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Upholding Sunnahs This Winter Season

by Suryani Omar

Winter is often linked to a season of hibernation.

Bears sleep in their dens, squirrels feed on the nuts that’ve been collected over fall, and queen bumblebees take a break.

I remember my first winter – a decade ago when I moved to the United States from sunny, tropical Singapore. I felt listless and tired. Getting out of bed was a struggle. Coupling the cold with homesickness, it was a recipe for laziness and procrastination.

Until I learnt about this hadith:

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was reported to have 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.” 

(Narrated by Imam Al-Tirmidhi)

The hadith made me realize that winter is a good time to boost acts of worship and load up on the sunnah acts in our continuous journey to follow the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. 

Rasulullah ﷺ is the most beloved to Allah s.w.t, and as Muslims, we want to uphold the Prophetic way of living, in a bid to get closer to Allah s.w.t.

Here are three tips to maximize the long winter nights, and short, cold days.

Perform Qiyamulail prayers

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ left behind an extraordinary legacy that continues to inspire young people to this day. (Unsplash/Masjid Pogung Dalangan)

Qiyamulail is an Arabic phrase which means “standing in the night”. Here, it refers to standing at night for prayers. 

Allah s.w.t revealed in the Quran:

وَمِنَ ٱلَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِۦ نَافِلَةًۭ لَّكَ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًۭا مَّحْمُودًۭا 

And rise at [the last] part of the night, offering additional prayers, so your Lord may raise you to a station of praise.” 

(Surah Al-Isra’, 17:79)

Subhanallah, who would not want to be gifted “a position of praise and glory on the Day of Resurrection”. Try viewing these long winter nights as a “discount” that Allah s.w.t is extending to us. 

This is the season where Isha’ comes in early, and Fajr is later compared to other seasons of the year. Where I am, for example, Isha’ is at 6pm and Fajr is at 6.30am. 

Qiyamulail can be any non-obligatory or Sunnah prayers performed after completing Isha’ prayers. 

For example, if you perform Isha’ prayers on time, then two raka’at of nawafil prayers, followed by two raka’at of Salatul Hajah or the prayer of need, and end with three raka’at of witr, you would have performed 7 raka’at of sunnah prayers by 7pm (assuming you choose to recite short surahs).

Get up for Tahajjud prayers

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ left behind an extraordinary legacy that continues to inspire young people to this day. (Unsplash/Masjid Pogung Dalangan)

Tahajjud, on the other hand, are non-obligatory prayers performed at night but with the condition that one has slept prior. Often, people assume that they need to wake up for tahajjud hours before Fajr. However, even if one wakes up 30 minutes before Fajr and offers sunnah prayers, tahajjud prayers have been fulfilled.

‘Amr ibn ‘Abasah reported: 

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “The closest of servants to their Lord are those who pray at the end of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah in this moment, then do so.”

(Narrated by Imam Al-Tirmidhi)

Consider this schedule for winter:

6pm: Isya prayers + qiyamulail

10pm: Bedtime

6am: Wakes up and perform sunnah prayers

6:30am: Fajr prayers

Tahajjud prayers are part of Qiyamulail, but Qiyamulail prayers are not necessarily tahajjud prayers. As your body gets used to waking up pre-Fajr, you can slowly begin to wake up much earlier.

Performing tahajjud prayer is also a fantastic way to make sure you perform Fajr prayers on time!

The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness so that I may forgive him?’

(Narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim)

Fasting

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ left behind an extraordinary legacy that continues to inspire young people to this day. (Unsplash/Masjid Pogung Dalangan)

The cooler months bring about shorter days which makes fasting (somewhat easier). Imagine fasting for less than 12 hours a day!

Many Muslims who have fasts to make up from missed days in Ramadan, due to nursing, menstruation, illnesses or other reasons, try to make up their fasts this season. 

Even if you do not have any fasts to make up, doing sunnah fasting in winter is a great way to prepare the body for Ramadan and earn rewards (ajr). Some of my convert friends see winter fasting as a training ground before welcoming their first Ramadan.

You can start with fasting during the three white days of the month or the three days of al-bid, which is the 13th, 14th and 15th of the Islamic month. To check the Islamic calendar, simply tap on the calendar icon in your Muslim Pro app.

It was narrated that Abu Dharr said:

“Prophet Muhammad ﷺ commanded us to fast the three days of Al-Bid, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.”

(Narrated by Imam An-Nasa’i)

Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is another practice of Rasulullah ﷺ.

It was narrated that ‘Aishah said:

“Rasulullah ﷺ used to fast Sha`ban and Ramadan, and he made sure to fast on Mondays and Thursday.” 

(Narrated by Imam An-Nasa’i)

Hopefully, by setting these goals for winter, we are able to warm our souls with the sweetness of sunnah acts of worship. May we be among believers who strive to have the best season, In shaa Allah!