For too long the story of the wives of Prophet Muhammad has been shadowy and incomplete. As noted poet and Sufi teacher Tamam Kahn explains in Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad (Monkfish; September 1 2010; $18.95; pb).
“Despite the importance of the first Muslim women, few people in the non-Islamic world know their names,” she says.
In her meticulously researched biography, Kahn has lifted the veil that has obscured the lives of these extraordinary women and has given them the stature and historical significance they so richly deserve.
Her purpose is twofold: to set the record straight about the role of women in the dawn of a new religion that would become a pervasive (and an often-misunderstood) force in the modern world, and to capture the voices, the intimate thoughts and yearnings of each of “the mothers of Islam.” To accomplish this she has ventured beyond the limits of the available and sketchy biographical material, alternating the use of prose in telling the women’s stories with poetry that captures their innermost selves. This ancient literary form is called “prosimetrum,” “The unorthodox device becomes, as only poetry can, an illustrative window into early Islam and everyday Arabian life 1,400 years ago.” (Publishers Weekly).
To those who view the lives of Islamic women as being male-dominated and submissive, the author reveals—both through her intensive historical study and her poetic sensibilities—the power, the courage, and the resilience of these women, among them a highly successful merchant, the leader of an army, two Jewish war captives and a Coptic Christian diplomat. Hardly the picture of cowering, burka-masked women we in the West have come to accept as the norm.
Kahn is one of the foremost authorities on the wives of Prophet Muhammad. She has presented her findings at women’s gatherings, in schools and universities, and at Sufi and interfaith conferences and festivals worldwide. Through her travels to sacred sites in Morocco, Syria, Andalusia and India and her research of early Islamic history, she has uncovered heretofore barely known material about these historical figures. 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, with outreach in 50 countries. She will be touring extensively this fall to promote Untold in New York City, Boulder, San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.