Tamam Kahn


Muhammad rode Buraq to paradise.
Right there the angel handed him sweet fruit,
al-thamar, ripe as moonrise. He was wise
ate deeply, taking in God's gift, renewed
by love seeds ripe and rushing to be sown
on earth. That message rose in him. He went.
Turned home to wife Khadija, anchor for
his night-flight. He held her with intent
and urgency to share this golden glow,
the swinging, singing; being fed by God
disguised, all synchronized from head to toe
in praise and praise unflawed' sky seed-to-pod
--fruition. Stars rose and lit horizon's rim, a
blessed and best conception night for Fatima.

Buraq: winged steed with a human face, carries Muhammad on the Night Journey.

Historical reference: Clohessy, Christopher Paul, Fatima, Daughter of Muhammad, Gorgias Press, 2009, pp.78-79.

al-thamar: fruit. thamaratu-l-fuad means: fruit of the heart. Also can refer to children or grandchildren.

this tree

Lost, it has been lost--the list of women teachers in the ladders of lineage, wisdom passed on from teacher to student back to Ali and his son Husayn. What links centuries of Sufis to Ali and Muhammad is Fatima, but no women are mentioned in the family trees, only occasionally in scholarly books.

Ancestor ghaf tree, giraffe tree, oh swing me
up into your crow-crowded branches. King tree,
shade-easy, a climb as you may tree, bouquet tree--
the tree with a green kiss of leaves in the sun.

Camel and she-calf lie shaded, brocaded
by bird-branches splayed in the shade playing shade
against shade in the gravely sand. Around me
the lineage holders are mounted on twigs with the
Hud-hud, a mayfly, as word swells keep spelling
out names, family names, on each branch as I sit here
while breezes call "Ali," "Husayn," then the chain--
in Arabic, Turkish, in Persian and more.

But where are the she-mystics, Fatima's wise ones?
Invisible. Guides to the Green genealogy--
whispers of sisters just nourish us all and
churn family butter from roots of the ghaf tree.

Ghaf trees valued in Arabia.

Hud-hud is a Hoopoe, the bird that brought King Solomon news of Bilqis (Sheba)

joy thief

History tells that Prophet Muhammad made an unusual suggestion to a woman in his community that wearing color was cheerful, when earth tones were considered modest. His son-in-law, Ali, returned from a brutal, defensive battle to find his wife, Fatima, wearing red. He complained to Muhammad.

Red. She wore red. Where is modesty's quiet? He
just arrived home after days of hard riding,
dismounting--tripped over a pail of boiled flowers
she used to raise blushes in hand-dyed clothing.

A sunny kaleidoscope, landslide, a sweet glide of
crimson spilled. Flame-bursting brass lit the pail next to
that one with pagan-bright copper and orange.
Scarlet? A grimace, that joy thief--her husband--

jaw set and silent, walked off to her father, threw
dust on his head, he said: "Red, she wore red."
Slaughter! The agonized wounded I left there!
Bright shone the blood as it splattered the road-side.

My wife. She reached out to me, red--Allah--red as
the mouth of a jackal. What must a man do for it?
Muhammad held him, then whispered most gently:
I pray that some day you'll be joyful as she is.

(Hadith - Abu Juhayfah narrates Sahih al-Bukhari, #376, Sahih Muslim #505.)


Tamam Kahn is the author of Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad, Monkfish Books, 2010. Untold, a prose biography with seventy poems, was awarded an International Book Award in 2011 and translated and published in Jakarta, Indonesia. Travels to sacred sites in Morocco, Syria, Andalusia, and India, and research into early Islamic life have fueled Tamam's writing. In 2009 she was invited by the Royal Ministry of Morocco to read her poetry at an international Sufi conference in Marrakesh. She is working on a book of poems that will highlight the life of Fatima, daughter of Muhammad. She attended writing residencies at Ragdale and Jentel Foundations in 2013. Tamam was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, 2013, the sonnet category. She lives just North of San Francisco.


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