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”
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.