Sufism/Nasrudin

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Mullah, Nasrudin Hoja appears as the whimsical character in a growing tradition of stories. The tales of Nasrudin are sometimes adapted and used as teaching stories by followers of the Sufi way. Some mystic traditions use jokes, stories and poetry to express certain ideas, allowing the bypassing of the normal discriminative thought patterns. The rationality that confines and objectifies the thinking process is the opposite to the intuitive, gestalt mentality that the mystic is attempting to engage, enter and retain.

By developing a series of impacts that reinforce certain key ideas, the rational mind is occupied with a surface meaning whilst other concepts are introduced. Thus paradox, unexpectedness, and alternatives to convention are all expressed in the humor of Nasrudin.

Please add to the tales of Nasrudin and interpretations. It is said, there are as many interpretations as stars in the sky. And when you read a story, see yourself reflected in the story and make your own interpretations rather than relying on others to tell you the meaning of the story. In this way, you will learn for yourself and the usefulness of the story's teaching will be deeper.

The Eternal Comedian[edit]

It is sometimes said that the Universe is Allah laughing himself into existence. The idea of the cosmic joker that begins within a broadening smile allows us to hear the profound in the profane and the profane in the sanctimonious. Keep smiling.

The use of humor, stories and puzzles is well developed in shamanistic and pagan cultures. The mischievous spirit is both tension releasing and realizing of the solutions to life situations. Nasrudin Hodja belongs to this rich tradition stretching back into pre literate society. Humor brings insight and understanding and is a release of stored energy; clearing in nature.

"If you want
special illumination,
look upon a human face:
see deeply,
within laughter,
the essence
of ultimate
truth..."

Mevlana Jallaludin Rumi

Sufism[edit]

An opinion lessening form of Islamic heresy that stresses poetry and reasonable tolerance of peoples differences. Values inner quality above external piety. Nasrudin is often regarded as an 'Idiot', one of the appellations dervishes use in describing their Divine Madness. He also represents the excesses of the clerical or literal mind.

The Helper of Religion[edit]

There has to be more than just humor to make it a Nasreddin tale. It depends on the area from where the modern tales come. Tales originating in China will show a Nasreddin which has as extra element that he is campaigning for the oppressed, bullying rulers and those who abuse their authority. See "The Effendi And The Pregnant Pot - Uygur Tales from China"; New World Press; Beijing, China. "The Enchanted Prince" by Leonid Solovyov is a novel about Nasreddin wherin he is a flagrant subverter, a thorn in the side of the powers that be, a disturber of the peace.Ulrich Marzolph in his Nasreddin Hodscha presents no less than 666 true Nasreddin tales (although Nasreddin claims never to have spoken the truth) and does so in a chronological order, even showing erotical adventures of our hero. Sufi teachers are at times coining modern Nasreddin tales in order to further their teaching, as the opening sentence "One day Mulla Nasreddin..." is sufficient for many audiences to lower their barriers.

Nasruddin tales are from many ages and many cultures. There are Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Berber, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Daghestani, Greek, Judeo-Arabic, Kurdish, Maltese, Mandaic, Macedonian, Persian, Serbian, Sicilian, Syrian, Tajik, Turkish, Uighur and Uzbek sources for Nasruddin tales. He is known as Nasreddin, Joha, Si Je'ha, Giufa, Ieha, Iugale, Gahan, Nastradin, Nastradi, Hojas, Jiha, Juha, Khodja, Mala, Apendi, Afandi, Effendi, Afanti

Audience with the King[edit]

Nasrudin returned to his village from the imperial capital, and the villagers gathered around to hear what had passed. "At this time," said Nasrudin, "I only want to say that the King spoke to me." All the villagers but the stupidest ran off to spread the wonderful news. The remaining villager asked, "What did the King say to you?" "What he said -- and quite distinctly, for everyone to hear -- was 'Get out of my way!'" The simpleton was overjoyed; he had heard words actually spoken by the King, and seen the very man they were spoken to.

Timur's Gift I[edit]

Timur's armies were plundering the entire Central Asia and the rumors were that Timur was heading for Mullah's village. Hearing this, Mullah in his Friday sermon called for a collective prayer. "Let us all pray for the death of Timur the Lame before he comes". All villagers said Amen loudly.

A man stood up from among the worshipers and asked, "Have you ever seen Timur?".

Mullah replied, "No, and I have not seen you before either".

The man said, "You are right, because I am Timur".

Mullah was stunned by the news, and so were all the villagers. Mullah calmly resumed his sermon. "Let us pray once more collectively, this time our Janazah (funeral prayer)".

"How can you pray your own Janazah you fool", asked Timur, "Janazah is prayed by the living on the dead".

"Yes my lord but you see" replied Mullah "We are all about to be dead with no one to pray Janazah on us. So we have to take care of our Janazah ourselves".

Timur laughed his heart out and pardoned Mullah and gave an elephant as his gift to the village.
  • Humor can speak to even the hardest of hearts.

Timur's Gift II[edit]

The villagers soon discovered that the elephant ate a lot of their crop and was of no use. However they could not kill or sell the gift of Timur out of fear of his wrath. They all blamed Mullah and demanded he returned the gift.

Mullah agreed but on one condition that all villagers should accompany him. Mullah went to the tent of Timur. Timur was in a bad mood and shouted on Mullah as he saw him. "What do you want?"

"It is about the elephant you gave". Mullah replied.

"What about the elephant? Is my gift no good to you?" Timur asked.

Mullah turned and found no villagers behind him. Angry and feeling cheated, Mullah thought of a way out and a revenge with the villagers at the same time.

"Oh it is good alright, my lord" Mullah said, "It is just that he is all alone and feels sad. I was wondering if you can provide him with the company of a female elephant".
  • Always keep your word

The Book[edit]

While on a trip to another village, Nasrudin lost his favorite copy of the Qur'an.

Several weeks later, a goat walked up to Nasrudin, carrying the Qur'an in its mouth.

Nasrudin couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the goat's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!"

"Not really," said the goat. "Your name is written inside the cover."
  • Be wary of stories from exaggerators.
  • Label your possessions!

The Guest of Honor[edit]

The dervish Nasrudin entered a formal reception area and seated himself

at the foremost elegant chair. The Chief of the Guard approached and said: "Sir, those places are reserved for guests of honor."

"Oh, I am more than a mere guest," replied Nasrudin confidently.

"Oh, so are you a diplomat?"

"Far more than that!"

"Really? So you are a minister, perhaps?"

"No, bigger than that too."

"Oho! So you must be the King himself, sir," said the Chief sarcastically.

"Higher than that!"

"What?! Are you higher than the King?! Nobody is higher than the King in this village!"

"Now you have it. I am nobody!" said Nasrudin.
  • Nobody is greater than God.
  • One should show regard for those of humble means.
  • Even a person of no consequence can be Hodja.
  • Elevation comes through the abandonment of ego.
  • Beware of the clever tongue.

Face of the Devil[edit]

When Timur was visiting the town, he called upon the local celebrity, Mulla Nasrudin.

"They say you are a man of much knowledge, a man who is in league with the forces of darkness, that you have strange powers and know the strangest incantations, in fact they say you are in direct correspondence with Satan himself!" "That is what they say!" Nasrudin nodded, much amused. "Tell me then, if you value your life," roared Timur, a little irritated by Nasrudin's demeanor, "what does this Devil actually look like?"

"Why certainly Your Majesty," smiled Nasrudin presenting him with a mirror, "here, take a look for yourself!"
  • Nasrudin shows that the Devil is in us when we are angry. Timur's anger is where the Devil comes out.
  • Judge not that ye may not also be judged.
  • To teach anyone is correspondence with the Devil.
  • It is all about your disposition: You are/become what you desire.
  • Don't ask questions unless you want to know the answers.

Of any two options choose the third[edit]

A judge in a village court had gone on vacation. Nasrudin was asked to be temporary judge for a day. Nasrudin sat on the Judge's chair with a serious face, gazing around the public and ordered the first case be brought-up for hearing.

"You are right," said Nasrudin after hearing one side.

"You are right," he said after hearing the other side.

"But both cannot be right," said a member of public sitting in the audience.

"You are right, too" said Nasrudin.
  • Conflict is a natural state of affairs - it's okay to accept this.
  • Resolving disputes is not about who believes they are right.
  • Remember, always consider there might be external or unknown factors
  • Truth, correctness, and integrity are subjective.
    • Judgment doubly so.
  • Expecting the world to make perfect sense might not make sense.
  • Even judges can be fools.

A call to prayer[edit]

Mullah Nasruddin frequented a local hamam which had a large dome with an acoustic very flattering to the voice, and he would often spend long hours singing in the bath, delighting in the sound of his own voice.

When one day, Mullah Nasruddin had no muezzin to call the faithful to prayer, he decided that he was a sufficiently good singer to take on this sacred duty.

By that day’s second call to prayer, the faithful gathered under the minaret and began to shout Nasruddin down for the terrible noise he made.

“Don’t blame me for the din," replied the Mullah, "they didn’t install a bathroom up here yet!”
  • It is easier to deflect blame outside of yourself than to accept it.
  • It's hard to judge your own voice, just as it's hard to judge your own actions. Listen to those around you who care enough to criticise you.
  • Context is everything.
  • His singing may have been awful, but at least it worked!

Ignore the Braying[edit]

A neighbor comes to Nasreddin Hoja.

"Would you lend me your donkey today, Hoja?" the neighbor asks, "I have goods to transport to the next town."

The Hoja answers: "I'm sorry, but I've already lent her to somebody else."

Suddenly the donkey is heard braying loudly behind a wall.

"You lied to me, Hoja!" the neighbor exclaims, "There is the donkey!"

"What do you mean?" the Hoja replies indignantly, "Whom would you rather believe, a donkey or your Hoja?"
  • The truth can come from unexpected places.
  • Don't lie about your affairs. The truth comes out eventually.
  • Claims of religious authority is the first refuge of the scoundrel. Be wary of liars who lead.

Fishy Morality[edit]

Once a renowned philosopher and moralist was traveling through Nasruddin's village and asked Nasruddin where there was a good place to eat. Nasruddin suggested a place and the scholar, hungry for conversation, invited Mullah Nasruddin to join him. Much obliged, Mullah Nasruddin accompanied the scholar to a nearby restaurant, where they asked the waiter about the special of the day.

"Fish! Fresh Fish!" replied the waiter.

"Bring us two," they requested.

A few minutes later, the waiter brought out a large platter with two cooked fish on it, one of which was quite a bit smaller than the other. Without hesitating, Mullah Nasruddin took the larger of the fish and put in on his plate. The scholar, giving Mullah Nasruddin a look of intense disbelief, proceed to tell him that what he did was not only flagrantly selfish, but that it violated the principles of almost every known moral, religious, and ethical system. Mullah Nasruddin listened to the philosopher's extempore lecture patiently, and when he had finally exhausted his resources, Mullah Nasruddin said,

"Well, Sir, what would you have done?"

"I, being a conscientious human, would have taken the smaller fish for myself." said the scholar.

"And here you are," Mullah Nasrudin said, and placed the smaller fish on the gentleman's plate.
  • Philosophizing is useless.
  • Moral conduct is ultimately selfish.
  • Kindness and wisdom expressed through customs and tradition often lose their meaning, and their intent.
  • Being mindful is not about philosophy.
  • The noblest philosophy and erudition can be used for selfish ends.
  • For the innovative, there always exists a perspective in which "doing unto others as you'd do unto yourself" pays off.

The Right Route[edit]

Nasrudin is asked by an official passing through:

"How do I get to town?"

"Go to the village," suggests Nasrudin.

"The village is in the wrong direction. I have just come from there; I want to go to town," says the haughty official.

"You can't get to town from here," insisted Nasrudin.

"Town is straight ahead, is that right?" argues the official.

"That's right!" says Nasrudin.

"And you would go straight ahead to get to town, right?"

"Right again!"

"Then why are you advising me to go back to the village?" asks the triumphant official.

"Well Sir, you see, they have something you need, a signposted route to town - I know where I am going!"
  • Don't leave town without directions.
  • If you do, then you might get turned around.
  • People in need of favors should watch their manners.
  • Why ask, if you seem to know better?

Wearing other people's hat[edit]

"Nasrudin, why is it people laugh at you?"

"Well," said Nasrudin, "Think of me as a turban. The nature of laughter exposes the false. If people laughed at themselves they would feel naked. Therefore I provide them with a 'head covering'."

"But Nasrudin, they are still naked!"

"Shhhhh," said Nasrudin smiling . . .
  • People need a teacher to help them learn more about themselves.
  • It is not only the Emperor who has no clothes.
  • If people are unable to laugh at themselves in order to learn, they can laugh at him instead and learn that way.

Wisdom from the Hidden Realms[edit]

Two children found a bag containing twelve marbles. They argued over how to divide the toys and finally went to see the Mulla. When asked to settle their disagreement, the Mulla asked whether the children wanted him to divide the marbles as a human would or as Allah would.

The children replied, "We want it to be fair. Divide the marbles as Allah would."

So, the Mulla counted out the marbles and gave three to one child and nine to the other.
  • What Allah sees as fair and what men see as fair is not necessarily one and the same.
  • Accept what you receive.
  • Do not compare yourself to others in terms of what is fair.
  • Life is not equally fair to everyone. Nor are humans equal to each other.
  • We don't always understand the bigger picture, so we should accept what life gives us.
  • Being fair - is a human concept and not something Allah made

Last Wishes[edit]

Nasrudin is with his cronies drinking coffee:

They are discussing death, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first crony says, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man."

The second says, " I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."

Nasrudin says, " I would like to hear them say... LOOK!! HE'S MOVING!!!"
  • Never give up hope.
  • Dead men cannot hear.
  • Be sure you understand the question before you choose your answer.
  • Pay attention only to the real issue.
  • The best last wish is, that these wishes wont be the last.
  • Die before you die.

Certainty[edit]

"Let us toss a coin and see who is right?" "Certainly," said Nasrudin, "heads I win, tails you lose."
  • Smooth talkers get their way.
  • Sometimes, you just can't win.
  • Coins don't know who's right.
  • Make your own luck.

Orthodoxy and heresy[edit]

"Nasrudin, is your religion orthodox?" "It all depends," said Nasrudin, "on which bunch of heretics is in power."
  • Power is not the arbiter of truth.
  • Heresy and orthodoxy are worldly distinctions.
  • Religious definitions are more often politics than spirituality.

The Nature of the Unseen[edit]

It seems that the Master of Mirth and Chief of the Dervishes, Nasrudin, was once called to pontificate on the 'Nature of Allah' in the local mosque. Present were the many Imams and Doctors of the Islamic Law. Out of courtesy and because Nasrudin could not be counted on saying anything worthwhile, these illustrious guests explained and inspired the audience with their eloquence and wisdom.

Finally it was Nasrudin's turn to explain 'the Nature of Allah'.

"Allah ...", started Nasrudin impressively "is ..."

Nasrudin removed and held up an ovoid mauve vegetable from the folds of his turban, " ... an aubergine."

There was uproar at this blasphemy. When order was finally established, Nasrudin was reluctantly asked to explain his words.

"I conclude that everyone has spoken of what they do not know or have not seen. We can all see this aubergine. Is there anyone who can deny that Allah is manifest in all things?"

Nobody could.

"Very well," said Nasrudin, "Allah is an aubergine."
  • Don't talk about things you don't know about.
  • A fool can make a fool of learned men.
  • The wisdom of the lord is the folly of men, and the folly of men is the wisdom of the lord.
  • People know as much about god as a chick that is still inside the egg.
  • Wise men can be trumped by a vegetable.
  • Religious people do not really believe the things they say and think they believe.
  • No description is equivalent to the thing it describes. To do so it would have to be the thing itself. Therefore, one can demonstrate but not describe the nature of Allah.
  • If we truly want to believe in and appreciate God, we should cherish him in all things, thus making our belief in him real.
  • Just because someone is making noise does not mean that they are communicating.
  • The nature of Allah is beyond human comprehension.
  • It makes no difference what Allah is.

Who died?[edit]

A traveler was passing through town when he came upon a huge funeral procession. Nasrudin was on a corner watching the people pass by.

"Who died?" the traveler asked Nasrudin.

"I'm not sure," replied Nasrudin, "but I think it's the one in the coffin."
  • Language is imprecise and we can sometimes miss the context of a question.
  • Speak only the truth you know.
  • Once somebody is dead, it matters little who they were in life.
  • Being a traveler, he wouldn't have recognized the person who died anyway. Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
  • We could answer many of our own questions, with a little thought.

Fishing...[edit]

Nasrudin heard that the king sent out a committee incognito, seeking suitable candidates for qazis (judges). Nasrudin took to walking around carrying an old fishing net on his shoulder. When the members of the committee reached his village, it drew their attention and they questioned him about it.

"Oh, I carry this net with me to remind me of my humble past as a poor fisherman," explained Nasrudin. The committee was impressed, and in due time Nasrudin was nominated as a qazi.

Shortly afterwards those king's representatives met Nasrudin again and noticed the net was gone.

"Where is the net, Nasrudin?" they asked.

"Well, you don't need the net after the fish is caught, do you?" replied Nasrudin.
  • Fools remain fools although power is with them.
  • Only Intelligence can win over power.
  • Power is founded on lies.
  • There is no reason to carry on with a deception after it has served its purpose.
  • Don't set in authority over you those who will lie to achieve such positions.
  • People tend to elect officials for foolish reasons. Image over substance.
  • Wisdom given may not mean what you expect it to mean, and the truth may be unflattering.
  • Be unique.

Return of the Camel[edit]

"Thief, thief! Someone has stolen my camel!" cried Nasrudin.

Finally after the commotion was quietened someone observed, "But Nasrudin, you have no camel."

"Shhh..." said Nasrudin, "I am hoping the thief is unaware of this and the camel will be returned."
  • Not all who claim to have been wronged, truly have been.
  • Beware those who play on your sympathies, sometimes they do so for the wrong reasons.
  • Sometimes, the true thief is the one claiming to have been stolen from.
  • There is no thief and no camel to be returned. Things you make up don't become reality.

People's talk[edit]

Mulla Nasrudin and his son were riding the donkey to the town market. A group of people passed. Mulla heard them whisper: "What times are these? Look at those two, have they no mercy on the poor animal?"

Nasrudin, hearing this, tells his son to get off and continue the journey on foot. Another group of people passing by and seeing this comment: "What times are these? Look at this man. His poor son with his frail body has to walk while he at his best age is riding the donkey!"

Hearing this, Nasrudin tells his son to ride the donkey and he himself gets off to walk the rest of the way. A third group of people seeing this remark: "What times are these? This young man is riding the donkey while his sickly old father has to walk!"

Hearing this, Nasrudin tells his son to get off the animal and they both walk with the donkey trailing behind. Another group passing by point to them, laughing: "Look at these idiots. They have a donkey and they are walking all the way to the market!"


  • It is impossible to please everyone.

Preaching[edit]

Mulla preached on Fridays at the village mosque. One day, having nothing to preach about, he asked the congregation:

"Do you know the subject I am going to discuss today?" "No" said the people. "Then I refuse to preach to such an ignorant assembly. How could you not know given the events of the past week?" asked Mulla and left hurriedly. Next Friday he went up the minbar and asked: "Do you know the subject of my sermon today?" People fearing a repetition of what had taken place a week before nodded and said: "Yes yes, indeed we know." "Well, then. There is no point in telling you what you already know", said Mulla and left. On the third Friday he ascended the minbar and asked: "Do you know what I am going to speak about today?" "Some of us know and some do not," answered the prepared congregation.

"Excellent, then those who know can tell those who don't", said Mulla and left.
  • It is easy to manipulate an audience that trusts you implicitly.
  • The correct answer is not always the opposite of the wrong answer.
  • It is impossible to teach those who are completely ignorant, and it is impossible to teach those who believe they already know the answers. The real way toward wisdom is for the learned ones to pass on what they know to ones who are willing and able to learn.

Ageless Strength[edit]

:Mulla was once boasting about his ageless strength.

"I am as strong as I was when I was a young man." "How can that be?" asked people.

"There is a big rock outside my house. I couldn't move it then and I can't move it now!" said Mulla.
  • It's all relative.
  • One must carefully choose the standards one measures oneself by. If the standard is too high it will never be achieved.
  • All of life's woes come from comparison.
  • The limitations of the self to effect the physical world remain relatively stable regardless of age or status.


The Great Pumpkin[edit]

Nasreddin Hodja was lying in the shade of an ancient walnut tree. His body was at rest, but, befitting his calling as an imam, his mind did not relax. Looking up into the mighty tree he considered the greatness and wisdom of Allah.

"Allah is great and Allah is good," said the Hodja, "but was it indeed wise that such a great tree as this be created to bear only tiny walnuts as fruit? Behold the stout stem and strong limbs. They could easily carry the great pumpkins that grow from spindly vines in yonder field, vines that cannot begin to bear the weight of their own fruit. Should not walnuts grow on weakly vines and pumpkins on sturdy trees?"

So thinking, the Hodja dozed off, only to be awakened by a walnut that fell from the tree, striking him on his forehead.

"Allah be praised!" he exclaimed, seeing what had happened. "If that had been a pumpkin that fell on my head, it would have killed me for sure! God is merciful! He has rearranged nature only to spare my life."
  • Things are as they should be.
  • Man is unable to understand just how complex nature actually is.
  • To achieve the fruit (spiritual perfection) one needs to be humble as the big fruit grow on the vines which are on the ground. Tall trees cannot bear the weight of big fruit and hence only produce walnuts.
  • What we think should be best, and what really is best, are often very different things.
  • To compare what is and what should be is always a fallacy, as it oversimplifies that which we, as mortals, cannot understand.

Parking[edit]

Nasrudin (during his age, there was no car) has been looking for a parking place for twenty minutes already. He turns around, he waits, he drives a bit further, but finds nothing.

He has an important business meeting and he's going to be late, but nothing, no parking space. Filled with despair he raises his eyes up to the sky and says:

"My God, if you get me a parking space in five minutes, I promise to you that I'll eat kosher (halal) food for the rest of my life..."

And suddenly - O miracle! – right next to him a car drives away leaving an ideal parking spot.

So Nasrudin turns his eyes to the sky and says: "God, stop searching, I found one!"
  • It is easy to claim credit.
  • Don't try to back out of your promises.
  • Everything is from Allah.
  • People are self-centered.
  • One man's miracle is another man's happenstance.

Truth[edit]

One day a fool asked Nasrudin "is God true?"

"Everything is true" replied Nasrudin.

"Even false things?"

"Even false things are true," said Nasrudin.

"But how can that be?"

"I don't know. I didn't do it," shrugged Nasrudin.
  • Truth is found in yourself, not in others.
  • Do not look to men for Truth. They may be even more confused than you are.

Telling a lie[edit]

One day Nasruddin and his friends decided to play a joke on the people in a village. So Nasruddin drew a crowd, and lied to them about a gold mine in a certain place. When everybody ran to get their hands on the gold, Nasruddin started running with them. When asked by his friends why he was following them, he said "So many people believed it, that I think it may be true!"
  • Liars eventually come to believe their own lies
  • Trust can be exploited
  • The behaviour of crowds is strange, and rarely relates to the truth
  • Don't judge the truth by what others believe

The Trial of Nasrudin[edit]

The king’s three scholars had accused Nazrudin of heresy, and so he was brought into the king’s court for trial.

In his defense, Nazrudin asked the scholars, “Oh wise men, what is bread?”

The first scholar said, “Bread is sustenance; a food.”

The second scholar said, “Bread is a combination of flour and water exposed to the heat of a fire.”

The third scholar said, “Bread is a gift from God.”

Nazrudin spoke to the king, “Your Majesty, how can you trust these men? Is it not strange they cannot agree on the nature of something they eat every day, yet are unanimous that I am a heretic?”
  • There are many ways to see even the most simple of things.
  • People rush to judgment in matters of import.
  • Different ways of seeing the same thing are not necessarily incompatible.
  • People are clueless and disorganized. Their judgements means nothing.

Nasreddin and the Sultan's Horse[edit]

One day, while Nasreddin was visiting the capital city, the Sultan took offense to a joke that was made at his expense. He had Nasreddin immediately arrested and imprisoned; accusing him of heresy and sedition. Nasreddin apologized to the Sultan for his joke, and begged for his life; but the Sultan remained obstinate, and in his anger, sentenced Nasreddin to be beheaded the following day. When Nasreddin was brought out the next morning, he addressed the Sultan, saying "Oh Sultan, live forever! You know me to be a skilled teacher, the greatest in your kingdom. If you will but delay my sentence for one year, I will teach your favorite horse to sing."

The Sultan did not believe that such a thing was possible; but his anger had cooled, and he was amused by the audacity of Nasreddin's claim. "Very well," replied the Sultan, "you will have a year. But if by the end of that year you have not taught my favorite horse to sing, then you will wish you had been beheaded today."

That evening, Nasreddin's friends were allowed to visit him in prison, and found him in unexpected good spirits. "How can you be so happy?" they asked. "Do you really believe that you can teach the Sultan's horse to sing?" "Of course not," replied Nasreddin, "but I now have a year which I did not have yesterday; and much can happen in that time. The Sultan may come to repent of his anger, and release me. He may die in battle or of illness, and it is traditional for a successor to pardon all prisoners upon taking office. He may be overthrown by another faction, and again, it is traditional for prisoners to be released at such a time. Or the horse may die, in which case the Sultan will be obliged to release me."

"Finally," said Nasreddin, "even if none of those things come to pass, perhaps the horse can sing."
  • Do not despair of your circumstances. Things are rarely as hopeless as they appear.
  • Beware of offending the powerful, regardless of how much they deserve it.
  • Clever words well-timed may succeed where reason and moral appeals fail.

Nasreddin (or rather, Juha) and the Poem[edit]

This story comes from the Arab version of the character, who is known as Juha.

At some point in time, the Emir got it into his head that he was a poet. After working for many days and nights, he completes the poem, and asks Juha, a noted scholar of poetry, if he would come to the recital. Juha of course could not refuse.

After the Emir had completed reciting the poem, he asked Juha for his opinion. "Are you sure, Sir?" asked Juha, cautiously. Oblivious, the Emir said, "Of course, that's why I brought you here!" "All right then," Juha replied, "If it pleases Your Lordship, it's terrible."

Obviously angered, the Emir called out "Guards! Put this man in prison." Turning to Juha, he said, "Thirty days," and walked out in a huff.

Shortly after Juha had completed his sentence, the Emir called upon him to attend a recital of another poem. When the Emir finished reciting, Juha immediately rose to his feet and started for the door.

"Where are you going, Juha?" the Emir asked, surprised.

"To the prison, sir."
  • Do not fear to speak truth to power
  • Do not prolong the inevitable

Nasreddin tells the truth[edit]

The Sultan of a great city was annoyed by the cheats and liars who entered his gates and caused trouble. He therefore set soldiers at all entrances. The soldiers were under orders to hang those who lied about their purpose for wishing to enter.

The Mullah Nasreddin saddled his donkey and rode to the city.

At the gate a guard stopped him and asked his purpose in wishing to enter and warned him that a lie would result in his being hanged.

"This is good for I have come to be hanged." Said Nasreddin.

"You are a liar and will certainly hang!" Said the guard

"Then you know I have spoken the truth and should not be hanged." said Nasreddin.
  • a fixed set of rules cannot be imposed everywhere, for every scenerio.

Nasreddin's keys[edit]

One late evening Nasreddin found himself walking home. It was only a very short way and upon arrival he can be seen to be upset about something. Alas, just then a young man comes along and sees the Mullah's distress.

"Mullah, pray tell me: what is wrong?"

"Ah, my friend, I seem to have lost my keys. Would you help me search them? I know I had them when I left the tea house."

So, he helps Nasreddin with the search for the keys. For quite a while the man is searching here and there but no keys are to be found. He looks over to Nasreddin and finds him searching only a small area around a street lamp.

"Mullah, why are you only searching there?"

"Why would I search where there is no light?"

External links[edit]