For everything there is a season...
Islam is a divinely ordained way of life, transcending time and place. In every hardship we face, there is wisdom for the believer and an opportunity for him to rise in status with his Lord. “Truly with hardship comes ease” and the Prophetic narration, “How wonderful is the affair of the believer? For his affairs are all good, and this applies to none but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and he is rewarded for that. If something bad befalls him, he bears it with patience and he is rewarded for that” are but a few examples of how Islam ingrains lessons of encouragement and positivity. Realising these lessons should help us counter the excessive complaining, procrastination and general negativity towards life that we find within many of our circles.
The United Kingdom is that part of the consumer world where life is furiously fast. Even Muslims visiting from abroad can often be left puzzled by the widely varying prayer times especially with no public call to prayer to remind them of their daily obligations. The inherent difficulties faced by Muslims here with the seasonal variations in prayer times are part and parcel of life, so what positives can we take from this difficulty?
The winter days are very short, sometimes the end of Fajr is as early as 8.00 am and Maghrib at 4pm, whilst during the summer days, Fajr ends at 4.30am and Maghrib at 9.30pm. There are many advantages we can draw from this:
Firstly, the opportunity to pray in congregation three or four times a day in the Mosque during the summer period should be very easy even for those who are working full time. And why would one want to miss out on an opportunity like this when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘The prayer of a person in congregation is twenty seven times better than the prayer of the person individually.’ Naturally, the chance to have a wage or salary which is 27 times more for practically doing the same thing at the same time is not an opportunity any of us would want to miss (From this October, 2010, the minimum wage will be £5.93 an hour, so that would mean £160.11 an hour!). So why with our daily prayers, which we must pray within their fixed times, do we not grab that offer? The first offer is one that benefits us in this life and the second offer is one that benefits us in the ever-lasting life of the Hereafter.
Secondly, the time between Maghrib and the beginning of Fajr is very short in the summer, so praying the night prayer during the last third of the night is surprisingly easy. In other countries closer to the equator where the nights are much longer, waking up in the last third of the night is harder and praying most of that last third is even more so. In addition, in the winter (in the UK), the days become so short, we can wake up a short time before Fajr at a quite normal time. We can pray our night prayer after which we can carry on with the rest of our day with as much ease as when we do our daily routine of work, school etc. So, how can we deny ourselves of this opportunity, when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed us: “Our Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven, when only one third of the night has remained. He says: “Who will invoke Me, so that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him.” And in another report, he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) adds: “Then Allah extends His Hand and says: ‘Who wants to invest (good deeds) with the One who is not wasteful or unjust?’ He continues to say this until the dawn arrives.”
Thirdly, during the winter, the beginning of Fajr till Maghrib amounts to just ten hours (6am to 4pm) and so fasting should be easy as pie! (Although, eating some pie would kind of defeat the purpose of the fast!) In fact, a person is only expected to miss out on lunch. How can one not do this when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The best fasting is the fast of David (Dawood): he used to fast one day and not the next.” Moreover, there are the recommended Fasts for every Monday and Thursday and the middle three days of the Islamic months. Some of our scholars have considered fasting to be one of the greatest actions in Islam. Whilst all actions have a limit to their reward, fasting is an act that has not, as it consists of various types of patience, lessons in self-development and numerous guiding morals.
Fourthly, praying the recommended mid-morning prayer - Salatul-Duha (or Ishraq) becomes effortless. The time for the mid-morning prayer is from when the Sun has risen to the height of a spear above the horizon, which is around fifteen or twenty minutes after sunrise. Since Maghrib in the winter period is a lot earlier, it would be safe to pray this slightly earlier, about 10 minutes after sunrise. However, the point is that it could be prayed before one leaves for work. How can we miss out on this, when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever prays Fajr prayer in congregation then awaits patiently until he offers the Shurooq prayer shall have the reward of a person who has completed both Hajj and Umrah, not lacking in any way.”
Fifthly, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that the du’a from ‘Asr to Maghrib on Friday is one of the blessed times in which it is most likely to be answered. Since the time after ‘Asr till Maghrib, during the shorter days of the year in the United Kingdom, is so small, the effective time we seek to make that assured dua is much easier to achieve.
Sixthly, acts of worship which are restricted by time have a higher reward in terms of the percentage of time spent in worshipping. So if someone only has one hour to do his evening adhkaar – the percentage of time in that evening that he spends in performing this worship is much higher than when he does the same in his summer evenings. For instance, since the nights are very short in the summer period, the reward for praying the whole of the night is achieved simply by standing for quite a short time. The opportunity of a lifetime!
Seventhly, how many times do we hear ourselves bemoaning the terrible weather that the United Kingdom has? It snows in the summer, we get heat waves in the winter and to top it all off it rains throughout the year! But is complaining about the weather, which is by Allah’s decree, in fact a complaint to the Most High? We need to realise the weather is from the many bounties of Allah and seek from its opportunities in order to raise our taqwa. I will always remember when a respected shaykh from the Middle-East visited the United Kingdom and it began to rain. As the Muslims all rushed for cover, the shaykh, ran out into the rain and began to cry profusely and make du’a. Later he told us, “In my country, we sometimes get rain just once a year. The Muslims in the United Kingdom are blessed with this opportunity of washing away their sins and thanking Allah for these blessings,” As our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Two are the du’as that are never returned unanswered: the dua made when the prayer is being called, and at the time of rainfall.”  Yet it is common practice for us to complain that the weather is bad when it is raining – How much more mistaken can we be?
There are plenty of more opportunities you can think of when you ponder and reflect on the blessings Allah has bestowed us all with. Indeed, in everything there is a reason, for everything there is a season…
 Qur’an, Al-Sharh (The Opening) (94:6) – Translation of the meaning
 Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
 Sahih Muslim
 Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
 Sunan Abu Dawood and At-Tabarani
 Sunan Abu Dawood classed as Sahih by al-Hakim