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Selma Cook

Positive ChangeQuestion one

 Salam Sister Salma,

I am very very confused. I was trained overseas as a doctor and i have been living in Australia for the past 7 years now. But since my internship overseas i have been working in research, and carried on with it, here is Australia as well. But the medical training really didn't make me a researcher to some extent where i could only consider recruiting subjects and collecting data without giving them any benefit. I could not continue treating the patients as numbers. So finally after lots of istikhara and thoughts left my job last year. Wanted to sit for my certification exam for medical council, but was very sick and a very personal calamity stopped me from sitting the exam last year. Now i was thinking of moving in public health field and not clinical, but all my friends and acquaintances kept on requesting me to do the exam, as we need multazima doctors. Now i am scared, so scared that i can't even open up my books to read or revise what I already know. I keep on telling myself, it's been so long, you can't do it, and this procrastination just following me everywhere. Can you suggest something by which i could maybe motivate myself, or think outside the box.

Jazakallahu Kheiran



Salam alaikum, thanks so much for sending in your question. Fear is such a strong emotion, and it can control us and prevent us from fulfilling our potential.

Often procrastination grows out of fear, even a subtle kind of fear that may be hidden deep within us. So perhaps, try ignoring the procrastination for a short time and think about what you are afraid of; what is making you hesitate.


If you can identify your fear, that is the first step. Next, is to remember that fear is often an illusion; something we have constructed for ourselves based on our self image or people’s perceptions of us. If you can manage to decipher the fear then look at it objectively. This can only be done if you turn to Allah for help. Needless to say, it requires a lot of prayer and soul searching, while trusting that Allah is always there.


This life is all about exploring; ourselves and life itself and its meaning. Everything is a part of Allah’s creation and in whichever way we seek to give back to the world with a good intention and skill, will ultimately be a good thing.


Your mission at present seems to be choosing the course in life you want to take. I think you need to ask yourself: What do I want to do? After all, people will do a job well when they love and are passionate about what they are doing! So, which kind of work makes you feel excited? Try to do the job that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning! You have choices and you do not have to put yourself in a job that you find mundane and boring. You should also listen to others and take any positive input, but at the same time, you have to make the ultimate choice and trust your own perceptions. The answer lies within yourself. It is easy for people to say what you should do but at the end of the day, you are the one who has to do the work. So think, search your soul and make a firm decision.


The procrastination will simply vanish when you have a clear direction and feel that you are moving in a direction that your inner self is at peace with. Please remember that you have the ability to do whatever Allah gives you in this life. You have come so far in your studies that I’m sure if you make up your mind to continue, with a firm will, your ability will manifest itself and you will be confident to continue.


I pray that you make the best decision and that you seek Allah’s guidance every step of the way.

 Selma Cook

Question two


salam alakim, i don't like how I look. My friends at school always make comments about how I look and I start to hate myself. My mother says this is not good and to ignore them but I feel bad. What should I do?




Salam alaikum, I’m very sorry to hear that you are feeling bad. It is certainly tough when people directly criticize us about how we look. The mistake people often make is to look at and evaluate a person from the external only.


This kind of teasing has been going on for a long, long time and every generation seems to have a new breed of bully! But, I think, the answer is the same; you have to accept yourself as you are, improve yourself the best you can, and get on with life. Don’t wait around for people to tell you what they think about you and listen to such people with only ‘half an ear’. Your mum was right when she said to try to ignore them. Such people are looking to see how you will react. In some strange way, it is fun for them. So don’t give them what they want – don’t react! If you appear to be sad or upset they will think they have won and will be happy and will do more. Don’t give them this chance.


The answer to this problem lies within your own self. Really, if you can accept yourself as you are and feel thankful to Allah for everything you have, you will feel a growing kind of confidence that will change the way you feel and the way you present yourself to the world.


You didn’t mention any details about what the children at school say and whether their comments are because you wear hijab and so on. So I’ll just make a few general comments here. If a person tries to please all the people around them by wearing clothes ‘they’ like, or doing things ‘they’ like, that person will never be able to please them so even if he or she was to compromise and change with the intention of pleasing others, she/he will ultimately fail. The idea is to just be yourself and be comfortable with yourself. If the issue is wearing hijab, then all you can do is wear it in a way that the colors match with the school uniform and so on. If it is a matter of you being shy and these bullies are trying to upset and provoke you, then you must try to be stronger within yourself.


You can do this by first, turning to Allah for help and pouring out your heart to Him seeking guidance. Then, look for all the things you have to be grateful for, next, identify your own strengths. You might talk to a trusted relative or friend to help you with this. Then, think of ways you can improve yourself and remember that every single person in this world can be improved! Identify the things you are interested in and always try to do well at school and in whatever you do.


I pray that you will feel better about yourself and see within yourself the blessings you have been given. I also pray that the children at school turn their attention away from you and that you learn to be strong…


Selma Cook

Question three


Salaam alaikum

I could certainly do with a positive change, Sister. I'm stuck in a dead end job, yet I know I have the potential to better myself. I can't seem to take that step though, and often shrug and wonder should I even make the effort.

There is a bit of fear, to be honest, in case I fail, but I do want to change my life for the better. I would appreciate your advice.




Salam alaikum, thanks so much for sending in your question. I’m sure there are many people who are facing such a situation. Sometimes we think the important thing is that we are making enough money to pay our expenses, so we allow ourselves to stay in a job or field of work that we do not really enjoy. And, sometimes, this is necessary depending on the situation in your country.


However, you said that you have potential to do better and that you have opportunity, so that is an entirely different thing! It is important that you know what you are afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Well, there is an old saying that we learn from our mistakes and this is so true. Perhaps it is not just failing at something but what the people might say. Often people’s comments to us hurt more than the failure. Regardless, the thing is that we need to strengthen our inner resolve.


Feeling depressed is a feeling of being ‘stuck’ and this feeling of ‘stuckness’ is often an illusion; we have the power to shake ourselves out of it and rise above it, but it takes a great deal of positive self-talk and motivation that only Allah can give us.


Have you turned to Allah? Have you sought His guidance and help? That is always the first step. I suggest you get a trusted relative or friend and sit down and look at your options and discuss them one by one. I think it’s better to have a friend or relative with you to prevent you from sliding into negativity. A good friend will always help us bounce back into the realm of hope! So go through your options and identify the skills you will have to attain to achieve your goals. Make a plan; one that is comfortable to work through with weekly targets. Let your friend follow-up with you in case you go through a low time and lack resolve. You have to find an area of work that you enjoy; that makes you feel good; something that you look forward to everyday.


Also, the ‘shrugging and wondering if you should bother’ really has to stop! That kind of attitude gets you absolutely nowhere. Every person on this earth has something to do and give and we can spend a life time finding out what it is and then fulfilling it, well that can take forever! The idea is that life is so full and rich and so are we, but too often we limit ourselves by our attitudes and despondency. So please, you are an important part of this world and have the duty to do your best and be the best you can be. I look forward to hearing from you next month, insha Allah, to see how you have been.


May Allah open your heart that you will see the blessings you have and may He inspire you to continually strive to develop yourself and be a positive force in the world today…

Selma Cook

Question four



I am a man in my mid-20s and I find difficult in making friends. I was an introvert while growing up-shy and extremely quite in school, college but currently I find myself having changed considerably -at work - I cannot sit quietly at all- am restless, talk to almost everyone in my team- and I do make a conscious effort to be friendly and try to be polite, considerate, and also try not to hurt anyone by speech of tongue; also try to be funny -smiling, laughing,joking,and try to see others happy too.
Inspite such efforts, I find people not very considerate in extending their friendship or closeness with me...sometimes I feel empty , but keep trying -I am trying to develop myself into a friendly warm person whom anyone can approach. I also love one brother who I meet at the mosque, he is around 19/20 yrs older than me- I just get very happy on meeting him, always try to meet him; and miss him when I don't see him for a long time; but he does not reciprocate the same way; I don't expect him to do it- but since Allah has blessed with love in our hearts I just try to spend that on people- whether they like me or not. I knowin order to be happy I should not expect anything from people- but yet in the end I don't have a choice except to love the people I like with a conscious effort; because I did observe and feel that I am not being loved by people because of my nature I guess. Either something's wrong with me or do the people in today's busy world don't need love at all?




Salam alaikum, thanks so much for sending in your important question. ‘Do people in today’s busy world need love?’ Well, they certainly do! Every living thing needs love, but perhaps some people have forgotten how to love and be loved. Yes, we rush around in this life, meeting deadlines, doing the ‘job’ and sometimes forget why we are doing it all.


The problem you are facing though, is how you feel about your situation. You were shy growing up and are now trying very hard to be a balanced person. Really, all the characteristics you identified are things we should all be trying to develop within ourselves. Yet, despite your efforts you are not getting positive responses from the people around you. I also sense that you have a low opinion of yourself even though you try to be happy and make others happy. I commend you for your efforts, it takes courage and fortitude to try and move away from anything negative in our life.


There are two levels of happiness; the outer one that we show to others by our facial expressions, words, gestures and so on and then the deeper level, that is sometimes called ‘joy’ because it has an essential nature that exists even though the ‘outer’ life may indeed be difficult and sad at times. I am talking about the ability to find joy in life; the ability to sit in a negative place or situation and see beyond the obvious into the meaning that lies behind our everyday lives and despite any negative element, feel at peace, happy.


To find joy, we first have to make peace with ourselves and be true to ourselves, while at the same time, realistically trying to improve ourselves in every way we can and doing so with an intention to thank our Creator, and be a force of good in this world.

Making peace with our inner self is vital if we are to exude outer happiness and spread love to those around us in a way that lifts the heart of the person this love is directed to. If such things do not emerge from an inner self that is calm, confident and at peace, it may not come over as sincere and balanced.


Perhaps your feelings of restlessness are your spirit’s attempts to balance your life – inner and outer – because we all seek and need balance. But like everything else balance needs a pivot and ours is in the spirit; in the heart, where we develop our relation with the Creator, and try to please Him, know Him and be grateful to Him – this is the seat of joy. It is also the seat of insight and awareness that guides us in our relations with others.


You are right, we do not have a choice over the feelings of love we have; they are granted to us; a gift from the Creator but we do have the choice of how we will deal with them. And remember, people need to be loved in different ways. Perhaps some of the people around you need to be loved in a subtle way. Perhaps some do not respond well to obvious indications of this wonderful feeling. We all need sensitivity to direct our responses to our feelings in an appropriate way and this sensitivity in developed and nurtured in the spirit; in the same place that feels the joy of life. If we can develop our spiritual lives and make it a habit to think positively, objectively with the intention to do good and with feelings of love for others, we will ultimately strike a balance between what we feel and how we behave.


I pray that you learn to find joy in life, in your own self and that attain calmness, quiet confidence, feel comfortable with silence and accept people as they are, and accept yourself also. Allah bless you..

Selma Cook

Question five


Salaam alaikum Sister,

In truth, I'm doing pretty ok. My concern is for some of my friends and colleagues at work. With the economic problems, some of them are taking it pretty badly. What can one do to console people in a situation like this? There is so much of dispair and while I can't help resolve the effect of the crisis, there must be something I can do to influence positive attitude / change.

Thank you and take care. 




Salam alaikum, many thanks for your question. Yes, the financial crisis is affecting so many people around the world, yet like everything else in life, is not entirely negative. Every experience we have in life has the potential to teach us more about ourselves and the world around us.


So much of the modern life is built around ‘work and making money’ and yes, this does have a place in life but if people have defined themselves by their ability to make money and gain material possessions, then this is a fundamental problem. The financial crisis can serve to help us see how we have defined ourselves; what lies beneath our money-making abilities. If we live a shallow life – one of work, sleep, watching tv – and not thinking, feeling or caring beyond that, then the financial crisis may well be completely debilitating on every level of our being. At the same time, it can be a means of people taking a close look at their lives and adjusting their thinking, intentions and approach.


If a person has a healthy balance, both spiritually and physically, this crisis and its associated problems will be dealt with in a calm, confident way. Why? Because such a person will be totally aware that rizk (provision) is from Allah and that if we need something, even money to pay bills, we have to turn to Him with faith and hope as well as an active, positive spirit that is seeking to do its best to attain what is needed. This balanced kind of approach will help the person to be calm in the midst of crisis and hopeful when there is disappointment.


Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of the international financial crisis is that we take stock of the direction our lives are taking. How flexible are we, if it becomes necessary that we take a different kind of job than the one we are used to, or if we have to live through hard times for a while? Being given the situation where we are forced to take a good hard look at ourselves and the way our societies are growing and inclining, can be an immense blessing that may well help shape the future in a more positive way.


At the same time, this time of economic difficulty is a test to see how much we are prepared to reach out and help others in need. How materialistic have we become? How willing are we to share whatever meager resources we have? How dependent have we become on government services instead of family, community?


I pray that we will all learn to make use of the difficulties in life to help us grow, learn and reach within ourselves and also to reach out to others..


Selma Cook

Question six


Salam sister Selma,

It's me again...It is true that definitely my procrastination stems from fear. See when i was growing up i liked business as a subject and it fascinated me, but alhamdulillah ended up studying medicine as my dad is a doctor ans the family wanted me to be one. My dad never dictated what i wanted to do or which field i should venture, but as he is avery very talented doctor it was very hard to walk in his shoes, and most of the time heard comments from my colleagues that my success wan't mine rather the name of my dad pushed me through. That in itself totally turned me of clinical medicine. But allah (swt) knows best if he allowed me to study medicine HE has His reasons..Kheir insha allah i will try to explore more and do my best. But one more important fact is i find it difficult to decide on something and start analysing options. I can tell you one thing, my current passion is to learn prophetic medicine and practice that, so insha allah i can find a way to do that.

I always say to my friends, what do you do when you know that you are your worst enemy. and i guess in every other aspect i can win, but in professional aspect it is really crippling me. and it is not a good feeling. I wish to be useful for the ummah, fulfill my purpose in this duniya, insha allah.

If you wish to add anything in the light of these information, please do..if not, Jazakallahu Alfi kheiran for your help. 




Salam alaikum, nice to see you back so soon! It is difficult to walk in someone else’s shadow and if you have found things that are interesting and motivating to you, then I say, go for it! You mentioned that you are interested in prophetic medicine, well I heard there are courses available in the UAE that run for about two years. Why not try to combine your passions in life – prophetic medicine and business – and do some volunteer work in countries where people need help in development. There is a great need to develop programs and small-scale projects for poor families. In this way you could put your business skills to good use and teach people about health and so on.

The skies the limit!


You mentioned that you find it difficult to decide on something and analyze options. This comes from a feeling of lack of self confidence within your own self and I believe that after you start making smaller decisions in your life and stick to your plan, you will develop this very important characteristic. Don’t rush. Consult family and friends but keep in mind that you are the one who will ultimately stand in front of Allah on the day of judgment and be asked about what you did with your life. Your family and friends and all those people who have an opinion now, will not be there. So learn to stand alone and decide and live with the support of Allah that is always present while seeking to nurture and love those around you and be a positive force in this world.

All the best..

Selma Cook

Question seven



For a positive change in life- what do you suggest? How about reading books, and working on a hobby which I'm good at? How do I squeeze in time in my work day schedule to read some good books as I think it makes a big difference. What else do you suggest to do other than praying to Allah




Salam alaikum, many thanks for your question. The thing is that in life things are always changing. Nothing stays the same. So keeping this in mind, we should realize that it is our challenge to direct our intentions and efforts in such a way that there is positive change.  


Reading books and getting a hobby are things that can feed the spirit or just pass time, but they alone, are certainly not enough to spur us on to greater things. There is a moment, or even more than one, in our lives when we will face a test; a defining moment, when we will show ourselves and the world around us what we are really made of. For some, this financial crisis is a defining situation, for others it could be a relationship, a temptation that we do or do not overcome and so on.


All our lives through we are making choices that either develop who we are or chip away at who we are and when these defining moments come around, we get to see how we have been doing. If we find that we are lacking, then it is not time to be despondent, but time to get up and start moving with greater will, firmness and piety, and if we find that we are successful, then it is time to be humble and reach out to others and continue with patience.


We can not underestimate the affect of Prayer in our lives. As Muslims, we pray five times a day, but that doesn’t mean we forget about our Creator for the rest of the time. Ideally, we would learn to live in a state when we remember Allah very often. Even when reading a book, watching a film, talking to people, sitting and thinking, driving the car, or puzzling over a problem we will see Allah’s greatness, wisdom and mercy. Prayer and all the acts of worship are tools we have to develop our own inner sense and insight with the goal of being close to Allah always and Him being (in the meaning of a hadith) ‘the eyes with which we see and the ears with which we hear.’


As our spiritual selves grow and become more finely in tune, we will live our lives in a more positive and joyful way while being open to life and whatever comes our way with quiet, calm faith in Allah and confidence in our ability to deal with whatever befalls.

All the best..

Selma Cook

Question eight



I have a wonderful group of friends, but lately I've been finding I need something more. What I mean is, I don't want to lose my friends who are good people, but whenever we are together we talk about the same things and nothing substantial. I have been withdrawn a bit because I don't feel fulfilled, mostly spiritually. I'm not sure in which direction I should go.

Thank you 




Salam alaikum, many thanks for sending in your question. The problem is when we rely on others for our spiritual fulfillment. Sometimes we depend on family and friends for this but the truth is that it is us, individually, who have the responsibility to be close to Allah, to develop our inner selves and find joy and meaning in life.


It is true that our friends affect our mood and thinking and sometimes even our habits, but we have to live a rich spiritual life so that wherever we go and whoever we are with we will have insight and the ability to bring about something positive. If you find you are in a place where people are talking about everyday mundane things, then you have the capacity to feed the conversation and push it in different directions. You may only be with these people for a short time but you can make that time inspiring, thought provoking, and interesting.


Don’t just rely on others to motivate you. If you resolve within yourself that you will be the one who helps and motivates others, you will automatically feel these things yourself!

All the best..

Selma Cook

Question nine


Salaams Sister,

Am going through a phase in my life where my values are being questioned as a muslim. For the past 9 years (am 40 now)I led a life of utter neglect in worldly persuits shunning away from the teachings of Islam and the precious values it has. Now the life has taken a sharp turn for me. On battling with my haraam addiction I am faced with the reality. The addiction let me astray from my faith and Allah SWT. I have joined an online group of Muslims who are facing the same issue and some also managed to come out of it. In the process I have also started commiting for the first time in 9 years to the 5 times prayers, reading and learning more about what i lost in those 9 years and whether I will be able to get over my addiction and transporm myself. The past few weeks have been like carthasis and a shock to my system...physiologically and psychologically. I know that change is possible but still have a doubt of falling in my old ways and away from the precious faith. What guidelines would you be able to provide me with to eliminate my doubts of relapse or total breakdown? I am feeling very weak and may not be able to hold my faith in steadfast. The re acceptance of my faith and start of practice, is the most essential part of my healing process I believe.




Salam alaikum, many thanks for sending in your question and telling us about your problem. May Allah keep you close to Him and grant you a full recovery.

It takes so much courage and fortitude for you to have come this far. I believe that whatever hardship or challenge we face, we have the ability to handle it. That alone, should give you courage to move forward when you feel weak and vulnerable. The power of change and emerging from this addiction lies within your own self. It is up to you to tap into that innate strength and will and steer a firm course. The mind will throw out all kinds of suggestions to us, things that motivate fear and the desire to recoil. The mind may also insinuate that the state we are currently in will remain so indefinitely, or at least for a very long time and this feeds our feelings of helplessness.

However, nothing stays the same, things are always changing and this state you are in now and the feelings you are experiencing will pass. You just have to hold on a bit longer. The greatest power you have is your faith in Allah and your hope and will to survive; to be positive. When these fearful thoughts and feelings threaten to overwhelm you, maintain a quiet voice that says ‘I will make it through this, insha Allah’ and hold on tight.


And when you feel that you are sinking and cannot remain any longer then make wudu and prayer two rakats and give yourself over to your Creator. You will feel better and you will overcome, insha Allah. I pray for your healing and success. All the best…

Selma Cook

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