Mulla Nasruddin was a Seljuq satirical Sufi, believed to have lived & died during the 13th century in Akşehir, a capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, in today’s Turkey. He is considered a populist philosopher & wise man, remembered for his funny stories & anecdotes.

The Nasruddin stories are known throughout the Middle East & constitute one of the strangest achievements in the history of metaphysics. Superficially, most of the Nasruddin stories may be used as jokes. They are told & retold endlessly in the teahouses & caravanserais, in the homes & on the radio waves, of Asia.

But it is inherent in a Nasruddin story that it may be understood at any of many depths. There is the joke, the moral – and the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.

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1. How Truth Was Created

“Laws as such do not make people better,” said Mulla Nasrudin to the King; “they must practice certain things, in order to become attuned to inner truth. This form of truth resembles apparent truth only slightly.”

The King decided that he could, and would, make people observe the truth. He could make them practice truthfulness. His city was entered by a bridge. On this he built a gallows.

The following day, when the gates were opened at dawn, the Captain of the Guard was stationed with a squad of troops to examine all who entered.

An announcement was made: “Everyone will be questioned. If he tells the truth, he will be allowed to enter. If he lies, he will be hanged.” Nasrudin stepped forward.

“Where are you going?” The captain asked.

“I am on my way,” said Nasrudin slowly, “to be hanged.”

“We don’t believe you!”

“Very well, if I have told a lie, hang me!”

“But if we hang you for lying, we will have made what you said come true!”

“That’s right: now you know what truth is – YOUR truth!”

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2. Mulla Nasrudin and the Wise Men

The philosophers, logicians and doctors of law were drawn up at Court to examine Mulla Nasrudin. This was a serious case, because he had admitted going from village to village saying: “The so-called wise men are ignorant, irresolute, and confused.” He was charged with undermining the security of the State.

“You may speak first,” said the King.

“Have paper and pens brought,” said the Mulla. Paper and pens were brought.

“Give some to each of the first seven savants.” The pens were distributed.

“Have them separately write an answer to this question: “What is bread?” This was done.
The papers were handed to the King who read them out:

The first said: “Bread is a food.”
The second: “It is flour and water.”
The third: “A gift of God.”
The fourth: “Baked dough.”
The fifth: “Changeable, according to how you mean ‘bread.'”
The sixth: “A nutritious substance.”
The seventh: “Nobody really knows.”

“When they decide what bread is,” said Nasrudin, “it will be possible for them to decide other things. For example, whether I am right or wrong. Can you entrust matters of assessment and judgment to people like this? Is it not strange that they cannot agree about something which they eat each day, yet are unanimous that I am a heretic?”

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3. The Fish Morality

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.

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4. The Guest of Honor

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.

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5. People’s Talk

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!”

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Stories taken from the book
“The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin”
by Idries Shah

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