By Zaynab Dawood
Shorter days, longer nights…
There is a stillness and barrenness in winter that yields a sense of hopelessness. Shorter days and longer nights entrap us, and for many this is a serious issue. SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a reality that many of us experience, in varying degrees. The absence of light and brightness from a vast sky that vaults the heavens and from the physical source that Allah made, really can be suffocating and debilitating. Light, however, true light, transcends the physical limitations of this earth and is not subject to seasonal constraints or changing climes. Access to this light is just a thought away, just a feeling away…hamd (praise of Allah), shukr (gratitude to Allah) and tahlil (reciting the Shahadah.)
Edge of yesterday
It’s amazing how the landscape loses its vibrancy, how the barrenness of winter becomes a cold edge of death. However, this is not permanent. We know, because Allah is Most Kind and gives us life, that a spring awaits us and the landscape will bloom once again. We see how “Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs…” (57:17) This is not tiring for the One Who Wills a thing into existence with a mere “be” and it is. We reap the harvest of this ongoing “sign” and hopefully we celebrate these immense blessings with gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose.
Looking at winter as the edge of yesterday can also be the precise lens we need to view our old self: the self of yesterday and the shortcomings and sins that cling to it. Starting a new life in Islam can often feel this way too- to step into the warm bright spring without fully shaking off the snow of winter, without clamping down on the reverberating chills of our misdeeds. But spring is coming and with it the light of guidance and forgiveness.
With eagerness, squirrels and other mammals gather acorns and food before disappearing for the long winter ahead, and the absence of their tiny feet scurrying in the park leaves a gloomy desolation upon its fields. These creatures are only doing what was intended for them: to behave according to their physical needs. Is there anything we can learn from this? Can we use the colder days and chilly nights for our spiritual needs?
As Muslims we can consider winter as a time for reflection and, where possible, for rest. Winter may bring cold days and nights that reduce our vigour, but it can also be an opportunity to realign ourselves with what is important. A time to look inward and mend what is deficient and broken.
Modern life celebrates a fast pace and, indeed, women now aspire, almost as an accolade, to being individuals that can multitask, every hour of every day. Yet, slowing down is a must if we are to recuperate and rejuvenate ourselves. Perhaps in the darkness of these wintery nights we can look into ourselves and prepare for a more wholesome and productive spring.
Filling the void of winter
The Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all), as they basked in the presence of the Mercy to Mankind, our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), took advantage of the long nights in the Arabian winters and engaged in long, deep and intense prayers: the tahajjud prayer. Deep under the heavy winter night, these Sahabah would pray to Allah, Most High, and their prayers would be filled with pleas for forgiveness and guidance. Winter reminds me of this: believers under the thick banner of winter’s darkness devoting themselves to the pleasure of Allah, the Light, “An-Nur,” and it is He Who warms our hearts. Winter need not be a void or a chasm, but rather a deep mine with hidden treasures waiting to be excavated with ibadah.
Growth after decay
Of course, there is beauty in the winter landscape: it is only the majestic artistry of Allah that can make a dying landscape appear like pearly lace on an ivory canvas. But beyond the icy tessellations, we know that the leaves have all gone and the ground is no longer fecund and fruitful. We can often feel like this too. Misdeeds, negligent prayers, flippant speech, sprawling intentions and sins, fade our character, diminish our consciousness of Allah (our “taqwa”) and debilitate us as worshippers. It can all mount up into a huge mound of snow, a thick layer of ice and a desolate lonely vacuum of severe cold. Despite the cycles of seasons; regardless of the sunshine; oblivious to the blooming flora and fauna, we can allow ourselves to be stuck in the winter of our lives. Trapped in the coldness of our wrongdoing. Frozen by our own lack of hope, warmth and faith. It is a deep cold that penetrates us and makes us unmindful of the Divine treaty: “My servants who have committed excesses against themselves, do not despair of Allah’s Mercy. Surely Allah forgives all sins.” (39:53)
Eternity of spring awaits…
With each teardrop will the frozen lacerations of despair thaw; with each prayer will a small yet strong sapling stride upwards into the spring air. This is what we need to do: to see the spring that Allah has created for us and to be ready for it. To embrace it. There will be flourishing after debilitation and decay. There will be warmth after the cold. There will certainly be Light after all the darknesses. Winter, and our old selves, need not hijack our future, our spring.
About the author:
I’m Zaynab Dawood from Lancashire, England. I’m a busy mum of four, a teacher and author. For me there are three delights in life: ibadah, spending time with family and friends, and reading good literature!