I gave a book reading – introducing my book, UNTOLD,  in Portland on Thursday March 17th at the New Renaissance Bookshop, a wonderful counter-culture bookstore very different from the famous Powells City of Books, downtown.  Shabda offered a Sufi retreat over the weekend and invited me to give a presentation Sunday Morning. I kept it to 20 minutes and offer it here as an audio file.       <> TamamTalk3-30-11<>

As for the crocodiles, they seem to appear in all their reptilian glory when I say the magic word – JAHILIYYA, an Arabic term for a time that had an attitude. The time before Muhammad brought the antidote of al-halama — mild gentleness, nurturing love. One you might recognize in its own form today in some political moments. Here’s the poem:

instructions for Jahiliyya

…the jahil, a wild, violent and impetuous character who follows
the inspiration of unbridled passion and is cruel by following his
animal instincts; in one word, a barbarian. Ignaz Goldziher

Know you are right.
Think fist and knife-edge.
Do not appear
foolish, no matter what.

Control your woman
and your guests; keep them
a little afraid, and thankful
for your protection.

Guard your clan’s
honor. Carve a notch
on your weapon of choice
for each successful pay-back.

If someone calls you animal,
smile and answer — lion,
hyena, crocodile, fighting cock—
the meek are the pack animals of the ferocious.[i]

from Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad by Tamam Kahn, Monkfish Books 2010.

[i] Jahiliyya is an important term, usually mistranslated as “the time of ignorance”, instead, Ignaz Goldziher argues, He sees it as barbarism, not ignorance, citing halim (mild), not ‘ilm (knowing) as the opposite term. He quotes an old Arab proverb: The meek is the pack animal of the ferocious (al-halim matiyyat al-jahul.) He devotes an entire chapter of his cited book to this subject. ~~~

There is always the lion, hyena, and fighting cock and that juicy word “ferocious.” Keeps me on my toes.  <>


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