Shunn and Tabaqa - A Meeting of Minds
Arabian Knights - Volume 2

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Where lived a man named Shunn. This man was known far and wide for his intelligence and his nimble mind. Yet with all of his mental gifts and his well-deserved renown, he still found himself feeling unhappy. Shunn wanted to get married, but he didn't want to marry just anyone. He wanted a wife who would be his equal in intelligence and who would understand him even when he mentioned obscure matters.

After searching nearby towns and villages and not finding a wife to suit him, Shunn packed up and declared with a determined glint in his eyes, "By God, I shall wander the earth until I find a woman similar to me, and then I shall marry her!"

For some time, Shunn wandered about, idly travelling down one road after another, looking for his ideal woman. Then one day, he came across a stranger traveling the same road he was on. Shunn inquired politely of the man, "Where are you going?"

The man replied with equal politeness that he meant to go to such-and-such a village, the same village towards which Shunn happened to be travelling. By mutual agreement, the two decided to travel together and they rode along, side by side, in companionable silence.

Eventually, Shunn broke the silence, "Will you carry me or shall I carry you?"

With an incredulous look, the man replied, "O' ignorant one, I'm riding and you're riding. How could I carry you or you carry me?!"

Shunn fell silent and did not reply.

Along the way, the two men came across a small village that boasted a large field, ripe for harvest. Shunn eyed the field and said musingly, "I wonder, has the harvest already been eaten?"

The man frowned at Shunn and said, "O' ignorant one, you see plants ready to be harvested and you wonder if the harvest has already been eaten?!"

Again, Shunn fell silent and did not reply.

Finally reaching their destination village, the men paused as a funeral procession passed in front of them. Shunn watched as the deceased person was carried by and said thoughtfully, "I wonder if that person is alive or dead?"

Appalled at such foolishness, the man said impatiently, "I have never seen a more ignorant man! You see a funeral and you ask if the deceased person is alive or dead?!"

Shunn did not reply. Instead, he politely suggested that since they had reached their destination, they should part company. The man refused to allow Shunn to leave, he insisted that Shunn accompany him to his nearby home and be his guest. After some hesitation and demurring, Shunn finally agreed.

When the two arrived at the man's home, the man settled Shunn in a front room, then went further into the house where he was warmly greeted by his daughter, Tabaqa. Curious, the young woman glanced into the front room and asked her father about the stranger he had brought home with him. Tabaqa's father told her about his chance meeting with their guest, and the ignorant questions the stranger had asked him while they travelled together.

Tabaqa listened attentively to her father's recital of the strange questions Shunn had asked. Then she said softly, "O' father, he is not an ignorant man! When he said, will you carry me or should I carry you, he meant, will you speak to me or should I speak to you to ease the tedium of the road. When he said, is the harvest eaten or not, he meant, did its owners already get paid its worth and spend the money. When he spoke about the funeral, he meant, did the deceased person leave children behind who would keep his memory alive or not."

After paying close attention to what his daughter said, Tabaqa's father went out and sat with Shunn. They conversed cordially for an hour or so and ate heartily of the food Tabaqa prepared for them. Then the man turned to Shunn and said with a satisfied smile, "Would you like me to explain to you the meaning of what you said while we traveled?"

"Yes," Shunn replied with a polite nod.

Tabaqa's father proudly repeated the explanations his daughter had given him.

Shunn was pleasantly surprised by the man's correct interpretation of his words, but he had his doubts as to the source, "Those do not sound like your own words, to whom do the words belong?"

Amused and unoffended by his guest's correct estimate of his knowledge, the man said airily, "A daughter of mine."

At long last, Shunn thought as he was filled with both happiness and excitement, he had found a mind in tune with his own! He tried to remain calm and hide his excitement as he eagerly asked his host if he could meet and court Tabaqa. Thinking it would be a fine thing to see his daughter married to a man who was her equal in intelligence, the man agreed to allow Shunn to woo his daughter.

In due time, Shunn and Tabaqa were married and they moved to the village where Shunn lived. When Shunn's friends and relatives met Tabaqa, they nodded wisely to one another and said happily, "Shunn matches Tabaqa". This simple sentence later became a famous proverb indicating a couple who were perfectly suited to one another.

*Written by © 2012. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Shunn: شنٌّ.
    • Tabaqa: طبقة.

  1. Ibrahim, M., Al-Mowla, M., Al-Bajawi, A. (2011 AD, 1432 H). قصص العرب [Stories of the Arabs]. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Assrya. Volume 1. Page 236.

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