Solomon’s Birthday with LOVE July 11, 2022

My love for you is in everything you do….” These words came as a strong message to me from you, Solomon. I received them soon after I heard that you had died in a car crash in Bangkok, January 31, 2012. It feels like you are with me, not somewhere else, both then and now. You had a full-to-the-brim life in your 34 years.  Knowing this has supported me greatly, allowing grief to feel less hurtful. You would be 45 today. I’m celebrating your life right here.

Happy Birthday Solomon

Here is a poem I wrote in the early 1990s

Lines That Bind                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

When Solomon was twelve

he mentioned one night over spaghetti 

that he found out mediocre was a real word.

Someone not in our family had used it.

He always thought his Dad made it up.

Ammon was three

when we lived on the fault line in Olema.

We walked the woodpecker trail

in the National Seashore,

where the sign in the meadow read:

This is where the farmer’s cow 

fell into a crack in the 1906 earthquake.

The only thing left above ground was the tail.

My son looked looked up at me

eyes stretched wide.

“Where do you go when you die, Mom?”

I lived with this question,

felt the bright metal of it

crack and join at high temperature,

made a small book of words and drawings

of butterfly cocoons, apple trees, and 

a Scottish bagpiper lying in a coffin.

            Some day I’ll go to Alaska

            for the thaw.

            I’ll stand by a big frozen river and listen

            as the ice breaks up, rumbling, scraping,

            feel the world let go.  <>  <>  <>

Here are some email clips  Solomon sent us. 

He sent a photo of an eagle further away than this picture, a blurry one he took with his cell phone to his dad with this message: “I think I’m picking up the slack in the bird department while you, Dad are out of the country. Here are some shots of a Bald Eagle that was nested right next to our houseboat in Shasta last week. If you zoom in on the pic you can get a very good look at him. After seeing him in person it’s no wonder we chose this bird as our national mascot…  🙂 ”  

Another email note he sent us when he was interpreting Spanish/English on a snow board trip to CHILE:
“So I gotta be really quick. Gotta go Chillian today with the tour. Am working all this week, riding (snowboard) every day, having a blast. I am just in Santiago for this morning. I had a crazy night last night dj-ing then stayed up most of the night in a club where Pablo Neruda used to read his poetry… Super bueno.  Mom, can you let me know your Burningman plans?
Much Love, your son in Chillyyyyyyy….”
SnowBoarding in Chile

A birthday invitiation 2008:

“Hello Family….I am extending an invite to our wonderful family for a day of boating/birthday celebration as I bring in the 31st year of my time on our little rock. We thought it would be fun to have everyone go out on a Sunday, as Sundays seem to work pretty well for everyone. The boat is located in Tracy about an hour from SF…picnic lunch. Any questions? Hope you all can make it. Much Love, Solomon”

Boating Birthday
Here goes
Yes! YES!!

Your friends are thinking of you today, Solomon and you are with us taking us into snow, waves and always, the best music. We all miss and love you!

Solomon 1/31/12 — It’s been Ten Years…

I’ll be seeing you…in all the old familiar places 
That this heart of mine embraces all day thru
I’ll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new.
I’ll be looking at the moon—but I’ll be seeing you.  
Song 1938 I’ll be Seeing You

the look of him /the beauty of the man
is his comings and /his goings…
his place is never taken…
which is  /the kind of man he is                
—Lucille Clifton  the kind of man he is

DJ Solomon, by Oona Haggerty (Solomon’s niece)

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
—Pharell Williams

Your absence has gone through me 
like thread through a needle 
Everything I do is stitched with its color    
—W.S. Merwin

Sending you love and gratitude Solomon. For your heart, wisdom and full life.

Solomon Samuel Kahn 7/11/77 — 12/31/12

DJ Solomon on his birthday 2021

Solomon was born on July 11, 1977, and left us on January 31, 2012. He would be 44 on this birthday. For all who still feel a loving connection I offer a short tribute to Solomon as DJ SOLOMON, the way he offered music to so very many friends and how we moved and grooved in his inspired musical mixtures. Thanks to Solomon’s brother Ammon for making this short clip. You are with us Solomon!

Celebrating Solomon—nine years 1/31/12

January 31 our son Solomon lost his life in a car accident in Bangkok Thailand. Every year at this time I write to you Solomon, to share some beautiful moments of your life and celebrate what you brought to Shabda and me, Nicole, Ammon and his family—and all your cousins, friends, sports and music fans and long-time-ago schoolmates. 

Dear Solomon, I was thinking about you and music, and Pharrell Williams makes me smile and feel like moving, like I did to your DJ music awhile ago…when I listen to his song from 2013  – HAPPY —

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do…

Solomon, Nicole, Ammon, Laura

LAS VEGAS! According to the pictures it was March 27, 2007 that my friend Palden and I flew to Las Vegas to hear you make music and relax at the Hard Rock Café. You set it up so we were VIP’s with a nice room overlooking pools and a waterfall. Once a week you and Chris Clouse played in an outside restaurant – Hard Rock Cafe – there inthe dinner hours. We got in a taxi just before 10. “From 10 pm until way late”  
DJ Solomon was the music for STUDIO 54 at the Las Vegas MGM GRANDE

There was a trail of velvet ropes holding people who wanted to enter, between the lobby entrance and Studio 54. We went to the crowded club doorway. Inside the music pounded.  A Hollywood type doorman looked doubtfully at the two women who were clearly over 40… “I’m the DJ’s mom,” I said. He looked amazed, surprised as he’d been all night. “Well, that’s a first!” he laughed and stamped our wrists.  Inside it was full out. Loud and peaking—both the energy and the music. After about 5 minutes, with us pressing our way into the second room, past a very small DJ booth, the music stopped. It was less that 60 seconds before Solomon plugged in and turned up the volume on his set. The dancers and arm wavers picked up and went with it, as if he didn’t miss a beat. I turned to Palden and said, “tonight I know that Solomon can do this full time as long as he wants. He’s a pro.”

None of us can forget your passion for boarding—water, snow— You called yourself an adrenalin junkie, loved speeding in your car, on your bike —OOoooo— the beauty of acceleration! This from friend Leila Burrows:

Leila and William

Leila writes me: Every year at this time I find myself remembering Solomon. Our friendship was quick and fast in large part because among other things we shared three loves : Water sports, Snow sports and Nicole…  Solomon, I’m sorry my husband Brendan and son William never got the chance to know you. When I learned our baby was a boy, I thought, wonderful! The chance to raise a good man. You were a good man. Although William will never get to shred or go boating with you, we will raise him to be like you: kind, inclusive, generous and fun. We will play in the snow and not take for granted what a gift it is to be alive. I love you, I miss you, I thank you. ❤️  Leila

Your nieces have become amazing girls as the photos show. Maeve was in utero 9 years ago, but Oona had a ride on your shoulders in December 2011. Wish you were here to be with them and teach them a few of your best tricks in the sports world and on the music boards.

Solomon and Oona 2011

Oona and Maeve, 2020
I miss you too, Sweetie!
Solo and his Dad Shabda at Lake Tahoe

In this difficult time of the Covid Pandemic I am glad you don’t have to worry about how the world of music can support you. (Although I’m sure you and Nicole would have a plan!). Live music played in concert halls, City Hall, clubs and outdoor places is so much better than on zoom. I’m wishing you could see the branches with plump green avocados in the garden. Most amazing of all is the banana tree with clusters of new bananas here in Terra Linda! I’ve never seen either fruit in Marin County.

Solomon, DJ for the Warriors!

We miss you and appreciate all our great memories when this time rolls around each year. Know you are with us— KNOW I take you with me and share you with all the many friends who love you and will read this.

Remembering These Early Women

Our mother ancestors hold the knowledge of the womb of love and compassion. Combining history’s stories with poetry allows me to attune to a communicated essence carried and shared in the tradition of Lucille Clifton who wrote a poem on Joan of Arc: to joan, …did you never wonder/ oh fantastical joan/ did you never cry in the sun’s face/ unreal unreal?

Another favorite poem is W.S. Merwin’s Odysseus: Always the setting forth was the same,/ Same sea, same dangers waiting for him/ As though he had got nowhere but older.

Traveling with Joan and Odysseus, the creation of inner cinema of lives that become known, felt more deeply— continues to have tremendous appeal to me. After joining Moroccan Sufi women in chanting (zikr) more than 20 years ago, I began to read the stories of the women in their line of ancestors, back to Prophet Muhammad. I felt their strength and influence on the man who guided the birth of Islam long ago. They are still with us, here today.

From my book: Fatima’s Touch, pp. 43, 44…


It was a hot day. Umm Ayman looked in the window and saw Fatima (daughter of Muhammad) asleep, with the millstone spinning, the cradle holding Husayn rocking itself, and a hand raised in praise. She went to the Prophet and told him what she saw. She asked him, “Who was grinding, rocking, praising?” He laughed and told her the names of three angels.Husayn holds the tender place in the story, as the son constantly remembered in Shia history, assassinated decades later in the massacre at Karbala. Umm Ayman was the servant of Amina, mother of the Prophet. She assisted in the birth of Muhammad and years later—his children. She was the rock of the family.

While She Sleeps

One grinds. One praises God. One rocks Husayn.

Uplifted gesture in the air—what’s this?

Two angels brought by Gabriel—one mills

the grain for Fatima, one gestures praise.

You see it and you don’t. Not flesh and blood,

nor anything like that. Transparent hands.

Who rocks Husayn? What fingertips can nudge

The cradle? In the room his mother sleeps,

exhausted, fasting, ripe for angel aid.

Her grindstone turns, as if it were a top

and bread could make itself. Who rocks Husayn?

A touch so light, the child smiles in his sleep.

The outside world is still, the stems of thoughts

curl tucked inside, while Gabriel bends down

to stroke his cheek, his heart-shaped face. Don’t ask

Who rocks Husayn, that little cup of love.

Encyclopedia of Fatima, 17:119, 120. See also Muslin, The English Translations, 4, #1701. Form iambic pentameter — blank verse.

And from my book Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad this poem:

Wife of the Prophet

It is the way for the Wife of the Prophet
not to turn her back on us. After 
she notices we are looking to her, she opens the door 
and beckons us in. But we are just watchers,
wanting to be close-up from a distance. We stare
at one young wife, leaning forward, her chin
on Muhammad’s shoulder, her fingers
squeezing his arm while the Abyssinian woman
dances. Another wife gives Muhammad
a turn of phrase to calm a thousand 
disobedient men. We notice the well-shaped 
mouth, the strong white teeth,
her damp hands on a towel. A future wife
stands looking at Muhammad’s open face.
We hear her gasp and understand. She’s modest. Still,
we can’t stop looking. Close details
make each wife’s bustling seem intimate,
but not too real. We wonder what we’d see
inside. There might be holy striving, 
talk of paradise, a questioning remark,
a judgment. We may never know,
although there may be truth there
that we need, some understanding 
from the source; some word of how it was
before something startled the world
into thinking — us and them.[i]

[i] End notes: There is a hadith that  Aisha, watched the dancers in the Mosque, illustrating how relaxed Muhammad was with spontaneous expression. The source is the Alim on CD-ROM, narrator al-Tirmidhi, Aisha hadith, #1565. The other references are to his wives, Umm Salama (at Hudaybiyya) and Zaynab.

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After Untold and Fatima’s Touch, I continue to write about women of history. Most recent is Rabia al’Adawiyya of Basra, the 8th century Sufi woman seen as a saint by many in the Middle East.

What did Rabia Wear?                                                                                                    

Rabia, I can’t help it. I’m accustomed to bring home the landscape, an Islamic culture like something out of the Yunus Emre Netflix series from Turkey, with its dirt roads, people walking with mules and hand carts, a minaret with the call to prayer. It’s hot and damp in Basra. Palm fronds will shelter as a roof. What are you are wearing as you walk in longing for God? Sandals in the mud, and a layer or two. Not dirty, but pale cloth, a gauzy veil scrubbed in well water then set to dry on a line near the door. The long sleeved tunic is woven to last, a coarse cotton. I think you were gifted with used tunics from a devoted friend or two. Here’s beautiful fabric, say pale green, with the woven words of God almost worn out on the sleeves. The scribes leave you clothed in nothing but words, but that’s just their way to show how Holy you are. Along with this: robed in the quintessence of pain…  Pain? I want to see the fabric move as you walk, haul water, gather dates, or drape it on a hook before bed—when you slip into something else, a lighter covering. As a woman, I like the practical side of bringing you forward twelve-hundred years or so. How you look with an old cat in your lap.

Writing Thru the Fires

No smoke coming through the screen or the keyboard, just evidence of smoke in green circles turning to yellow, then orange and finally red, on the AIR NOW page or my cellphone. Red—like the sun has been lately. full orange moon. Outside we are mostly in a barbecue setting, and I have two #95 masks I wear at the same time, as I had lung problems not so long ago and like to take an hour outside walk.

How do we cope with knowing that nearby beautiful trees and hillsides and small animals have flames and hot air all around? I don’t know. I feel gratitude from time to time. I am grateful for my life. I have been cooking blueberry cobbler and writing. I move the air purifier machine from room to room, and sing on Zoom with my husband, Shabda. Here is a poem to share.

Fire Flowers by Emily Pauline Johnson 
    [Tekahionwake—her native America name]

And only where the forest fires have sped, 
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands, 
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, 
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed, 
It hides the scars with almost human hands. 

And only to the heart that knows of grief, 
Of desolating fire, of human pain, 
There comes some purifying sweet belief, 
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief. 
And life revives, and blossoms once again 

This poet had an English mother and her father was a Mohawk chief. They lived in Ontario. She was born in 1861. What kind of life would that have been?

May you who are reading this have full breath, a comfortable house to live in, food on the table and friends to give support when you need it.

Here are some walking pics to make a record of this strange masked time.

Solomon would be 43 on July 11

July eleven  has that special ring to it with the sound of Solomon’s laugh and the twinkle in his eye.  Just when I feel he is far away, something happens to remind me—and same for many of his friends—that he is ever nearby. This year I took a pair of his laced shoes to Nicole’s house to celebrate his day of passing 8 years ago. After dinner I went to the Unitarian Church on Franklin in SF for the second part of the Ram Das memorial. After admiring my friend Trudy’s sparkly black lace-up shoes, I was gifted with them. Hmmmm,

Thanks Solomon! So much has happened in the last months. Politically I can quote Jon Stewart who said, “Usually it’s the president who ages during his term, today it is the country that is aging…” So here is a happy photo of Solomon and Nicole who flew to Chicago on the eve of Obama’s first election. When we were all much younger. Joy is in the air.

Happy earthly birthday and blessings on your Sacred Journey of love and service.You remain in our hearts! All of us who knew and love you.

Mama Tamam and Papa Shabda


Solomon: his music and his words


Hollye pics 4-03 052.jpeg

Solomon ~ Gone 8 years on January 31:    7/11/77 – 01/31-12

Shabda just landed this morning in Delhi, India after 16 hours flying from SF. It’s that time of year. Looking thru my old E-mails from Solomon, I find his writings from India. One E-mail is from 21 years ago:

Friday, February 5, 1999 2:42 am

Mom, I actually found a cyber café in Delhi, imagine that… All is well here. We have been in Delhi almost a week with a packed schedule. I am attending some music classes, hanging out with Dad a lot and enjoying the people and wonderful sights and sounds, tastes, smells. He sang a beautiful concert yesterday, and this morning for Delhi University Music Department and Inayat Khan’s URS too. He sang with Terry (Riley) and Samiola. Filming (for a movie on Guruji) is going well, and Terry is very happy with what I have filmed so far… anyway maybe I have a future in documentary filming, but who knows.

DiggiPalaceGroup.jpeg Solomon, Shabda and Terry in India 1999

I am really psyched to get south to warmth and the parties and I’ve been hearing cool things about Goa guess we’ll see. The musicians I’m going to travel with are super cool. We will get to jam while we hang out at the beach…

Dad sends his love. Take care, much love, Solomon

♥♥<> In 2008 Solomon went with Nicole to India and they were there in Mumbai during the Barsi, an annual day-and-night yearly homage to Alla Rakha, (Abbaji), Zakir Hussain’s beloved father, famous Tabla Master who died in 2000, and helped introduce Indian music to the Western World. Solomon told us Zakir went to see him DJ at the well-known Blue Frog Club that he writes about here:

100_2027.jpeg  DJSolomon Flyer.jpeg poster from the gig in India

February 3, 2008, 1:50 pm

Just got back from day and night sessions of the Barsi—totally amazing!  We are staying in Bandra at a cool little hotel… my gig last night went VERY well, the club stayed open 45 minutes later than planned and was very busy. We didn’t get home til 3 and had to get up at 5:30 so we are a little tired and ready for a nap. Both of us are having a wonderful time.  I will send pix soon,  Much love, Solomon and Nicole


Ean Golden and Solomon made music together.

Hollye pics 4-03 099.jpeg

Ean has joined me this year for the time around Solomon’s passing and is offering some of their combined music as GoldenSol. Here is the best version of Papa Was a Rolling Stone I’ve ever heard—including The Temptations tune. YES!

This from Ean — Solomon and I met in 1999, when a local promoter asked him to scratch over my DJ set at a club called the “Blind Tiger” in the China Town district of San Francisco. We quickly became close friends and spent the following 10 years making a lot of music and djing in many clubs together as a duo called GoldenSol. Two recordings stand out in particular as I reflect on this special anniversary of his passing:

1. Papa Was a Rolling Stone (GoldenSol Remix)

This bootleg remix released in 2002 and became quite popular in underground record stores. We sold several thousand copies of the 12” Vinyl and often heard it played in clubs around the bay area.

2. Keeps Me Movin’ (Radio Edit)

One of our first original songs, this soulful number featured a promising new singer named Latoya London who would go on to place 4th in American idol season 4 and have a very solid R&B career.

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Ending this time with Solomon with some photos.  Solomon, we miss you and love  you! Thanks for all you have given us that keeps on giving over the years. Although you are not with us in the same way you were back then, you are with us—all of us who love you!♥♥





Solomon’s 42nd birthday 7/11/77-1/30/12

On July 11 Solomon would have turned 42

This time every year (the last 7) I feel Solomon draw closer, with the luminous memories, with a mist of grief —both together. Writing this tribute brings him near for a while, sparking memories of the 34 years we shared—mother and son.


Wendell Berry Sabbaths 1999

I dream of a quiet man

Who explains nothing and defends

Nothing, but only knows

Where the rarest wildflowers

Are blooming, and who goes,

And finds that he is smiling

Not by his own will.


A quiet man, his rarest wildflower music as a DJ, introduces Stevie Wonder at the Salesforce Celebration and plays in front of City Hall at The Black and White Ball in San Francisco, who goes——around the racetrack in his blue Lotus sportscar, down the mountain on his  snowboard (having been dropped on a high ridge by helicopter)—smiling—to Burningman, Sufi Camp, Chile and Morocco, Germany, Peru, India…

salesforce SW &amp; Solomon event          solo logo.jpeg

Some emails from Solomon: note to his grandmother—Shabda’s mom Ilse (shown below):   Monday July 1, 2000     Omi,  Happy birthday from your grandson in South America. A am having wonderful adventures in Peru with Ammon. We got to go to Machu Pichu, one of the most incredible historic wonders I have ever seen… I wish you a happy and healthy birthday and a joyful and fulfilling year to come. Much love, Your Grandson Solomon ♥

200205122157176.jpegOmi, Solomon and Shabda

Friday June 28, 2000    Hi Mom,  I just had a super long day of seeing all of these ruins which I am now convinced were built by aliens. That’s what everyone says about this place and I thought it was a load of crap until I saw 120 ton rocks that have been carved perfectly to fit into this intricate stonewall work… I actually got to DJ last night at this spot. Now I can add Cuzco, Peru to the places I have played. Much love and I will write soon, Solomon ♣

Family boating… June 30, 2008  Hello family,  I am extending an invite to our wonderful family for a day of boating/birthday celebration as I bring in the 31styear of my time on our little rock.  We thought it would be fun to have everyone go out on a Sunday. The boat is located in Tracy, about an hour from SF. We will plan on a picnic lunch…Any questions?  Hope you all can make it! Much love, Solomon ♥

n680391970_2358501_3769370.jpg  boat3.jpegLet’s say you were asking me ♦ What’s up? ♦  I’ll write you back here and now.

Dearest Solomon,
You’ll be glad to know I’m getting healthy after a long-time bacterial infection and a difficult period of very low energy. My lung doc is pleased with my slow bounce-back. I’m going to Mendocino Sufi Camp this week. Dad is in charge this summer, and Ammon, Laura and the girls as well as Nicole will be there. Nicole is a very popular yoga teacher. She will be there with Samantha (now 3½) and Varvara to help. Ammon will DJ Thursday night, as you used to do often in those years.

IMG_0449.jpeg Mendocino — Naomi, Solomon, Nicole, Varvara, Jason, Shabda, and Jamilah

June 8th we had a pool party like in the old days. It was a birthday party with 3 cakes: Nicole and Ryan (May 30) Maeve (June 1) and me (June 14).  Naomi was there pregnant. She is due with #3 child this summer. Lots of Nicole and Ryan’s friends were there. Chris Clouse was at the party. Ean has been out of town most of the time these days, Runni and Sasha and the kids are in Israel as Jeannie hasn’t been well. I talked with Christian Heath who tried but couldn’t come to a memorial day dedicated to you the end of January. Jason Rezaian and I have been in Email touch. He is back at the Washington Post.  Leila Burrows is recently married and lives up by Lake Tahoe.

IMG_6534.jpegMinhoi, Nikolai, Tamam, Shabda, Naomi,and Solomon

The nearly eleven-hundred ft. tall Salesforce Tower in SF makes the city look different from when you were living there.  The old Sears store a few blocks away at Northgate may become a Costco. Our RV is twenty-three years old. An antique! We still drive it to Mendocino once a year. It’s lucky you don’t have to deal with the politics our country is stuck with. We are about as far from Obama’s view as anyone could imagine. Ammon is co-founder and VP at Formation, which is becoming quite large and promising, an (AI) Artificial Intelligence design company.  Oona and Laura took part in a race around Lake Merrit and Maeve is a fashionista and quite an artist.

IMG_5601.jpeg      IMG_9545.jpeg
Oona (almost 10)  and Maeve (7) your adorable nieces

Nic and Sam.jpegNicole and Samantha at the beach in SF

The family and friends still feel you are with us, but we miss the adventures you took us on. I miss your smile and humor. Your enthusiasm. Your fantastic music.
Your Dad joins me in sending you love and more love…endless love, Mom

Ammon&SoloBeach'83.jpeg  boys at Biancas.jpgSolomon and Ammon at Lake Tahoe         at Burningman — both were DJ’ing there 

P1010667.jpg    P0002666.jpeg          Django  and Solomon – cousins                       Solomon and Rah (Runni) – cousins

Family2005.jpg         Ammon, Laura, Nicole, Solomon, Tamam and Shabda

IMG_5800.jpegSubhana Ansari cultivates beautiful “Day Lillies.”  SOLOMON SUNRISE  is this flower she named for Solomon. It blooms at the end of June every year, before his birthday. Continue reading

Morocco Sidi Shiker Gathering 2009 –

Guest of His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco

I am reposting this page. I feel it’s important today, perhaps more than it was then.



Marrakech Sufi Gathering: The Sidi Shiker World Gatherings of Tasawwuf Affiliates. I just returned from Morocco. The Royal Government paid for airfare, hotel, and food for a week. I was invited to present my poetry to a conference of nearly 2,000 Sufis. It doesn’t seem possible – but it’s true. I was there in the triple digit heat, sharing a tajine, heaped with rich and delicious food or an elevator with people from Lebanon or France.

In 1998, my husband, Pir Shabda Kahn, and I went to the Sacred Music Festival in Fez, Morocco as leaders on a “sacred journey.” We returned the next three years with groups of American Sufis and visited sacred sites and caravan-ed on camels in the Sahara. Our good friend, who made this possible, was a man named Dr. Sidi Ahmed Kostas. Now he is the assistant to Dr. Ahmed Toufiq, the Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs for the king. Around the Summer Solstice June 21, 2009, Dr. Kostas and Dr. Toufiq got permission from King Muhammad VI to assemble a Sufi Conference in Marrakech July 10-12. They had less than a month! I got a personal phone call from Dr. Kostas while in England, waiting to go to Germany and teach from my forth-coming book: Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad. Dr. Kostas wanted me to read my poetry at the conference. I IMG_1270_2said yes.

Dr. Kostas set out to invite Sufi groups from all over the world and on 10 days notice almost 2000 people accepted the all- expense-paid invitation of airfare, beautiful accommodations and banquet-meals – from Minister Toufiq on behalf of the King of Morocco. 100 Nigerians. Chinese and South Africans. Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners. It was the Moroccan travel agent’s nightmare. The conference was tri-lingual, Arabic, French, and English, with simultaneous translation for all presentations. The weather – hot as West African summer; the hotels were well air-conditioned. Marrakech is as sophisticated as it is beautiful.  The reason for this whirlwind was echoed in the words of the presenters. Sufism is recognized as a hedge against fundamentalism in Morocco. Sufi teachers and their followers hold the notion of the true meaning of Islam as ” the inner state that causes the feeling of peaceful surrender to the protection, safety, and healing of the Divine.” The Sufi is one who carries the essence of love, harmony, and beauty, and pays attention to transforming the nafs (ego). He or she may be a warrior of the inner jihad (a phrase that means to contend, to challenge the unrefined self). Sufis are known to stand together and chant, la illaha illallah (There is no Reality but The Reality,) celebrating this in joyful assembly. My definition of Sufi mysticism is: “It is the fragrance over the flower of religion.”

The king, like his father before him, recognized it was in Morocco’s best interest to promote this fragrant fraternity for benefit, and bring together Sufis from everywhere to foster connection and mutual brother-sisterhood.

Dr. Kostas and a photo of the king

The Ministry further seeks to fund and promote publication and education toward this gentle reflection of Islam in the culture of Morocco.

Of the 2000 delegates, there were less than 50 women. Three of us presented; a Moroccan scholar, Dr. Zakia Zouanate, and an American scholar and long-time Sufi friend, Murchida Tasnim Fernandez, and myself.  Several times at the break I was the only woman in the vast, hotel restrooms. The women were a tiny minority, yet

we made our presence felt. I had instant sisterhood with the few women I saw, nodding or introducing myself to Laurence from Paris, Ikram from Fez (in the photo below), Hafsa from Scotland, Fatima from Nigeria, Ora from New York.


My poems were translated by Dr. Kostas, as we stood on the stage at the banquet close to midnight Saturday night. Dinner had just ended, but nights in Morocco seem to go on forever. Before I began to read, I thanked the King. (He was absent, but it’s not often you get chance to say, “I want to thank His Majesty, King Muhammad VI for his generosity ….”) Afterward, Dr. Toufiq expressed his appreciation to me for my work on the Mothers of Islam, and told me I was always welcome in Morocco. My friend and fellow poet Abdal-Hayy Moore read his poems as well.The next day, Arabic-speaking delegates called out to me in Arabic, smiled warmly, gave thumbs up or offered me their business cards.

  Abdal-Hayy Moore and me at our poetry reading

The conference swag was amazing; the women received silver or gold brocade slippers and a stylish silk scarf; the men, an elegant white hooded burnous, a briefcase, leather slippers, an Arabic language Qu’ran, and a beautiful sacred manuscript book.

Because my name ends in a consonant, an Arabic “male indicator,” and my husband’s with the female “A,” our invitations read His Eminence Tamam Kahn and Her Eminence Shabda Kahn. Nice.

Murchida Tasnim on Sufi Ethics

On Saturday, the international press was everywhere. I gave two interviews, one to Italian TV and the other to a journalist and photographer from Brussels. You could spot the women reporters in their casual hot weather clothes, while most delegates wore traditional robes called djelabas and some kind of head covering. The Nigerians dazzled – in vivid colored caftans and hats. The day we went to the desert, it was well over 105 degrees and all who went – nearly 2000 of us – ate lunch in tents with ceiling fans and a couple portable ACs. We were there all day. The women staged a take-over and claimed the large tent designated for us and provided with pillows, couches and a computer. Sleepy men left and went elsewhere. At 7:30 we all returned for dinner in a bus caravan accompanied by a police escort all the way into Marrakech, flashing lights and all.

The night before, we were driven to a palm garden just outside the city and entered the circle of tents on red carpets, lined with drummers and men playing long trumpets. We sat in chairs at tables of ten in twelve traditional Moroccan tents placed around a carpeted open space, desert style. The couscous and chicken arrived with a procession of tajine-carrying waiters. After dinner we listened to live Turkish music as the moon rose over the dark palms.

I return with new names and e-mails in my address file, my

Ahamed, Khalifa, and Sheik Tijani Ahamed Granoff, Khalifa Abul Fathi, and Sheikh Tijani

luggage perfumed with amber from the souk, and most valuable –the gift of friendship. In this time when most people in the world are withdrawing financial largesse, when programs falter, I was conscious of how generosity on the scale of this event may bring expansion, blessing and God willing, insh’allah, the peaceful benefit of the open hand and heart.

Morocco, may you be peaceful and strong.