In most parts of the world, greetings are often brief and carry no hidden or complex meaning. There’s simply no afterthought, just exchanging a few pleasantries. But Iraq, the cradle of civilization, is the exception. Iraqis usually greet each other with mind-boggling questions that are poised to work like Zen koan to open your mind.
One such greeting, shaku maku – an existential question equivalent to “what’s up?” can actually open your mind and make you wiser. Who thought a greeting could actually be a source of wisdom? Ephrat Livni walks us through the allure and tidbits of this magical greeting in his recent article published in Quartz This Iraqi Greeting Can Open Your Mind and Make You Wiser.
In the backdrop of endless checkpoints and ruins left by sectarian warfare sits a fascinating Iraqi culture – the shaku maku. The phrase loosely translates to “what’s everything and nothing?” although its origin remains obscure, every Iraqi gets shaku maku inherently. The greeting is often accompanied with a wink to denote its playful paradox of unpredictability. Nonetheless, the most popular answers include Alhamdulillah which means “praise God” and maku shi which translates “there is nothing.”
Again, the origin of shaku maku remains largely unknown. Most researchers and language experts like Akeel Abbas al-Khakani believe that the phrase is ancient. He thinks the word has its roots in one Mesopotamia era language: the Akkadian. In fact, there’s a consensus the shaku maku is a mash-up of an array of words. Aku came from Akkadian word akoon which means “exists.” When combined with sha – “what” – and ma, negation, it forms a phrase which literally means “what exists, what doesn’t.”
Shaku maku cannot be understood by reason alone
Although it might seem senseless to non-Iraqis, the allure of shaku maku lies in its wisdom. The question has a profound meaning that one cannot just understand with reason alone. By relying on the in-depth feeling that life is strange, you can garner the inherent meaning of the greeting.
Contemplate the question and become wiser
By contemplating this question, one can become illuminated as well as grow wiser. With two parts of the phrase contradicting, your mind can cease making distinctions, therefore, gaining more wisdom. Read the full article hereto learn more about this fascinating Iraqi gem.