Wednesday, 30 January 2008

This shall pass too…

It rains and then it stops… Everything has a beginning and an end. And as they say, when there is no more water in the pail, there is no more moon in the water. I know, our children cannot understand this in time to listen to their parents before they go. Tales go to sleep with their tellers, other, new people are needed to give them life, again. This reminds me of a story:

Well, the Mullah was growing old indeed.

People still giggled when he said funny things; but, they listened anyway, worried that he might have hidden some life-saving warning into strange words. It was well known after so many years that what he said was useful after all; they have learned in time that wise fools have ears to hear and eyes to see truth that comes from realms we, usual people, cannot understand. A world without such fools becomes very stupid.

His clay house by the old well, the house of "Nasr Ed din our beloved Hoca" looked lonely on the hillside, surrounded by aged fig trees unkempt but still heavy with sweet fruit. Strangely, the solitary house was rarely lonesome. Day in, day out, flocks of people came to seek counsel from the old jester of the kings. Because he never lied. What Hodja said, came about somehow. It always did.

Yes, the Mullah was growing old. In the evenings, as he was limping from the well, with a right foot that hurt, it happened more and more often that the bucket slipped out of his hand, the water spilled and lo, when there was no more water in the pail, there was no more moon in the water. Only his mind kept shining in the dark, as Allah had mercy on him.

One morning, some folks from Akşehir came to ask:

"Pray Hoca, is tomorrow the right day to marry Selim and Aisha?"

Nasrudin rose tall, leaned on his staff, looked for a while somewhere far away and said, with a clear, sad voice:

"There will be no tomorrow."

The visitors hastened away silent and frightened. Such bad news spread like husk in the wind:

"Nasr Ed din gave us terrible tidings: Tomorrow is the End of the World. Give up doing whatever you are about to do and pray. Prepare for the Last Day."

Moon over water by P. Klinger Flickr

When the next dawn broke people waited lost in dread.

...And nothing happened. Everything went on. As usual.

A puzzled crowd made its way to the door of the Hodja. How could he say what he said? They never got to the house though.

On the way, they discovered Nasreddin by the well, the bucket at his feet. He had died, the night before.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The wisdom of the world

It takes a life to learn what is really important; so that you would speak less, about fewer, meaningful things. But silence, as meaningful as it is, is rarely understood. You can of course point the way or give your own action as an example... However, most of the time you must use words, many, many words, to say first what you will say, then to say it, and at last to say again what you said. The wise must repeat themselves for a long, long time before they are heeded. This reminds me of a story:

“Human wisdom is contained in no more than seven stories” declared Nasreddin after numerous years of deep reflection. "All the rest is silly repetition, routine explaining the obvious.”

“Then, pray Oh Mullah, why is your life adorned with so many hundreds of silly stories repeating forever the same simple things?”

“For the sake of people such as you, my good man.”

Monday, 28 January 2008

Skilful augur

Bold people practise the art of self-fulfilling prophesy knowing that a large part of our future is of our own making. This reminds me of a story:

At one time Nasreddin bragged that he had the power to see the future. This proved to be a dangerous gift. As soon as Tamerlane was informed about the sinful claim he called Hodja and, as he unsheathed his sword, asked with a vicious smile:

“Tell me quickly: when will you die? Who knows, I may be a seer myself in such matters.”

Hodja felt that very moment that the best way to know one's future is to make it. He also knew that the Emir would stretch luck but never play with it. He looked bravely into Timur’s face and said:

“Great Emir, hearing you is obeying, even when I dread to disclose Allah’s will. I am not given to know without doubt my last day. I only had a blurred vision that I died one day before your Majesty. Inch Allah!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sharing with God

It is most profitable to associate with Divinity when you beg. You are looked at down and up, at the same time. This reminds me of a story:

Tamerlane’s dark army was streaming along a dusty trail under a boring dry succession of sandy gusts. In front, Tamerlane on his stallion. Behind, Hodja tottering on his mule.

Towards noon, in the precise middle of nowhere, the cavalcade came upon a skinny dervish curled up inside a white circle chalked on the dry ground. Tamerlane stopped. Nasreddin stopped. The legions stopped. Timur leaned forward and asked the man how he was surviving there.

“I ask human alms and humbly share them with God Almighty,” answered the dervish with a virtuous grin.

“By what means do you share with Allah?” inquired Timur.

“By self-restraint and modesty,” replied the anchorite, turning an insinuating critical eye towards the plump Hodja. “Whatever money I’m offered, I cast it up and use it depending where it falls. If it drops inside my white circle, I use it for myself. If it descends outside the ring it is God’s and I don’t touch it.”

Timur turned to Nasreddin :

“What do you say of this admirable moderation, worm? You, the always complaining.”

“I say: Isn’t the snake that spends all his life crawling in the dust the humblest creature?”

“Maybe,” insisted Tamerlane, “but how do you share with Allah?”

“I don’t have such impudent pretence, as I know that everything is His. Whatever money I obtain from your generosity I throw it all in the air for God’s judgement. Allah keeps what he wills. I only take for myself what falls back.”

Saturday, 26 January 2008

I will fool you

Nothing fools you like yourself. Great deceivers know this best. This reminds me of a story:

Tamerlane loved to cheat people and he was proud of his ruses. One evening at the court feast, after many drinks of arak, he remembered how in his youth he feigned dying, to appease a dangerous enemy:

“Shah-Mansur sent me ambassadors to size me up. Before their entry I had a lamb slaughtered and drank its blood. Then I called them in and in front of a multitude I had a copper vessel brought and vomited out the lamb’s blood. The ambassadors left delighted and reported prince Shah-Mansur that I was a dying man. Two days later I surprised him with my army. I tell you: I can fool anyone but no one can fool me!”

Nasreddin’s somewhat cheeky voice interrupted:

“Maybe I could do it…if it pleases your Majesty.”
“Would you dare?!”
“I have to, great Emir. I am your fool. My work is to fool. I will do my work for my master. As I am your fool I can fool you.”
“No one lies to me without dying.” growled Timur.
“Then I will fool you, without lying to you, even this night, before sunrise if you order so,” tempted Nasreddin .

Tamerlane became intrigued enough to take the bet:

“Be it! Try your luck tonight!”

That night the great Emir doubled his already unsurpassable guard and slept like a rabbit anxious to catch the devious Hodja trying to fool him – him, Master of all ruses.

Nothing happened until the sun was well above the horizon.
Tired and disappointed Timur had Hodja carried and cast at his feet:

“Where was you fooling, worm!?”

Nasreddin bowed respectfully:

“I promised to fool you, Majesty. Didn’t I?”
“You promised.”
“And I didn’t fool you. Did I”
“You didn’t.”
“But your Highness waited all night to be fooled. Is that so?”
“It is.”
“And nothing happened. Is that right?”
“It is.”
“So, without doing anything,  I fooled you, didn’t I?”

Friday, 25 January 2008

Bad debt

Feelings may be more hurtful that facts. If you can’t treat the fact, you can still cure the feeling. This reminds me of a story:

For several days now, Hodja kept his eye on Selim, his neighbour, over the fence. Poor Selim looked worried; all day he paced around the garden, like a bear in a cage. At night too you could hear him walking up and down inside his house, and sometimes coming out into the garden through his creaking door to sit and look at the moon.

One evening, Nasrudin, overcome with pity, put his elbows on the fence and asked:

“What’s wrong, Selim? Are you sick? Did you lose something?”

“Oh, no Hodja, thank you for asking. It is something else."

"What then? Someone you know is sick? Don't be shy, tell me."

Selim hesitated for a long moment, but eventually said:

"Well, the problem is that I owe one thousand dirham to Hassan by the end of the month. I don’t have it. Worry will kill me.”

Nasrudin didn’t say anything. He took his coat and staff and rushed away.

One hour later he knocked at Selim’s door triumphantly:

“It’s done,” he said.

“How? You paid for me?”

“Certainly not, how could I? But I went and told Hassan that for the time being you have no money at all. Now you can sleep in peace. It’s up to him to worry.”

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Just a trifle

Don’t ask for news from hungry people. This reminds me of a story:

The Cadi, returning from Ankara after three month of absence, was resting for lunch on the road-side by the forest. The meal was as rich as the cadi, Aksehir in sight but still far away downhill. Tired and hungry, Hodja appeared and was pleasantly surprised to meet food at the right time, when his belly urged for it.

“Salaam Aleicum, Cadi Effendi”

“Aleicum Salaam, Hodja Effendi”

Hodja, hopeful, sat down by the Cadi’s carpet. The Cadi went on eating alone. After a while, Nasrudin said:

“You were away for a long while…”

Chewing a good morsel, the cadi replied:

“Yes. There are good news home, I hope.”

“Well…” said Hodja, "This reminds me of a story.” And without waiting he continued:

“You know, there was a rich man having lunch on the roadside. A hungry old man from his hometown came by and sat with him. The rich man asked:

"'How are things home? Good news I hope!' The old man replied, careful not to spoil his appetite:

“'Don’t worry, all’s well. Except for a trifle; your dog died.'

“'My dog died? Sad news, she was a good dog. How did that come to be?' the rich man asked.

“'Don’t worry! She died happy! She choked on one of your horse's bones.'

“'My horse? My horse died too? How did such a thing happen?'

“'It so happened that he got crushed when the stable collapsed.'

“'The stable collapsed? This is terrible! How did that come to pass?'

“'Keep calm! It’s only that your house burned, and lit the stable too.'

“'Allah have mercy! Why did my house burn?'

“'Because of a mere candle. It fell on the carpet when your wife dropped dead. She knocked it down…'

“'My wife, Fatima dead? This is too much! I can’t see any more, my eye-sight is turning black!'

“'Oh, compose yourself! Be a man! She died of a broken heart like a good mother, since your three sons perished.'

“'I’m cursed!'

“'You know how life is. What is born will die. They were not the only ones. Many people were taken by the plague this summer. It was Allah’s will.'"

At this point the Cadi couldn’t bear it any more:

“Stop!” he said. “I don’t want news. Why don’t you finish my lunch, while I hurry home. It happens that I lost my appetite.”

And he rushed away while Nasrudin returned his right sleeve and stretched out his hand above the food. Of course, not before thanking Allah: "In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful. Thank you Lord for this food which I am about to receive..."

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Art of begging

Beware the one who swells your pride. A flatterer gives nothing for what he takes. This reminds me of a story:

In those charming old times when Nasrudin was poor like the fleas in his beard, but still forever young and full of resource, a complicated chain of lucky and unlucky circumstances led his pilgrim path to the city of Ankara. There he exercised the temporary profession of begging for his daily bread.

And quite successful he was, among the other members of the charity-seeking fraternity. His unique feature, that made him notorious, consisted in only accepting the smaller coin and rejecting with disdain the larger, whenever he was offered such a choice. The fact is that he was offered many such choices, enough to eat well and sleep in an inn.

Inevitably, a truly alms giving Muslim had to take him aside to explain the mistake:

“Brother,” he said softly, “Why persist in error? You should take the larger coin. It’s worth more. Stop being the laughing stock of the town.”

Hodja whispered back with a friendly smile:

“Thank you, brother, for teaching me. Unfortunately that would stop my alms too. Don’t you see that people flock to give me coins only to see how clever they are compared with me?”

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Random acts of kindness

In one hundred occasions there may be ninety-nine when you don’t have a choice. But there is one when you can choose to do what you think to be good and right. That one decides who you are, with no excuse. This reminds me of a story*:

The sand of the Black Sea coast was covered with myriads of starfish washed ashore by the storm, doomed to be soon dried out by the sun. Nasreddin picked them up patiently and threw them back, one by one, undisturbed by the hopeless immensity of the task.

A passer-by wondered and asked him,

“Why are you wasting your time? It’s all Allah’s will. Don’t you see that all you can do doesn’t count at all?”

“It counts for me, and it counts for this one,” answered Hodja, tossing yet another starfish into the tide.

* (The original was written by Loren Eiseley (1907–1977) "The Star Thrower"1978, Times Books, Random House)

Monday, 21 January 2008

Last wishes

To him that is joined to all the living there is hope. A living dog is better than a dead lion. This reminds me of a story:

Timur's death mask
The years had passed without mercy. Tamerlane grew to conceive that time was the one enemy he could not conquer. He became interested in what the world would do after him. At the usual hour of leisurely repose, so much deserved by a king of kings, he addressed the following deep thought to his humble jester Nasrudin:

“When I am set down in my casket, mourned by my soldiers, ready to be taken to my last repose, I want people to look at my unmoving face and say: Here is one man whose glory is eternal!"

Timur was silent for a while, satisfied with his thought, then he turned his heavy gaze to Hodja and asked generously:

“And you, worm, what would you like people to say about you at such a moment?”

Nasrudin thought for a moment, and then replied with a wry smile:

“I, Master would love them to say: Look! He’s moving!”

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Big fish, small fish

Could someone please explain once more why you have to do unto others that which you want to have done unto you? This reminds me of a story:

Two fishes to feed 5000 CC Grauesel
Abu Hassan al-Mutakallim al-Hikma, utmost authority in the study of Divine Knowledge and Ethics, hearing too much and too often about the aforementioned Mullah Nasreddin, came to examine this man in his village of Horto. In order to make the small Mullah feel at ease and in confidence, open to investigation, Abu Hassan invited him to eat together at the local inn. That day they served fish.

When the ordered course arrived, at last, it was easy to observe that on the platter there where two fishes; one larger and the second much smaller, both attractively prepared and smelling definitely appetising, sprinkled with fresh parsley. Nasreddin reached out without hesitation and pulled the large fish on his own plate. The distinguished guest and moralist looked at him in consternation and couldn’t contain his righteous observation.

“My dear colleague, isn’t this act selfish and immoral?”

“Why, Maulana, what would you do in my stead?” replied Hodja, looking up from his steaming dish with candid eyes.

“I would have, of course,” said the distinguished scholar, “taken the smaller fish for myself and given the larger one, unselfishly, to my fellow man.”

“And here we are, doing the right thing!” concluded Nasreddin elegantly tossing the small fish into the guest’s plate.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Precise justice

You can do what you want, but can you want what you want? This reminds me of a story:

Two merchants came to Nasrudin the cadi to obtain justice. One, Selim explained:

“Before I left for a long and dangerous voyage earlier this year I wanted to keep my money, three hundred gold curush, safe. I went to my old time and respectable acquaintance Ahmed, here present and asked him to keep my money until I come back. Ahmed, I said, hold my money for one year. If I don’t come back, pray for me and do with it what you want. But if I do come back, as I hope, before that time, you will give me back what you want and keep the rest. Do you agree? He did. Allah be praised, I came back after only six month and asked for my money. Ahmed, says that he wants to keep two hundred and eighty for himself and he will give me back twenty curush, following our agreement. I don’t know how to put it in plain words but this is not fair.”

Ahmed made clear that he was in his right, since a contract is a contract. “I was to give him what I want,” he reminded.

Nasrudin rested his forehead on his palms and meditated for a long time about the fickleness of words and the useful power of interpreting them. In the end he decided:

“A contract must be respected to the last letter. You Ahmed want to take two hundred and eighty curush. Selim requested, and you agreed that you give him what you want and keep the rest. My decision is this: You Ahmed, will give Selim the two hundred and eighty curush which you want and keep the rest which you don’t want.”

Friday, 18 January 2008

Good food

There is always higher than high and lower than low. This reminds me of a story:

Once you have tasted good food, you will remember it from time to time. Nasrudin, who, being retired from Tamerlane’s court, lived in modesty, walked once by the sultan’s palaces and observed a big feast offered to important people under a splendid tent. His feet decided at once and carried him inside, straight to one of the chairs of honour, on the right hand of the throne.

“And what do you think you are doing here?” asked the Chief Guard. “These places are for the guests of honour.”

“I am more than a guest.”

“Is that so? Are you an envoy of a foreign king?”

“More than that.”

The guard considered Hodja from the slippers to the turban:

“Are you one of the ministers in disguise?”

“Much more than that,“ said Nasrudin looking him in the eye.

“So, you must be His Majesty the Sultan, himself!” scowled the soldier.

“I am above this,” persisted Hodja without flinching.

“Above the Sultan?! Nobody’s higher than the Sultan.”

“Now you understand,” concluded Hodja. “I am nobody.”

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Flirting with humility

Truly, to practice humility you need a certain well-being. This reminds me of a story:

One Friday afternoon, at the mosque, Nasrudin felt suddenly hit by modesty and depression for this life, so short, in a world so endless. He fell down on his knees, lifted his arms and cried out:

“Oh, Everlasting One! I’m nothing! I’m nothing!”

The Imam looked at him, saw that this was good and knelt down exclaiming in his turn:

“I’m nothing! I’m nothing!

A beggar in dregs was so impressed he threw himself down too, tears in his eyes:

“I’m nothing! Nothing!”

At this the Imam turned to Nasrudin and sneered:

“Look who thinks he’s nothing now!”

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The way

Good horses, determination and good hope are good companions but poor guides. Before you charge ahead make certain you want the right thing. This reminds me of a story:

One sunny spring afternoon Nasrudin was sitting peacefully by the imposing North gate of Samarkand watching the colourful string of caravans following each other and followed in turn by the curious glances of the populace.

A stranger, an obviously rich merchant from Persia about to leave town, felt attracted by Hodja’s honest-looking turban and stopped his convoy to inquire about the dangers of travel.

“Salutations to you venerable Mullah,” he said. “I am going to Herat. Is the road secure? Will I get there safely?”

“You will not reach your destination,” answered Hodja in a confidential low voice.

“So there are robbers on the road?” worried the merchant lowering his own voice.

“No, there aren’t. They are too afraid of Emir Timur.”

“Is the road difficult? I have good camels and my horses are strong!” continued the traveller.

“The road is good, but you will never get there.”

By now the merchant was deeply disturbed:

“Is there a lack or water and food on the path? I took many provisions in my luggage.”

“That will not suffice.”

“Other hardships to expect? I have money to replace whatever is needed.”

“No use. You better change your plan.”

The traveller grew irritated: “But I must go to Herat and I am a determined man. And who are you to be so certain that I will not arrive?”

“Look, my good man,” replied Nasrudin, “let me make it plain for you: the better the camels and horses, the more provisions, money and resolve, the less you will get to Herat. Herat is South and you are heading North.”

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Teaching the perplexed

For many, complication is menace and subtlety an insult. With such, keep things flat. This reminds me of a story:

Tired with the world, Mullah Nasrudin - the enlightened Hoca- lived secluded in a mountain cave. The perfumed rose of Sufi wisdom alone illuminated his nights and mystic love helped him ignore the cold of the dawn. But his renown could not let him in peace. Like swarms of hornets, would-be disciples assailed the worn barrel top that prevented the Sun to see him through the day and the iyldiz blow to scatter his dreams at midnight.

One wintry afternoon, as the Hodja was about to roll his prayer rug with icy fingers, an aspiring apprentice arrived, after many weeks of vicissitudes, across mounts and valleys. The traveller was tired and frozen but hopeful to learn at the feet of the master. Another one! The mullah greeted him and asked him into his humble abode. Eager to start learning, and knowing that every action of a saint is soaked with sweet meaning like a honeycomb, the believer asked:

"O Mullah, why do you blow onto your hands?"
"To warm them my friend, why else?"

Inside, the mullah poured two bowls of hot soup to share with his visitor. He started blowing into his own.

"Why are you doing that, master?" inquired the pilgrim.
"To cool my steaming brew, of course" answered Nasrudin.

Hearing these words, the disciple could take no more. He threw up his bowl and ran away screaming:

"Curses of Iblis! How could I ever learn from a man who blows hot and cold from the same mouth?"

Monday, 14 January 2008

An arm’s length

Being a public man is an art of the harlot. With one hand you lure the crowd with another you shun it. This reminds me of a story:

One day the Imam visited Nasrudin, in all discretion to ask his counsel:

“Dear Hodja, “he said, “you are seasoned in the art of giving advice. Like you, and even more, I am submerged with all these shallow believers who come, everyday, from morning to dusk, to solicit my counsel and direction in worldly matters: One wants this. Another wants that. The third wants this and that. The fourth wants this but not that. It never ends. I need time for peace and prayer. I can’t take it any more! I am tired. But I cannot reject them. Do you have one of your good pieces of advice to give to a fellow adviser?”

The Hodja pondered for a while and found:

“I have a way out for you, it comes from your fellow, the rabbi. Do the following: If the ones coming to see you are poor, lend them money. You will not see them any more. If they are rich, ask them to give you money. They will disappear, all the same.”

Sunday, 13 January 2008


Some, will learn from you and pay you with respect. Most, will steal from you whatever you teach and hasten away. Lucky if they let you live. This reminds me of a story:

At one time when Hodja was a poor man, he got visited by a thief. Nasrudin was lying in his bed. To avoid being hurt, he pretended that he was sleeping. The man packed whatever he considered worth into a big bundle and finally carried it away.

Hodja pulled the blanket over his shoulders and tiptoed after the thief along the streets.

At his own house, the thief entered and deposed the load. Someone knocked on the door. The thief opened and looked startled at the Hodja and at his blanket:

“What are you doing here Hodja?”

Nasrudin entered and showed the bundle:

“I brought the blanket too. Haven’t we moved over here?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

You never know

A touch of eastern wisdom will always be good for your health provided you don’t get drowned in its endless flow. This reminds me of a story:

For once, the Mullah was almost rich. Tamerlane had offered him a pure breed stallion as a gift for being amused on one occasion. Besides, he had saved some good money. Homesick and wiser as he felt, he decided to settle again in his native village of Horto, where his wife and son were longing for him in the old peaceful family house. Home, sweet home!

This was not to last long. The stallion ran away in the woods. The neighbours came to express how sorry they were:

"Your precious stallion gone! Such a terrible loss, Hoca!" they said.

"Maybe yes, maybe no," said Nasrudin.

One week later, the stallion returned with seven wild mares. The neighbours marvelled and congratulated our mullah:

"Hoca, you happy man! Such good luck!"

"Maybe yes, maybe no," he said.

No more than one day later, the Hodja's son mounted one of the new horses. The wild animal threw him and broke his leg and arm. Now the people said:

"Misfortune! Fate is so cruel with you Hoca!"

"Maybe yes, maybe no."

At the time when the harvest grew ripe, the army of the Padishah came by that place and the recruiters fastened all the young men with ropes and took them away to refresh the troops for the winter war. The son of the Hodja alone was rejected with his disabled limb. Heart-broken neighbours came to say:

"From all of us you are the lucky one, Hoca!"

"Maybe yes, maybe no."

Friday, 11 January 2008

How much

In overseeing your possessions it helps to have a long term view. Not too long though. This reminds me of a story:

Every child can imagine the cavern of Ali Baba. But who on earth could have been able to picture the treasuries of Tamerlane? What is robbing a caravan compared with plundering twenty-seven kingdoms? For an example, eight hundred camels were insufficient to carry the gold pillaged only from Damascus. Nobody ever counted the wealth ravished from India… Rivers of gold and silver poured over the gravel of diamond and pearls at the feet of the Master. It was said that the loot gathered by Gengis Khans’s hordes ended up in Timur’s hands too. In Samarkand, like all over the empire, endless numbers of palaces, gardens and treasury chambers belonged all to one man – the Emir. Everything belonged to him.

Then, one cold winter day, on his way to conquering China, the old tyrant died. Unexpectedly, for the Iron Emir seemed immortal. After this event, Nasrudin hastened back to Horto, his childhood village. Even there, the death of the emperor was on people’s lips. Everybody wondered what wealth was bequeathed to his heirs by the great Tamerlane, richest man on earth.

“Hodja,” asked Camal the barber,” you lived at Tamerlane’s court, spent your day in his presence and luxury, saw his possessions. You must know. How much did he leave?”

Nasrudin, closed his eyes in concentration and counted for a long while in his mind. At last he opened his eyes and said:


Thursday, 10 January 2008

Multiplying with one hundred

There is strength in numbers; the best place to hide may be amidst a crowd. This reminds me of a story:

Tamerlane, the protector of the arts, became very fond of spending his leisure time and soothing his soul in the sound of the zummarah reed pipe. Soon, from one performer, the kingly orchestra grew to no less than one hundred blindfolded pipers, replenishing the gallery above the emir's resting pavilions.

When Hoca was told about Timur's new passion, he let the word spread that he, Nasrudin was the best zummarah player of the empire, too expensive for mere princes to employ. Rushed into the presence of the Emir he was offered as expected to choose between a big salary or else. As you can guess, he accepted and added to his income a nice sinecure and pleasant moments of drowsing in the rank of the court musicians.

One day Timur was advised by a guest that pleasure is multiplied hundred fold when one hundred courtiers listen in silence to one artist performing alone, rather than one person alone, even a king, hearing one hundred musicians all at the same time. After this, he ordered that each performer would delight him in turn.

Long before his own turn to shine in front of the master, the Mullah felt so sick in the chest that he had to give up playing the zummarah forever.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Either or

Don’t let choices choose for you. There may be a choice of choices. This reminds me of a story:

Friday noon at the mosque, the Imam decided to preach by making people feel, in their own being, the meaning of salvation and damnation.

“Let’s see,” he said, "those of you who choose to go to Hell, stand up!”

Nobody rose.

“Now, those who want to go to Heaven,” continued the Imam with intent.

Everybody stood up. Except Nasrudin.

The Imam fixed him with a blameful piercing eye:

“Don’t you think, brother, that it is high time to decide?"

“I did,” replied Hodja with a deep honest gaze. “I want to stay here.”

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Find the stupid

Instruct a jester with care. He may do what you request instead of what you want. This reminds me of a story:

Said Tamerlane:

“Mulla, here is a task that fits a fool. Find out for me who are the ten most foolish people in Samarkand. Have fear of no one, I request the truth. Rasti Rusti! What means do you need to do it?”

Nasrudin considered carefully and replied:

“Hearing is obeying, Sahib Qiran! I only need a bucket, and a week of time.”

The bucket was provided. Nasrudin filled it with water and went to sit in the middle of the fruit market of Samarkand. He also took a fishing line with him, which he cast into the bucket.

Three days later the impatient Emir had himself accompanied to the market to inquire of the advancement of the research. He found Nasrudin fishing in a bucket.

“Hmm...” said the monarch, “how many did you catch?”

“Nine, with you, Majesty, only one more left to find.”

Monday, 7 January 2008

What it seems and what it is

When you place the cheese in the mousetrap, you are advised to leave some space for the mouse too. This reminds me of a story:

The Hodja strolled away at the butchers’ and bought three oka of his favourite mutton. Back home he asked his wife, the faithful Kadidja to prepare from it the meal he liked most – meatballs.

The dish was cooked as ordered that afternoon.

What a pity that the Mullah was still away when the tasty spicy browned meatballs sizzled ready in the pan! And what a pity that a neighbour happened to drop by! What a pity that the two women had such a pleasant chat while munching up all the meat!

That evening, a Mullah full of expectation sat down waiting for his favourite meal. The only thing he got was a meagre plate of fried beans with garlic sauce.

“Where is my mutton, Kadidja?”

“I am sorry to say that your wicked cat snatched it away and ate it all up.”

“I can’t believe it! Such a big piece of meat?”

“Well, just look at his cheeky snout and you’ll see he’s guilty!”

The Hodja grabbed the cat, saw that he looked guilty indeed, put it on a scale and said:

“Woman, I’m lost. The scales show exactly three oka. So, here is my meat.

"But then my sweet," he continued, "if this is my meat, where is my cat?"

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Conversations with God

When it comes to miracles, better open your eyes and your ears, and give all your attention to every word you hear. It’s worth it. This reminds me of a story:

“Nasrudin talks to God!” The rumour spread like fire through dry hay. In less than one week the news was whispered into the Emir’s all-knowing ear. As a result Hodja was summoned to the morning divan.

“How could you hide such an important thing from me, worm!” growled Timur when he found a spare moment among the many affairs he had to bid and to forbid that day.

“What thing, Master?” replied Nasrudin, while trying to remember which one of his countless misdeeds could have come to the emperor’s knowledge.

“Don’t try to play with me! Is it or is it not true that you speak with God?”

“Ah, with God the All Powerful! Blessed be his name! Yes, I do. I speak with him every day.”

“And He? What does he say?”

“Nothing. Unfortunately, He doesn’t speak with me.”

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The use of boots

Everything is relative; especially man’s solidarity with his fellow. This reminds me of a story:

Far astray, much too far from the holy road to Mecca, tired Nasrudin and a companion of misfortune were lost in the great desert. They pulled their blistered legs through the fine hot sand that flew, on and on, around their boots like an hourglass forever turned. Yes, the day was near to end but not the journey.

And lo! Luck smiled upon them. Out of nowhere, between two yellow dunes, there was an oasis. It was too small and too lucky to have ever had a name, so that it thrived in harmony, just five rich palm trees on a bed of green grass, and fat flowers around an incredible little fresh pond sipping peacefully from a murmuring, cold crystal source.

After first quenching their thirst – for the thirsty plain water is so sweet – and quickly thanking Allah, the travellers pulled off their boots to refresh their weary feet in the cool water.

In the middle of this happiness, there was a huge roar, like a drum of war, and a desert lion presented his majesty on top of a dune.

At this, without delay, Hoca pulled his boots back on, ready to run for his life.

“Fool," cried the other traveller, "do you think that with your boots on you will run faster than the lion?”

“No brother, I will only run faster than you, and that will be good enough for me!”

Friday, 4 January 2008

Too many words

When there is something to say, the wise one speaks the right number of words, not one more, not one less. The only difficulty with this golden rule is to judge which words are the really needed ones. This reminds me of a story:

 After many years of hard work, having at last saved the money, Ali opened his own fish-shop. Around the crates with many kinds of fish and sea-food glimmering on beds of ice, he placed festive green herbs and assorted vegetables promising delicious feasts.

With the help of the schoolmaster Akeem, Mustapha, the painter, calligraphed a wonderful and inviting sign in gorgeous Arabic, on lustrous white cloth:

“Here, we have opened a fish-shop where we sell good, fresh fish.”

The painting took quite a while, since Mustapha did not know Arabic and the schoolmaster was curiously poor at drawing letters. Anyway, at last, it was ready.

Later in the morning Nasreddin had to come by on his usual stroll through the village. He admired the stalls, read the banner and called Ali.

“Allah Bereket Versin, may God give you abundance Ali!” he said, “congratulations for the shop. But what is this silly long phrase you put above the entrance: 'Here, we have opened a fish-shop where we sell good, fresh fish'. Of course it is here and not elsewhere that you opened your shop. Cut the useless beginning!”

"But Nasreddin, this was painted by Mustapha with Akeem's help! They will not like me to damage their work."

"It's your choice, Ali. Do you want clever advertising to sell your fish, or do you want everyone to pass on in confusion?"

After some hesitation, Ali took a pair of scissors and reluctantly cut the word “Here”.

Nasreddin, walked away, but after a couple of minutes he came back and said to Ali,

“Ali, 'we have opened a fish-shop where we sell good, fresh fish' is just silly. Of course you have opened the shop; nobody believes that you closed it down! In the interest of your business, you must cut the absurd 'we have opened'."

Ali, with a broken heart, did as advised. Unfortunately, the Hodja came back, yet again.

“Sorry Ali, but 'a fish-shop where we sell good, fresh fish' does not work at all. Too many worthless words. 'a fish-shop where' could be spared with. It is common knowledge that fish is sold in a fish-shop and not at the bakers. Cut these words!”

And Ali, complied. Nasreddin did not fail to come again, though. This time he observed wisely,

“Ali, your sign is still flawed. 'We sell good, fresh fish' insults the intelligence of the clients. Why announce that you sell the fish? Are you supposed to give it away? Cut!”

Do you think this was it? Not so. In less than ten minutes Hodja was back delighted to having found a better solution.

“Ali,” he said, 'good, fresh fish' will make people suspicious that perhaps the fish is really rotten. Look, I will help you and cut 'good, fresh' out, myself.

So it was done. Half an hour later, Nasreddin reappeared.

“This sign, 'fish', is no good. Who needs it? Can’t you see the fish? Can’t you smell it? Cut!”

Thursday, 3 January 2008

A gift of fruit

Sometimes, for the sake of fun, there is no alternative to calling a spade a spade. This reminds me of a story:

Timur set his camp near Konya. Each morning, the neighbouring villages sent people to him to sweeten his disposition with gifts. One day, Nasrudin was sent, with a small basket of green figs as a gift.

"What!" growled the Emir, "I hate figs! Stick them up his arse."

The guards promptly undressed Nasrudin and began to execute the order.

Unexpectedly, as they did so, Hoca erupted in mad laughter. The punishment proceeded but he continued to giggle.

"What is this?" the Emir asked, curious. "Are you one of those people who like this sort of thing?"

"Oh no, kind master, no," replied the Mullah, "but I think of my neighbour, who's next. He brought you watermelons!"

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Or else!

What should you do when the unacceptable happens? Well… what you can. It is definitely forbidden to do what you cannot. This reminds me of a story:

On the way back from Samarkand to Eskisehir the Silk Road seemed never to end and was mainly made of sand. Everywhere, the same dogs were barking, the same caravan passed and then the dusty dogs were barking again and the sand ate up the traces of the camels and horses and donkeys, leaving the weary travellers at the gate of yet another caravan serai, that could have been the same.

That night Hoca, at long last released from the emotions of service at Tamerlane's court, dreamed a strange dream. It appeared to him that he was a young donkey leaping about, free from worry, across green flowery fields. It was such a delightful vision!

In the morning he did not know for certain: Was he the awakened Nasr Eddin the Hodja having dreamt all night that he was a donkey or was he a sleeping donkey making now this strange dream that he wake up as a Hodja?

Anyway, when he got to the stables his donkey - the certainly real one - was missing, stolen.

This was a very unfavourable event as it is much easier to ride than to walk when you have a long way ahead.

In desperation, Nasrudin proceeded to the main court of the inn and there, shouted loud and clear for each and everyone to hear:

"Listen, all of you people! My donkey is gone.
If my donkey doesn't appear where he was, in one hour from now, I will do what my terrible Master, Emir Timur did, in his youth, when the same happened to him! I will say no more."

The travellers looked at each other, then started asking questions and found out from the caravan that this man was indeed seen with Tamerlane's advisers. A cold spell fell upon the assembly. This was by no means a threat to take lightly. Nobody in their right mind would mess with Timur's envoys. Even less with his advisers.

And lo, the donkey reappeared in the stable in less than one hour.

A very pleased Hoca, saddled the beloved companion.

"But pray, Hodja," asked some curious travellers, "what would you have done in case the donkey remained missing? What did the iron Emir do in his glorious youth?"

"I will tell you what I was ready to do:

"When fearless young Timur had his horse stolen at Kech, he walked, with his saddle on his back, all the way until he got another horse."

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The once a century scheme

There are no old tricks, only old people. A hoax is new, once in every generation and humans are proven to never learn from history. Once in each lifetime it works. Some turns of mind are therefore worth to remember, as they will happen again. You may need to defend yourself against them or even use them when in need. This reminds me of a story:

Nasruddin, adorned with an imposing turban, sat down at the fair, on a beautiful silken carpet, with a dancing snake, a flute and a tall, expensive looking jar by his side. He left the snake rest (it was an old tired one, totally harmless) but proclaimed to everyone to hear, in a voice vibrant with optimism and mysterious promise:

“Throw one akçe in this pitcher at my feet and I will whisper into your ear the unfailing recipe of earning much money without toil!”

The market being crowded, many people put their coin in hodja’s vase. To each, Nasruddin murmured his secret. Each departed somewhat thoughtful, most nodding approvingly. The more the pitcher was filled with little coins, the more people were itching to learn the secret. This is normal, if you consider.

By the time the jar was full with coins to the brim, the subashi came and asked severely:

“What do you think you are doing here, Hodja? Deceiving people?”
“Not at all, Effendi,” answered Nasruddin, “I am teaching them plain truth in exchange of payment.”
“And what is that truth?”
“Toss in your coin and I will tell you too.”
“Here it is. Let me hear your truth. How on earth to earn money without toil?”

Hodja leaned forward and whispered:
“Use my secret sparingly. This works only one first time but it can get you rich.”

He paused and added:
“To earn money without toil, do as I do now.”