About Tamam



Tamam Kahn has have been writing poetry about women in history for more than 20 years. Seventh century Arabia was the key interest for most of that time. As a poet outside formal academia, a woman who has led groups to sacred sites in Syria, Turkey, South East Asia and North Africa—she has penetrated the culture, and gained understanding of its roots. She is just the person to bring the women of Muhammad’s family forward through poetry and stories. Her first book: Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad, won an International Book Award in 2011 and is translated and published in Indonesia. She presented this subject in bookstores in the US, for poetry and spiritual gatherings in Germany, England, Turkey, Ecuador, and New Zealand; for High School Students, university classes, and graduate students in Islamic Studies; on TV, radio, and to The Sidi Chiker World Meetings of Tassawuf Affiliates in Marrakech, Morocco in 2009 as a guest of the Cultural Minister to the king. Fatima’s Touch is the second book, an exploration in the life of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, (2016), an International Book Award finalist. She has been working on poems involving the much-loved 8th century Sufi Saint, Rabia al-‘Adawiyya of Basra. Tamam’s poetry is recognized and applauded by accomplished poets such as Coleman Barks, Fred Chappell, Marilyn Hacker and Annie Finch. A tenth generation American whose roots go back our founding fathers (and mothers), Tamam Kahn is married to Shabda Kahn, the spiritual director (Pir) of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, an organization with outreach in 50 countries.  

Recent poetry acceptances:

8/29/21 POETS READING THE NEWS The poem “Taken” (about Afghani women)  “…will be a significant addition to our coverage and we know our readers will appreciate its power” (J. Spagnolo, Editor).

5/5/21 PICCIOLETTA BARCA MAGAZINE (UK) “Child Ruqayya’s Hexachord”

FAHMIDAN JOURNAL Issue 5, Spring 2021:  “After Saddam Drained the Wetlands…” “The Queen’s Dream”

THE POET MAGAZINE ( UK) 2021  Theme: FAITH:  “The Well and Baba Farid”  “Faith’s Red Suitcase”

THE POET MAGAZINE ( UK) 2020 Theme: ON THE ROAD:  “Beyond Pilgrimage”  “Sahara Camel Ghazal”

7/7/20 MARIN POETRY JOURNAL ANTHOLOGY 2020 accepted the poem: “I’m Telling You”

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Wanted to visit Morocco—2020 (Fez, Marakech and Moulay Idris) in March of 2020. Pilgrimage to sacred Sufi shrines and Tamam’s 5th group trip. Unable to go.

Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado  ~ Lecture: UNTOLD—THE WIVES OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND DAUGHTER FATIMA, Strong Women at the Dawn of Islam.  March 15, 2019, 10-11:15 Student’s Center, Wulsin Building, Arapahoe Campus, Boulder.

Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Indiana University Press, poem: “Hagar, Prophetess” Spring, 2019

45th annual Mendocino Sufi Gathering: July 14-21, 2019, daily poetry class, “WRITE HERE NOW”

University of Davis ~ Lecture on the Women of Early Islam: April 23, 2019

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“The Knot” Middle Eastern Literary Journal features 5 Fatima poems from Fatima’s Touch in its spring 2016 issue: http://www.knotlitmagazine.com/#!tamam-kahn-/c1rsb  (This page no longer exists)

POET’S HOUSE, Manhattan. July 17, 2015. 7 pm. Reading my poems as part of The Wide Shore: A Journal of Women’s Poetry

Annual Mendocino Sufi Gathering: 2014, 2015, 2016 afternoon poetry class, Monday through Saturday

Lecture at The Asian at Museum, San Francisco: UNTOLD — THE STORY OF THE PROPHET’S WIVES AND DAUGHTER FATIMA,  January 9, 2015, 1:30-3 Museum exhibit: Roads of Arabia      http://tinyurl.com/untold-story-tamam-kahn

Omega Institute, Costa Rica, Blue Spirit, January 24-31, 2015. I offered a series of classes on the topic:  Untold Stories of Inspiration and Empowerment (7th Century Arabian Women who left their mark on the world…)  http://www.eomega.org/visit-us/omega-costa-rica

Honorable Mention for the sonnet: Fatima Tells of Muhammad’s Death,   Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, 2013. Reading at the Koret Auditoriam, San Francisco on March 30th, 2014

The Ruhaniat European Summer School in Proitzer-Muhle, Germany, June 28th, 2014 for a week. Poetry Readings daily

Previous activities: 2013 and earlier:

August 19 – September 20: Writers RESIDENCY at Ragdale Foundation outside Chicago, Illinois.

Ozarks Sufi Gathering:  a class about Women in Early Islam. May 24-31, 2013

Writers RESIDENCY at Jentel Foundation outside Sheridan, Wyoming. March 15 – April 12, 2013

February 21-24, 2013: Quito, Ecuador, Presenting from Fatima’s Touch and new material.

Eugene, Oregon to share my insights on The First Women of Islam with an Islamic class at the University of Oregon and at Lane Community College. May 2012

Writers residency in the midwest, and  readings in the Chicago area. April, 2012

Poetry reading at the First Congregational Church in Santa Cruz, California. New material from Fatima’s Touch. December 8, 2011

September, 2011 I taught for a week in Quito, Ecuador. I shared from Untold, about the Wives of Prophet Muhammad, using 12 poems translated beautifully into Spanish.

guest poet for “Poetry Night” at The Black Box Theater at Lincoln High School in San Jose, California. Spoken word poems.  April 2011

Summer and Fall of 2010 promoted UNTOLD with a multi-state book tour

Ruhaniat Summer school in Germany, sharing stories of the women who were married to Prophet Muhammad from 10 poems that were translated into German. Summer, 2009.

California Institute of Integral Studies in the Public Programs Department. My poetry class encouraged poets and writers to use contemporary language and the experience of the senses to tell the unique stories and observations we gather, that are metaphors for our shared humanity in this time and place.

Editor-in-Chief of The Sound Journal  <http://thesoundjournal.org/ > The Sound Journal is combining with the journal HeartBeat. Update— The Sound Journal has discontinued.

 INFLUENCES: Kazim Ali and Annie Finch have been excellent inspirations in th last 2 years!   Other poets who have helped me probe and celebrate the mysteries of the poem are, Naomi Shihab Nye, Fred Chappell, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, Jane Hirshfield, Heather McHugh, Mark Doty, Ruth Padel, and Coleman Barks. These are poets I have sat with and questioned. My credentials are a strong love of words, and the willingness to communicate that in as many ways as I can imagine. Also Sarah Lawrence College, Stanford University, and San Francisco State University each gave me a push.

If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.   Toni Morrison (She has inspiring HAIR!).

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TIKKUN, on-line review, March 2, 2011: A Refreshing Perspective on the Wives of Muhammad by Pamela Frydman (book review of Untold) http://tinyurl.com/4vvwvxb.

HUFFINGTON POST: review from September 15, 2010 (Dr. Susan Corso)

Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad is a mystical demystification of the women who were present at the founding of Islam. Bold in conception, shivery in detail, it sheds light on the influence of the women who, centuries ago, were caught in intrigue, war, clan concatenations, jealousy and a host of other exigencies of the human condition.

The Prophet Muhammad didn’t start out as a prophet; neither was Jesus the Christ from day one. These divinely inspired men became what they were meant to be. And right alongside both, there were women. Women who witnessed, women who comforted, women who tended, women who loved, women who suffered.

Tamam Kahn, a Sufi, has written a remarkable book. Just as Anita Diamant gave us the Jewish matriarchs in “The Red Tent,” and just as Marion Zimmer Bradley gave us the perspective of the women of the Arthurian legends in “The Mists of Avalon,” Tamam Kahn teases out, uncovers and re-imagines the women who surrounded Muhammad.

Written in a prose/poetry form known as prosimetrum, she combines hadith with poetical imaginings. Consider this from the opening poem: “Conversation with these women / Will never end.” She’s right. As I read her book, I wished that every single one of them was alive to weigh in on the dreadfully politicized issue of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. I am sure each one of them would have had something trenchant and accurate to say.

Muhammad’s first wife was Khadija, the White Shade Cloud. It was she who saw Muhammad through the roughest years in his becoming a prophet. It was to her that he brought his fears of madness and his tears of wonder. She simply began to balance everyday life with Divine Wonder as part of ordinary reality. Known for her business acumen, she gave up everything — her wealth, her prestige, her everything — to believe in her husband as her prophet.

His second wife was Aisha, Matchfire in the Backlight. She was his only virgin wife, a woman who studied law and learned the entire Quran by heart. His third was Zaynab, the Beautiful. It is she to whom responsibility for the creation of hijab falls. She was on display on her wedding night, and it was given: “And when ye ask of them [the wives of the Prophet] anything, as it of them from behind a curtain.” Hijabmeans both to separate and to protect.

My favorite of the wives is Umm Salama, the Mother of Peace. Her name means “Mother of Salama”; she was called The Wise. Her wisdom arises in the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, a “crucial moment in Muhammad’s life where he enacted a peace treaty with the leaders of Mecca.”

There were two Jewish wives, Rayhanna and Safiyya, and Mariya from among the Christians. Kahn writes the anguish of her heart over these women: “How can we have the name of the mule that came with her [Mariya] to Arabia — Dudul — and lack so many fundamental facts about the woman who was to become the mother of Prophet Muhammad’s son?” Indeed. Mariya calls herself “the one-woman-peacekeeping bride from Egypt.” There are seven others whom I will leave you to discover in this special book.

The word Islam comes from etymological roots meaning “peaceful surrender.” A verse from the Quran says it beautifully: “It well may be that Allah will put love between you and those of them who are your enemies” (60:7). “Matrimony,” chimes the author, “rescued widows and was a kind of peace plan.”

Tamam Kahn’s book goes a long way toward peace and surrender to the truth that Islam is a religion of the Book, just as are Judaism and Christianity. Read “Untold,” learn about these strong, miraculous women and weep for the years of peace that we have all lost.

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Here is PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY review from August 9, 2010 (Religion Book Review section):

Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad byTamam Kahn. Monkfish, $18.95 paper (188p) ISBN 978-0-9823246-4-6

A practicing Sufi, poet, and speaker, Kahn tells the little-known stories of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad in this brief book.

Usually ignored or used as salacious fodder, the stories are pieced together by the author, using the few and disparate sources on the lives and personalities of the wives. Kahn also employs the “prosimetrum” technique, which intersperses narrative text with short poems that recreate, in fictional, imagined terms, some event in a particular wife’s life. The unorthodox device becomes, as only poetry can, an illustrative window into early Islam and everyday Arabian life 1,400 years ago. Kahn points out that many of Muhammad’s reforms were unique for their time and benefited women. Kahn also doesn’t shy away from the controversial, acknowledging that Muhammad’s marriage to the beautiful Zaynab, the ex-wife of the Prophet’s own adopted son, may not have had the purest motivations; she also addresses the practice of veiling. With onl y a few exceptions, the Prophet mainly married widows and did so largely to form political alliances. Quite open-minded in his spouses, Muhammad even had converted Jewish wives and had a son (who died as a baby) with an Egyptian Christian woman. Even talking back to the influential Prophet, each of the women influenced Muhammad in her own way. (Sept.) <>


Tamam writes: The book was conceived after an inspired time with Moroccan Sufi women, sharing their bold, joyful gatherings. I began to research the Prophet’s wives, and was drawn into the historically based poem. I respectfully endeavor to glimpse and share the lives of these amazing and powerful women who witnessed Muhammad’s daily life at a time when “Islam” meant peaceful surrender of one’s heart to God. Now it has come full circle. I stood on the stage in Marrakech on July 11th 2009, and read these poems to the people of Marrakech and Sufis from many lands. I am very grateful.                                                                                                                                                                     


19 thoughts on “About Tamam”

  1. lockeporter said:

    Great blog…..looking forward to reading more…from a women in rural Nova Scotia, canada this all seems so intriguing..I studied Islam for awhile,but over here it is met with such controversy that it is hard to get good insight.


  2. Thanks for noting The Sound for me. Currently downloading it. Looking forward to the book you’ve sent me.


  3. I relate to, and embrace, everything you say here and I am delighted to find a sister with similar passions. At the moment it is my academic voice that is having to work overtime for my research but the poetic voice is there demanding renewed attention. I also seek ways in which the two may interweave. I look forward to following your blog.


  4. Tamam… Ya Fattah!!!
    To a dear sister, walking to the beat of her heart…
    Mahalo for your journey, which lends to the great picture we all live…the deep weave that we all are…
    Thank you for your dynamic, intuitive wisdom…
    Love your Being>>>


  5. Dear Tamam,

    I enjoyed your reading in Cambridge today. I am so excited about your book and the untold story you share. What an opportunity for peacemaking through good humor, engaging narratives and poignant, moving poetry. These new perspectives, rooted in history proper as they are, investigate matters of tremendous societal significance while at the same time giving each of us individually a chance to see ourselves as interesting and whole through such a lens. Thank you,

    (the photographer & friend of Halima and Abraham)


    • Great to meet you! I’m glad you enjoyed the morning. And thanks so much for the book order.
      I am a big fan of your beautiful work. Look forward to our next meeting.
      Warmly, Tamam


  6. Tamam,

    Your book is a masterpiece. Woman revealing women. The mysterious presences that allowed Mohammed to deliver his information into a culture barely ready for them – if at all.

    I’ve been up all night – enthralled with your revelations about the up-to-now secret existences of the women in the prophet’s household.

    WHERE would the prophet ever be without his own in-house support group of the holders and delivers of new life – the WOMEN.

    Many thanks for what you are doing to uplift and inform men and women everywhere.

    The balance and support between women and men is essential for any great work to succeed.

    In Love and Appreciation for ALL you are doing,

    Pat Crosby


  7. Tamam,

    I met you in June 2009, at the day of Dances of Universal Peace and teachings that you and Shabda held at Holwell in Dorset, England. I was a wonderful day!

    During your talk about ‘Untold’ (which, at that time, you were still trying to find a publisher for) you mentioned that if anyone wanted a list of ’empowering’ books about women and Islam, to ask you for a list. At the end of the day, there was a crowd of people around you, and I didn’t get the chance to ask you for the list… 😦

    Would you please either post it here, or email me at mail@janetgranger.co.uk ? Thank you so much.

    It’s great that your book is getting such a good reception – it’s certainly a book that needed to be written.

    Blessings to you and Shabda


    • Thank you Janet! Here are a few:
      If you are interested in this time period read Reza Aslan – No god but God; and Karen Armstrong – Muhammad. Those books give the framework for the following. Mother of the Believers- by Kamran Pasha (Aisha, Wife of PM, a good novel); The old classic on Aisha in English…(I found it in UK- Saqi Books), Nabia Abbott – Aisha, the Beloved of Muhammad; The Light of Dawn: Daily Readings from the Holy Qur’an (well chosen verses), and Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure – both by Camille Adams Helminski; Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of The Qur’an – by Asma Barlas (scholarly and Qur’an), Encyclopedia of Muhammad’s Women Companions and the Traditions They Related – by Kabbani and Bakhtiar (this is scholarhip, the original Hadith material, organized. Not an easy read, but has referent material). On Feminist Islam – anything by Fatima Mernissi.
      Hope this gets you started. Warmly, Tamam


  8. Oh, great! Thanks very much for this. It’s really helpful.



  9. Mar-Garet said:

    Wonderful! I heard your radio interview with Caroline Casey and Agnes Pilgrim on her Visionary Activism show.

    People can find it here (scroll down to the August 19th show):


    A very wonderful book (fiction, based on fact) is:

    __Priestess: Woman As Sacred Celebrant__
    Pamela Eakins

    It really speaks of women in many sacred traditions, and especially Sufism!


    More about Pamela Eakins:



  10. Thanks Pamela. Will check out your book.


  11. Perfect salams peaceful Tamam! How amazing to find a soul sister across the insane garbled wires of conspiracy and commerce that is the web…I am (in a manner of speaking) part of the Philly family, AH Moore is kind of my writing mentor and a very dear old friend of my father’s – they both stemmed from the same darqawi group back in the 1970s.

    I will have to order a copy of your book now, and will (if you don’t mind) send you a copy of my novel once it’s finished! (Two small children notwithstanding.) There are bits and bobs of my poetry on my website too (www.medinatenour.com) though it’s a bit out of date now. Or if you are on the dread facebook some friends and I administrate a Sufi-oriented poetry group called Poetic License. It’d be great to have you there!

    A ray of love to you from me



  12. Dear Tamam,

    my husband is an Imam from Africa, so I’m very interested in positive information and litterature about Islam, especially the women.

    I’m from Germany and would like to know, if a translation of your book into german is planned; you wrote about a visit in Germany and a few (ten) translated poems. Is it possible for me to read these verses somehow?

    Thanks a lot
    for your great work
    of peace


    • Hi Anna,
      Thank you for the good words. Of course I hope for a German translation, but there is no clear path at the moment.

      I would be happy to share the German poem translations at some point, but my husband has just had a serious surgery and I am caring for him now. Please get back in touch in a few weeks.


  13. Kingsley Barrett Brooks said:

    I hope you remember me from GFS. I have read through a lot of what is posted on your website, and am fascinated. I would LOVE to get in touch with you. I understand you had lunch with Sidney Smith in England last year.

    You have evolved so much that you may not be interested in communicating with classmates, but I am confident that many would love to get in touch with you.

    I hope you husband has recovered fom his surgery.


    • Hi Kingsley,
      Of course I remember you! You are the first GFS classmate to find me… I tracked down Sydney since her address has been the same for decades. Saw Melinda Hall in the 1980’s. Yes, my husband is doing much better now, thanks.

      Send me an e-mail tamam@completeword.com and tell me where you are and what you have been doing.


  14. Carol Akhras said:

    Just finished reading your book, Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad. A lot of misinformation in this tale, especially about the prophet (pbuh).His revelations came from Allah, not from the Bible. Do you think he picked up a copy of the mistranslated Bible and put this in the Qu’ran. You are a spreader of untruths, and will someday have to answer to Allah for this. But I can see you enjoy the poetry encounters with your audiences, and public attention. May Allah guide you to the right path, is the best I can wish for you. Carol


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