extra hardship. Complaining about the weather can lead us to impatience. Talking about how cold it is can affect our work ethics and attitude. Complaining to others will be of no benefit to us. They can neither change the situation nor remove the troubles.
However, complaining to the All-Powerful Allah can turn into ibadah. It is only Him who has the power to control everything. If there is anything that displeases you of the weather or that scares you regarding it, then turn to Allah in sincere du’a. Remembering Allah will calm one’s heart and, insha Allah, sakinah (tranquility) will descend upon him, as mentioned in,
“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [Sûrah Zumar, 13:28]
There are various authentic adhkar (remembrances of Allah) that one can recite; the Prophet (ﷺ) taught us to increase in du’a more during the harsh winter weather. He (ﷺ) told us not to speak in a manner that would displease our Lord. Instead, we should remain grateful for the hidden blessings which winter brings. We always have Allah to turn to when we feel discomfort or unrest. We can strengthen our relationship and connection with Allah through worship. Let us reflect on the power of Allah over His creation and how He can change a situation in a matter of seconds.
The Prophet (ﷺ) discouraged us from saying negative things about the weather because doing so may lead us not to accept the qadr of Allah. One of the six main beliefs of a Muslim is believing in the qadr of Allah (what is to occur by the will and permission of Allah). So, let us remain grateful and be satisfied with the qadr of Allah. May Allah protect us from saying things that contradict the tawhîd of Allah.
The pillars of Islam have a special connection to winter giving us an opportunity to do more good deeds that are loved by Allah. Our Lord is Perfect and Just.
Allah does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete His favor upon you, that you may be grateful [to Him]. [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:6]
So then, let us recognize winter as a time for special opportunity with Allah and gain its full rewards.