Winter Is a Time for Contemplation and Increased Worship
A beneficial reminder regarding taking advantage of the winter months.
Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (رحمه الله) said: “Winter is the believer's most beloved season. Its nights are long for those who wish to pray, and its days are short for those who wish to fast.”
(Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327)
الحمد لله رب العالمين، والعاقبة للمتقين، ولا عدوان إلا على الظالمين، والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين نبينا محمد وآله وصحبه أجمعين، أما بعد
Certainly, there is an opportunity for the believer to ponder and reflect upon Allāh’s Lordship during the changing of the seasons, for in their alternation and succession is a sign from the many signs of His Wisdom and Mercy.
Similarly, the changing of the seasons is from the signs of Allāh's Might and Power. From His Might and Power is that He alone has the ability to alternate the seasons and the duration of the day and night. Therefore, this time is an opportunity for the believer to contemplate over His Lordship. He, the Mighty and Majestic, said:
يُقَلِّبُ اللَّـهُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِّأُولِي الْأَبْصَارِ
“Allāh alternates the night and the day. Indeed, in that is a lesson for those who have insight.”
[Sūrah al-Nūr, 24:44]
During the extremely cold winter days and nights is also a time for the believer to ponder over his final abode and the severity of his Lord’s punishment. Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “The Fire complained to its Lord saying: ‘O Lord, some parts of mine have consumed the others,’ so it was allowed to take two exhalations, one exhalation in winter and the other one in summer. That is why you experience extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter.” (Reported by al-Bukhārī and Muslim.)
Furthermore, the winter season is an opportune time for the believer to relish in the worship of his Lord. Ibn Rajab (رحمه الله) stated: “Indeed, winter is the spring of the believer because during that time he enjoys himself in the gardens of obedience to Allāh and wanders in the fields of worship, and his heart strolls along in devotion to the acts of worship facilitated within it, just like the animals revel in the pastures of spring so they gain weight and the condition of their bodies improve” (Latāif al-Ma‘ārif, pg. 326).
The short winter days and long winter nights present an excellent opportunity for the believer to fast its days and to stand steadfast in its nights with prayer. It was authentically reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Fasting in winter is an easily acquired booty.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqī, al-Tabarānī, Ibn ‘Adī, Ibn ‘Asākir and other, and Shaykh al-Albānī deemed it authentic.)
Ibn Rajab (رحمه الله) said: “Indeed, the believer is able to fast the days of winter without difficulty or being troubled by hunger and thirst because its days of fasting are short and cold, so the difficulty of fasting is unnoticeable” (Latāif al-Ma‘ārif, pg. 326).
He (رحمه الله) also said: “As for the night prayer in winter, the long hours of the night make it possible for a person to get sufficient sleep and then wake up to pray and read the Qurʾān” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
Thus, the winter period is an opportune time for the believer to accumulate the easy reward of fasting its short days and standing steadfast in prayers during its long nights. Consequently, the salaf—being as keen as they were to reap the many rewards of their Lord—not only hastened to fast during the winter days and stand steadfast in prayers during its nights, but they also encouraged others to do the same.
Abū Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) would say: “Shall I not direct you to an easily acquired booty?” They said: “Certainly”; so he said: “Fasting in the winter is an easily acquired booty” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 326).
Ibn Masʿūd (رضي الله عنه) was reported to have said: “Welcome to winter, for it is a season during which blessings descend. Its nights are long and conducive to praying, and its days are short and conducive to fasting” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (رحمه الله) said: “The best season to a believer is winter. Its nights are long for those who wish to pray, and its days are short for those who wish to fast” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
ʿUbayd ibn ʿUmayr (رحمه الله) would say when winter approached: “O people of the Qur’ān! Your night has been prolonged for recitation, so recite, and your days have been shortened for fasting, so fast” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
In addition, Muʿādh (رحمه الله) wept as his death approached and said: “I am crying because I will miss the thirst of fasting during the midday summer sun, standing in prayer during the winter nights, and crowding around the scholars in the gatherings of knowledge” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
Finally, Maʿḍad (رحمه الله) mentioned: “Were it not for three things, I would not mind if I were an insect: The thirst while fasting in the midday summer sun, standing for prayer during the winter nights, and the sweetness of reciting the Book of Allāh during the night prayer” (Latāif al-Maʿārif, pg. 327).
It is possible to infer from their action that the principle: Reward is based upon the level of difficulty of the act, which is used by some deviant groups such as the Ṣūfīs, is indeed false, for had that been the case, the salaf would have never hastened to fast during the winter, since fasting the long, hot summer days would have been much more burdensome and rewarding to fast than the short, cold winter days.
Many legislated acts of worship in the Sharī‘ah are not difficult enough for some Ṣūfīs; therefore, they innovate burdensome acts of worship hoping to gain extra rewards from Allāh, as their false principle dictates. For many of them, the fast of Dāwūd—which is the best fast, as the Prophet (ﷺ) described it—is not rewarding and demanding enough, so they torture themselves by fasting very long periods of time thinking that they will earn a bigger reward. Some of them spend a lifetime fasting, while others fast for forty-day intervals without breaking their fast.
Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī [d. AH 386], a renowned Sūfī, said: “If someone wishes to rectify himself and his heart and he wishes to be in a state of uprightness by fasting every day of his life, then he should fast every day of his life. At this instant, it is as though fasting a lifetime is compulsory upon him because it procures his rectification and the fear of his Lord” (Qūt al-Qulūb, vol. 1, pg. 133).
Although fasting every day for a lifetime, standing steadfast in prayer every night, and remaining unmarried are all extremely difficult, Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) commanded the three individuals who were adamant to perform these acts to adhere to his Sunnah, which involves doing that which was less difficult. Thus, if difficulty and self-torture were something desired by Allāh, the Messenger (ﷺ) would have never directed them to do that which was less difficult; in fact, He said:
يُرِيدُ اللَّـهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
“Allāh intends ease for you, and He does not intend to make things difficult for you.”
[Sūrah al-Baqarah, 2:185]
Subsequently, in winter, the Muslim is allowed to use warm water to perform ablution, wipe over his socks, and wear both socks and gloves during the prayer. Combining the prayers and making tayammum is also allowed during extreme cold.
Ibn Taymiyah (رحمه الله) said while commenting on this principle: “From that which is necessary to know is that Allāh does not love or is pleased with self-torture and burdening one’s self based upon the notion that the more difficult an action the greater the reward, as many ignorant people think. They believe that reward is based upon the level of difficulty of every action. No! Reward is based upon the amount of benefit the action procures and the stringency involved in following the command of Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ)” (Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá, vol. 25, pg. 281).
Therefore, not only should you seize the opportunity this winter to contemplate the Mercy, Wisdom and Might of your Lord and the severity of His punishment, but you should also increase in your worship of Him.
وآخر دعوانا أن الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله على محمد وآله وصحبه
Compiled and translated by Musa Shaleem Mohammed.