I was born and bred in Singapore and I am pretty much a tropical weather sort of person. I like bright sunny days, balmy breezes and the occasional rain. I am accustomed to comfortable, light clothing and being able to eat ice-cream any time I want.
When I was growing up as a child, I was curious about other seasons, particularly winter. I’d seen pictures and movies showing how beautiful – and fun! – snow can be, so I was quite pleased when I finally had my chance to experience it for myself. I moved to the USA shortly after my wedding with my husband, who was completing his studies. I remember it was early January when we landed in Chicago in 2001. My brother-in-law was there to meet us and his first words to me were, “As salaamu `alaykum … Welcome to America.” He then promptly handed his brother and me mufflers to wear. I thought then, how odd of him, but within minutes, I could feel the wind, so cold that it felt like angry little pin pricks all over my skin. Needless to say, I felt a great deal of trepidation.
Before driving to Indiana, where we were staying, my husband thought it would be nice for me to take a look-see around Chicago. Now, the only images I’d had of winter in the US were of the freshly fallen variety… of breathtaking landscapes and of children delighted at play. Chicago cured me of my fanciful notions :P I saw only grey sludge that day and people looking miserable as walked briskly, hands in pockets, trying to stay warm. Winter in the US was, on the whole, easy to bear though – there was central heating after all… and I did get my fill of pretty winter scenes later on when we moved to Wisconsin :) Still, I would rejoice when warmer weather beckoned.
When we moved to Pakistan, my hatred for winter reached its peak. It had partly to do with my difficulties in leaving my own home country I believe. I would grumble about all the layers of clothes we had to wear and wash (there isn’t central heating here), the dull and dreary days punctuated by heavy rains (forget freshly driven snow!) and the general discomfort that the cold brought.
I’ve begun to soften my stance towards winter though – I admit, I can be a stubborn wretch :) It is peevish and petty to rail against change and to complain about how painful the cold is when I have a more than adequate roof over my head. Others have not and even have to brave the elements to eke out a living. This dry country which is very much dependent on its agriculture also needs the winter rains. “And We send down from the sky rain charted with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grain for harvests…” (Surah Qaf 50:9)
I’ve begun to appreciate so much about this season and the blessings it brings. My daughters and I did a lovely lesson about how the salaf viewed winter while were were bundled up under our blankets after Fajr the other day :) It gave us a totally new attitude towards winter alhamdulillah. Al-Hassan Al-Basri for example said: “How good winter is for the believer! Its night is long, so he prays in it; and its day is short, so he observes fasting in it.” Indeed, the the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “The cold booty is observing fast in winter.” (at-Tirmidhi) How easy it is to fast in winters because we don’t feel the thirst and lethargy of the hot summers.
I love Ibn Rajab’s words about winter – “Winter is considered the spring of the believer, because he revels in the orchards of obedience and goes in the fields of worship and his heart having the pleasure of strolling in the gardens of deeds which are easy during winter.”
I’m going to brew myself a cup of tea and sit by the window now to stitch. I’ll probably put on a lecture to listen to and get some upliftment for my soul in shaa Allah. It is cold but the sky is clear … alhamdulillah. For all my friends out there experiencing winter, I hope you are enjoying it in all its goodness :)