Many people experience winter blues. They feel kind of sad, they feel down, they want to sleep and especially with COVID, many people's routines are disrupted so there's not that much to do during the winter. I guess it's not surprising that many people feel sad. What Islam can offer us in terms of dealing with winter blues? Maybe Islam has something to offer to somebody who's experiencing winter blues right now.
There is a lot in the Islamic faith that helps us to understand this and to make the best of it. There's a short surah in the Quran that mentions the benefits that God has given to the people of Quraysh in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Among the benefits, this surah mentions “Secure in their winter and summer journeys” (106:2), explaining that they can travel for their trade during winter and summer. The commentators say that this is referring to the fact that the Quraysh people used to trade towards the south in the winter months and then they would go towards the north in the summer months and it makes sense.
It’s hot in the summertime and they would prefer to go north and trade with the people of Syria. In the wintertime, rather than going north where it's gonna be colder, they would go south to Yemen where it's going to be warmer. That also reflects something about life in Canada. We tend to remain in Canada during the warm months and then some snowbirds go down south.Whether it be to Florida or some other warmer climate. Just like the birds! They shift their location.
There are benefits in the way that God has created this system and we need to understand that system and understand the reason why things are happening the way they do. Because if the winter is coming and it's cold, and you curse the weather, then you feel bitter inside! Something is wrong and it's affecting you because of your attitude towards what's going on. It helps to develop a healthy attitude towards what is around you and that comes with understanding. We have to understand that God did it this way for God's good reasons and it's to benefit human beings. You can well imagine what gives us the four seasons, it's the fact that the earth is on a tilted axis. So, if the earth axis was not tilted, then when we talk about the axis, we're not talking about a real pole that holds up the globe, we're talking about an imaginary axis. But if that axis was not tilted as it is, then the sun would be beaming towards the centre of the earth all of the time and the tropics would be extremely hot and the poles would be extremely cold.
The poles are already extremely hot and cold, but there's more extreme than the present extremes. Life as we know it and our planet would not be the same! The caps would be freezing over, the poles would be freezing over, and the tropics would be intensely hot. God has given us this balance so that there is some relief. There is the hot season and the cold season and it just helps life to proliferate on earth. The seasons are a form of a miracle from God.
It's what makes the earth habitable in the first place, so we should appreciate that. Though winter can be harsh in Canada, there is a good reason for this and we should appreciate it the best we can. There is a Hadith that is mentioned in a book of a collection of Hadiths that gathers narratives from other earlier books of Hadith. Here, it is mentioned that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that “winter is a boon for the believers”. Why? The Hadith explains that the days are short so if you want to fast and get the blessings of fasting that day, then it's a short fast.
It goes on to say that the nights are long so you have a longer time at night to pray. The prayer at night is especially prized among Muslims because we believe that that's the time when our prayers are more likely to be answered. After all, you're sacrificing your sleep. Of course, because the night is so long, you're not sacrificing much sleep because you still have a lot of sleep time left during the night. One can analyze this Hadith differently and wonder if the days were longer and we are fasting then you would get more reward for your fast! However, let's appreciate the winter and this Hadith gives us a perspective from which we could appreciate the winter. Even if there are disadvantages, there may be a lot of advantages that one might not even be aware of.
Thinking about advantages, while we are sometimes cooped up at home because of the harsh weather outside, this can give us more of a chance to get closer to our family members, to get to know each other better, to spend more time with each other, to play board games. You can even have a ping pong table if your home is large enough or get a smaller ping pong table, something that will keep you active while playing at home as well. Play Twister with the rest of your family members! There are so many different things that you can do at home, get some exercise equipment and make it a routine that you're exercising and that gives you something to do.
It's when people are sitting around and they have nothing to do that they start feeling bored and feeling depressed. However, if they have a schedule of things to do, then that keeps their mind preoccupied and physical activities also keep them physically fit as well!
When it comes to the religious aspect, we have a wonderful time during the winter season to spend more time with the Quran, to memorize, to learn, to study, to read books on Islamic history and theology, and get a better understanding.
While we are instilling the pandemic situation, there's a clever saying of one of the Imams in the Greater Toronto Area, he said that quarantine is Quran time. We have a chance in the winter to spend more time with the book of God and to get closer to God and the Islamic faith since we're not going out that much.
One of the beautiful things is that we know seasons change. There are four seasons and you know that even though the winter is pretty long, it's going to come to an end at some point and spring will be here again.
There's something to look forward to and there is light at the end of the tunnel.