316. Coach Salah Abdul-Razacq (Coach, Annoor Academy of Knoxville)


Coach Salah was the Physical Education instructor for 200 children at Annoor Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a licensed health and fitness educator from the Atlanta Public School system. He was also a very active community member of the Muslim community in Knoxville and also Atlanta in previous years.

On October 5, 2015 he was struck in a hit-and-run car accident and was hospitalized until October 9, 2015— the day which he passed away.


301. MH Exclusive: Shannaan Dawda


An Atlanta Native, Shannan Dawda is the CEO, Financial Coach and Founder of True Financial, a company dedicated to helping educate and train individuals how to build productive and positive financial habits.

MH: Can you tell us a little about your background and what got you into financial coaching?

SD: I was born in Atlanta, GA and grew up in Lithonia, GA, which is a city about 25 minutes East of Atlanta. My parents are originally from Accra, Ghana. Their story is phenomenal how they came to America with one suit case each and have made it this far, Masha’Allah. As a kid math was my favorite subject. I also liked the idea of business and all the aspects associated with it especially after seeing my Father be a successful business man. When I was child I witnessed a bankruptcy or two and promised to never put me or my family through that. I guess it stuck with me because when I attended Georgia Southern University I obtained a Finance Degree then decided to stay and complete an Accounting Degree as well to obtain a solid foundation of financial world. After graduating college in 2009 I went into the workforce as any individual would but it wasn’t until I went through my own financial empowerment process myself of cleaning up my finances did I realize that there was something here that I could share with people as I looked around at all the financial turmoil going on in our country. Alhumdulilah in 2013 I passed the CPA exam and the dream became a reality in matter of no time. It was as if it was my destiny for me to help people gain control of their finances because things just started falling into place quicker than I expected. Alhumdulilah today we have True Financial.

MH: Why is personal finance so important?

Personal Finance is so important because it is the one area people spend the least amount of time on but everything we do revolves around it. Well managed personal finance is the one thing that can give you true freedom allowing you to do things you never done before and capitalize on opportunities that you would have never been ready for. It makes life much easier and a lot less stressful. Studies have shown the individuals and couples who are in control of their finances tend to have much better relationships with people and better marriages. So it is very important that we understand how to win financially by equipping ourselves with financial information and philosophy that is guaranteed to win.

MH: Many people don’t know the basics of personal finance and get caught up in credit card debt, loans, and other financial burdens that end up in accruing enormous amounts of debt. What advice would you give for individuals seeking to educate themselves about the basics of personal finance?

I would recommend that they begin to seek help but not just any help but the kind of help where someone will educate them while guiding them down the right path to attain their goals. The area of personal finance can appear very complex due to all the products and messages being portrayed to the people. At True Financial that we not only coach our clients but educate them to make well informed decisions.

MH: Many Muslims struggle with the issue of interest and loans when purchasing homes, cars, and other products. What advice would you give Muslim college students to learn more about interest, interest rates, and loans?

Honestly I do not believe in debt so I would advise that they stay away from it and pay cash for all purchases. Debt cripples individuals and families by taking portions of their most powerful wealth building tool, their income, which could have been invested to build great wealth. If one has no debt than interest is not even an issue. However, I know home buying is very expensive in America so it’s the only instance that I consider debt to be okay. Even then I recommend a 15 year mortgage and paying of the house as soon as possible, ideally in less than 8-10 years.  I would recommend that they do a lot research on the Sharia’h compliant options that exist for Muslims. There are quite a few halal options these days when seeking to purchase a home than in the past.
MH: With the rising rates of college tuition many students are unsure how to fund their undergraduate education and graduate school education. What advice would you give to Muslim college students on ways to fund their undergraduate and graduate education?  

Ideally in this instance we encourage parents to start saving for their child’s college educations as soon as the child was born by putting away an calculated amount every month to reach desired college fund amount. Unfortunately this is not the case for most so I recommend three things. 1) Apply for in-state schools possibly even attending a community college for the first two years. It’s a lot cheaper and saves you thousands. 2) Apply to a lot of scholarships, I’m talking hundreds. There was a woman who applied to 1000 scholarships and only received 10 but she went to college fully paid for by those 10 scholarships. 3) Work while they are in college. Studies show that students who work while in college are more likely to graduate on time and perform better in the workforce than those who do not because they learn time management. Plus it puts extra money in their pockets

MH: What tips would you give to Muslim college students on how to save money during their undergraduate education?  

I would recommend that they eat self-cooked meals (cheaper and better for you), compare on campus to off-campus living cost, If they live off campus share a parking pass with someone who has classes on alternate days, work while in college, and buy used books online.
MH: What tips would you give Muslim college students who have college loans and debt to pay off to ensure they pay off their loans and debts in an efficient and timely manner?

I would recommend when they graduate and secure a job to stay accustom to the broke college student life and get on a detailed budget. Live on the bare minimums and attack that student loan debt with any income they have remaining after necessary living expenses. As hard as it is for many to move back home I highly recommend living at home with the parents though this process. It’s the only way to effectively eliminate you student loan debt quickly other than an employer paying the balance off or the joining the military.
MH: Are there ways Muslim college students can learn how to invest their money and make money while studying in college?

I don’t encourage students to get caught up trying to invest while in school. I want them to stay focused and to keep that money around to ensure they have enough money to finish school. The fact that they are looking to invest shows they are, I hope, debt free, and in a much better position financially than the average student. Now there are exceptions when a student has a come into a large amount of money, but they can contact me personally to discuss those instances.

MH: What resources are available to teach Muslim college students about the basics of personal finance, loans, investments and budgeting money?

At the end of the day it’s all about research, seeking a Financial Coach and being willing to think outside the box financial. 9 times out of 10 if you are handling your money differently than most people in around you then you are more than likely going to succeed because “Normal in America is broke.” Seek good financial coaches who are looking to teach you about finance. Stay away for those who are in it to sell you products because they are not worried about your wellbeing even if they say they are. They are just trying to make a sale.

MH: Where can people learn more about your work?

People can learn more about my work at http://www.truefinancialcoaches .com

294. Shannaan Dawda (Financial Coach, True Financial)


An Atlanta Native, Shannaan Dawda was born at Grady Memorial Hospital in 1986. Although a proud Grady baby and Southerner, his parents moved from Accra, Ghana to Georgia in the spring of 1982 to experience a different way of life. Growing up in a household that valued education, hard work and perseverance, Shannaan graduated from Georgia Southern University 2009 Cum Laude with degrees in Accounting and Finance. From there, he began working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, GA before moving back to Atlanta in 2012 to work for Frazier and Deeter CPA Firm. He officially passed all parts of his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam in February of 2013 and soon afterwards founded True Financial LLC. True Financial was founded in order to empower people to regain financial control of their lives by providing the necessary coaching and tools to help them become financially self-sufficient. In September of 2013 Shannaan was trained by Dave Ramsey to be an even better financial coach. Shannaan is actively involved in the community through organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha, Atlanta Muslim Young Professionals, and Camp Horizon. He currently resides in Atlanta.

Website: http://truefinancialcoaches.com

MH Exclusive: Hammad Aslam

Hammad Aslam

Hammad Aslam was set to start medical school in Augusta in the fall of 2009 when a car accident almost took his life. But paralysis from the chest down only delayed his plans by one year. Hammad has overcome many obstacles and is now pursuing his doctorate at the Medical College of Georgia.

MH: You overcame a pretty serious life-changing event in your life. Can you tell us more about it and how you overcame it?

I was in a car accident with my family in May of 2009. Our SUV hydroplaned off the road and hit a tree. The tree fell on top of my corner of the vehicle, crushing me under the roof and glass. Thankfully, no one else was seriously hurt. My dad fractured a bone in his forearm and had a small neck injury. My mom had a minor injury to her ribs. My younger sister broke her leg and my youngest sister was untouched. My older brother was away at the time.

I am just blessed to be alive. I received a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding in my brain, nerve damage in my right arm, and a complete spinal cord injury. I spent a few weeks in an unconscious and semi-conscious state. I do not recall anything from this time period and I do not even remember getting into an accident.

I came consciously aware of things a few weeks later. At the time, I was in the traumatic brain injury unit of the Shepherd Center because my brain injury was so severe that the doctors all predicted that I would be permanently inflicted with mental deficits on top of my physical handicaps. I spent a few weeks in that unit before I was transferred to the spinal cord injury unit. I spent three months as an inpatient at the Shepherd Center and continued to come there for therapy for several months after I was discharged and living at home.

MH: How have friends and family helped you overcome some of the challenge you’ve faced?

I had and still have a very strong support system consisting of my family and friends. They have always supported any and all goals I have had. They have been there in my darkest of times, when I have been let down, when I have fallen and when I have failed. Thanks to my family and friends, it has been much easier adjusting to this new life and new circumstances. I was never really allowed to consider myself different from anyone else and I was never really given the time for any self-pity.

My parents and friends never let me feel that I was any different. I knew that I was placed in that situation for a reason. In fact, I was thankful to be the one lying in the hospital bed and not any of my family members or friends.

MH: Did faith play a role in overcoming your challenges, if so, how?

It’s very easy to blame and be angry at God or other people when we are in disadvantageous circumstances. It would have been way too easy to ask, “Why me? Why was I chosen for this?” Instead, I have been thankful. No one else who was in vehicle at the time was seriously injured like me. None of my friends have been injured like this. Thank God. I would never want to see any of them in this situation. I believe there is a reason for everything and that we are given only as much as we can handle. Therefore, I am thankful that I have been put in this situation and not anyone else. I know that this is all part of a plan that none us can foresee and that in the end, things will be alright.

MH: What inspired you to pursue medical school?

I have always wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. After my accident, though, I knew I wanted this even more. It became even more apparent to me that my true calling was in the relief of the suffering of others. I have suffered a lot and I do not want anyone else to suffer like I have or suffer in their own circumstances, whatever those may be. Medical school was also a big challenge. I knew that people doubted me with many things so I wanted to prove to them—and to myself—that I could do it.

MH: What challenges did you face and have you faced on your road to medical school?

The first challenges in medical school included just adapting to living completely alone. I was stubborn and I somehow convinced my family to allow me to move away to a different city and live by myself, without any roommates or helpers. This was only a year after my accident and I was still adapting to my disabilities. Doing everything in a wheelchair for the first time took longer than I expected.

On top of adapting myself both physically and mentally to these new circumstances, I also found myself struggling in medical school. I was quite timid and had a significant inferiority complex. I felt like everyone was smarter than me. I was afraid to speak up during our discussions. I also found myself studying harder I ever had before and harder than anyone else in my class, but I was barely getting by. This was extremely frustrating and I was very upset about this. But I adapted. I knew I could do this, one way or another, so I adjusted by study habits to study both smarter and harder than ever before.

MH: You certainly have remained active in the Atlanta Muslim community. Tell us more about your work and what motivates you to serve others?

The first year after my accident before I started medical school, I knew I had to do something productive. I knew that it would be selfish of me to try and work hard only for the benefit of myself. So, I decided to immerse myself in different volunteer activities, especially since I wasn’t doing much at home. I knew that doing things in the service of others would in turn benefit me more than anyone else, in both the short and long term.

MH: What advice would you give to others facing the same challenges you’ve faced on pursuing their dreams and goals in life?

First off, I wish and pray that no one faces the same challenges I have faced. That being said, many people face their own challenges in their pursuit for accomplishing the tasks that they plan or of which they dream. As I stated earlier, it is too easy to blame our circumstances on God or on other people. It is too easy to simply accept our circumstances as “just the way God wants them to be”. Instead, I feel like people should not look at different situations as something from God and that must simply be accepted, but these situations should be looked upon as challenges. It is these challenges and the way we react to them—or fail to react to them—that define us.

MH: What advice would you give to those seeking to pursue medical school? 

I hear all the time about people who have plans to go to medical school. To these people, I propose that they do some self reflection and contemplate upon why they want to purse this profession. Are they doing this because their parents have been telling them their whole lives that this is a good idea? Are they doing this because they feel like it’s a noble profession? Are they doing this for the job security?

I knew that this was my calling and I knew the disabilities that I had been given would only help me and help others in the long run. Therefore, I was willing to work harder than anyone else I knew.

I suggest others really “get their hands dirty” in terms of learning about this profession. Learn about the ups and downs. Learn about life. Perhaps more importantly, learn about death. I have faced my own mortality and it has given me a completely new perspective on life. It was only after I had almost everything taken away from me that I was able to think clearly.

You can follow Hammad here on his blog: http://mindofhammad.blogspot.com/

215. Kulsoom Abdullah (Olympic Weightlifter, Atlanta, GA)

Kulsoom Abdullah is an Pakistani-American computer engineer, who has been Olympic Weightlifting for three years and Crossfitting for two years. Kulsoom started competing in Olympic Weightlifting competitions in March 2010 and obtained the Crossfit Level I certification the same year.

She completed a undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.  Kulsoom then finished her PhD in Electrical/Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  Kulsoom launched this website {http://www.liftingcovered.com/} to document her experiences weightlifting in her effort to compete at U.S. national competitions.  She has attended her first national competition in Iowa in July 2011.

At present, Kulsoom is conducting post-doctoral research at her alma mater, Georgia Tech. More information about her research can be found at the following website: http://kulsoom.net/.









204. Hammad Aslam (Medical Student, Medical College of Georgia)

Hammad Aslam was set to start medical school in Augusta in the fall of 2009 when a car accident almost took his life. But paralysis from the chest down only delayed his plans by one year. Hammad has overcome many obstacles and is now pursuing his doctorate at the Medical College of Georgia.