Since my college years studying Spanish mystics and their numerous writings, I have secretly been fascinated by the summer solstice. Years later, my hidden fascination with the winter solstice began. For exactly one year now, I have exclusively been using Nature as my pharmacy. Perhaps, paying more attention to nature has allowed me to relate my experiences with Leylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and understanding of the story of Jacob wrestling with the “man” all night (Genesis 32:24) to what I felt leading up to and during the winter solstice. While Leylat al-Qadr and Jacob’s night struggle have no direct relation to the winter solstice, I still relate them when I think of my own struggles with my higher and lower self and with my daily goal to be a better me than the day before.
As a Muslim, Leylat al-Qadr is the night I look forward to toward the end of Ramadan. It is filled with blessings and power. Looking for it feels like knowing my sweetest, beloved relative is coming to visit but not knowing her time of arrival. That night is spent in deep reflection and filled with prayers as it is a night the Qur’an tells us is better than one thousand months in which the angels all come down to witness. Then, there is Jacob’s cosmic struggle that lasted until dawn. The Bible and Talmud tell us that he triumphed over divine and men in that long struggle, after which he is renewed by being called “Israel” (he who prevails over the divine) instead of Jacob. Lastly, there is Winter Solstice (Yule). This is a long night welcoming winter but focused on renewal, rebirth, personal power, and setting intentions.
I have always felt like candles are reflection of my soul and loved to use them everywhere in the house every day until my daughter was born (I was afraid of her burning herself). Ramadan nights, especially Leylat al-Qadr, always began with lighting candles in the prayer room, the foyer, and hallways. When learning about Winter Solstice, I saw how important candles were. Soon after, I realized how I had stopped doing New Year’s resolutions and began penning resolutions on or just after Leylat al-Qadr. All of these nights, represent beautiful cosmic struggles for me because: 1) during Leylat al-Qadr and all of Ramadan, reflect on how I have fallen short of my previous year’s worship goals but take advantage of the blessed night ; 2) Winter Solstice is a time where I can remind myself of what the Quran promises, “ease after hardship” and it is a time celebrate the darkness when it is usually something that is feared instead of revered; and 3) the ups and downs, eases and hardships of life are like the sun and moon, the day and night, the divine and (wo)man, Israel and Jacob. Life itself is like one long night in which we wrestle with divine and mundane in ourselves.
Jameelah X. Medina, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and orator. Her latest book, ABCs of Living a Good Life: 26 Things I’ve Learned along the Way, is available for free on her website:www.jameelahmedina.com. She is also the owner and operator of Dr. J’s Apothecary where she makes all-natural products for health and wellness.