Prayer and Mindfulness in Winter

The phrase, ‘a blessing in disguise’, couldn’t be truer for the season of Winter. Gloomy mornings, icy fingertips and shorter days doesn’t seem a blessing most of us would be praying for. But the truth is, for those who believe, Winter truly is a blessing.

Best season for the believer

Winter is a time where many are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the Winter blues. Those that suffer with it feel down, and experience changes in their mood, sleep, and appetite. It is common for people to experience symptoms at the beginning of Autumn and throughout Winter.

There are many ways to ease seasonal depression including by firstly speaking to your GP, making lifestyle changes, light therapy and talking therapy. However, even if you are not affected by SAD, many of us experience days where we struggle to motivate ourselves, especially during the Winter chill. 

Winter provides believers with the perfect opportunity to strive harder, to stay motivated and connected to Him. It is a time where blessings descend, and where the nights are lengthened for prayer and days shortened for fasting.

Pray the night away

“Welcome Winter; it is the time where blessings descend, nights are lengthened for prayer and days shortened for fasting.” (Ibn Mas’ud)

There is something magical about Winter nights. Although the wind howls against window panes, inside our homes we feel warm, and safe. With sunset coming in at 4pm, the long Winter nights deliver the perfect opportunity for night prayers. There is nothing quite like praying in the middle of the night, in darkness, when everyone else is sound asleep. As your forehead touches the floor, and you call out to Him, there is no one around to disrupt, or disturb that connection.

The feeling of peace embraces you as you pour your heart out to Him. The contentment that fills your soul is unmatchable. To help clear your heart and mind, use the longer nights to pray Tahajjud. The reward is immense, and there simply is no more rewarding way to spend your Winter nights.

The Prophet (saw) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” (Muslim)

And with the nights being longer, we are able to get a decent night’s sleep before waking to pray.

Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (ra) recalled the sweetness of winter on his deathbed, saying, “I weep because I will miss the thirst I felt when I fasted, praying at night during the winter.”

As well as the night prayer, winter provides another special virtue – the additional reward of making ablution in hardship – with cold water. This is an even greater sacrifice at Fajr time, when we may be reluctant to exchange the cosy comfort and warmth of our duvets for freezing cold water.

The Prophet (saw) said “Shall I tell you that which Allah will wipe out your sins for and raise your ranks? Performing wudhu well in difficulty.” (at-Tirmidhi) Ibn Rajab commented on this hadith explaining that ‘Performing wudu in the intense cold is one of the best actions’.  Umar (ra) advised his son Abdullah (ra) on his deathbed, that ‘performing wudu during the days of winter is one of ‘the characteristics of iman’

Shorter fasts, greater rewards

We all love a shortcut; a simplified route, a life hack to make our lives easier. Well, fasting during the Winter months is the perfect one.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Fasting during Winter is an easy reward.” (Tirmidhi)

With shorter days, fasting from sunrise to sunset has never been easier. Gain the rewards of fasting with shorter fasts. It is also the perfect time to catch up on any missed fasts.

“O people of the Qur’an, your night became long for your recitation; so, recite. And your day became short for your fasting; so, observe fasting.” (‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr)

Whilst this is not our intention, fasting during Winter also provides physical and mental benefits, which will make you feel rejuvenated and energised during the colder months. Some benefits include:

  • Improve overall fitness
  • Boost cognitive performance
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Support weight loss
  • Protection from obesity and other chronic illnesses
  • Decrease risk of metabolic diseases

Ponder over Winter beauty

We do not have to wait until Summer to ponder over His creation. Yes, you heard right. Stunning scenery, magnificent landscapes, and the beauty of nature doesn’t disappear in Winter; it evolves. Step outside and talk a walk in the midst of the cold, feast your eyes on snow that blankets rooftops and greenery.  Watch how the rain pitter patters against your window, and ponder and reflect on the greatness of Allah.

”Verily, in the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe… And in the alternation of night and day, and that fact that Allah sends down sustenance from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds, are signs for those who are wise”. (Quran 45:3-5)

Look at the signs He has sent, to help remind and strengthen your belief. The seasons as they change, how the sky darkens, and the night lengthens, how some of his creation hibernate, whilst others emerge in darkness. The world we live in truly is a reminder of His magnificence and we can immerse ourselves in nature to reminded.

Rabi’ah al-Adawiyya (rh) would reflect on the sights of Winter, reminding her of their accountability, “I never see the falling snow except that I imagine the flying pages of the records of people’s deeds (on that day).”

Warm the heart of others

To improve the quality of our own lives, we often delve deep on what we can do to make that change. However, the reality is, to help ourselves, we need to help others. There is no greater time to do that then in Winter.

We are all familiar with the feeling of entering a warm home when it’s freezing outside, or putting on a warm jumper when you’re feeling chilly. It’s a moment of comfort, a moment of security.

Now, imagine being the person that gifts that feeling to others. It is a feeling that is indescribable, knowing that you have helped an elderly person, or a young child who was shivering in their home, warm up.  You can provide single mothers with warm bedding and warm clothing to protect their families, doing this selfless act will certainly uplift you.

“Taking care of the poor in the winter and protecting them from the cold is a great deed.” (Ibn Rajab)

This Winter, keep your heart warm, by warming the heart of others.

Keep your tongue moist

The Prophet (saw) advised us to take the bitter winter cold as a reminder of the life to come. The cold serves the believers a reminder of the extreme cold of Jahannam.

“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.” (Muslim)

It pushes us to seek refuge, and drives us to work tirelessly to attain His pleasure.

“From the virtues of winter is that it reminds one of the extreme cold of Hell and pushes one to seek refuge from it.” (Ibn Rajab)

A great way to attain rewards, and be in the remembrance of Him is to keep your tongue moist with dhikr, reciting your adhkhar and making du’as.   As the temperature dips, let it serve as a reminder to read for the du’a for colder weather.

Laa ilaha illallahu ma ashadda barda hadhal yawm, Allahumma ajirni min zamhariri Jahannam

There is no Deity besides Allah, how severe is the cold of today! O Allah, save us from the extreme cold of Jahannam.

One of the best times to make du’a is when we experience the blessing of rain, something we find no shortage of in Winter.

We can use this time to make the du’a when rain falls – “Allahumma aj’alhu sayyiban nafi’an. O Allah make it beneficial rain” (an-Nasa’i) – and after it settles – “Mutirna bi fadhlillahi wa rahmatihi” (We have been given rain by the Grace of Allah and His Mercy.” (Bukhari)

It is also one of the best time for our du’as to be answered. The Prophet (saw) said, “Seek an answer to supplication at the time… when the rain falls.”

Plan, pray, and ponder

Winter doesn’t have to be a season we dread. It doesn’t have to be a time where we put our plans on hold, and hibernate. In order to make it a productive Winter, be sure to plan.

Plan out what goals you would like to accomplish, within that plan, be sure to include time for prayer and time for reflection. Both are key to a successful plan, a time to rejuvenate, connect and settle. You can take it at your own space, and be kind to yourself. Some days you may sway from the plan, and that is perfectly fine.

You can bring light to the darkest months, just take it one step at a time. You’ve got this.