Instant Reading

A certain famous Fakir was claiming in the village that he could teach an illiterate person to read by a lightning technique.

Nasrudin stepped out of the crowd.

‘Very well, teach me – now.’

The Fakir touched the Mulla’s forehead and said: ‘Now go home immediately and read a book.’

Half an hour later Nasrudin was back in the market-place, clutching a book. The Fakir had gone on his way.

‘Can you read now, Mulla?’ the people asked him.

‘Yes, I can read – but that is not the point. Where is that charlatan?’

‘How can he be a charlatan if he has caused you to read without learning?’

‘Because this book, which is authoritative, says: “All Fakirs are frauds”.’

Caravan of Dreams Idries Shah, Octagon Press

Shakespeare & Co bookstore
By Christine ZeninoFlickr: Shakespeare & Co Books; Paris, CC BY 2.0,


A Neighbour came to Nasrudin for an interpretation on a point of law.
    ‘My cow was gored by your bull. Do I get any compensation?’
    ‘Certainly not. How can a man be held responsible for what an animal does?’
    ‘Just a moment,’ said the crafty villager. ‘I am afraid I got the question back to front. What actually happened was that my bull gored your cow.’
    ‘Ah,’ said the Mulla, ‘this is more involved. I shall have to look up the book of precedents, for there may be other factors involved which are relevant and which could alter the case.’

The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

Law book and gavel

How to keep it going

Mulla Nasrudin used to stand in the street on market-days, to be pointed out as an idiot.
    No matter how often people offered him a large and a small coin, he always chose the smaller piece.
    One day a kindly man said to him:
    ‘Mulla, you should take the bigger coin. Then you will have more money and people will no longer be able to make a laughing-stock of you.’
    ‘That might be true,’ said Nasrudin, ‘but if I always take the larger, people will stop offering me money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are. Then I would have no money at all.’

The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


Turnips are harder

The Mulla one day decided to take the King some fine turnips which he had grown.
    On the way he met a friend, who advised him to present something more refined, such as figs or olives.
    He bought some figs, and the King, who was in a good humour, accepted them and rewarded him.
    Next week he bought some huge oranges and took them to the palace. But the King was in a bad temper, and threw them at Nasrudin, bruising him.
    As he picked himself up, the Mulla realized the truth. ‘Now I understand,’ he said: ‘people take smaller things rather than heavy ones because when you are pelted it does not hurt so much. If it had been those turnips, I would have been killed.’

The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


All I needed was Time

The Mulla bought a donkey. Someone told him that he would have to give it a certain amount of food every day.
    This he considered to be too much. He would experiment, he decided, to get it used to less food. Each day, therefore, he reduced its rations.
    Eventually, when the donkey was reduced to almost no food at all, it fell over and died.
    ‘Pity,’ said the Mulla. ‘If I had had a little more time before it died I could have got it accustomed to living on nothing at all.’

The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A donkey in a field


The King sent a private mission around the countryside to find a modest man who could be appointed a judge. Nasrudin got wind of it.
    When the delegation, posing as travellers, called on him, they found
that he had a fishing-net draped over his shoulders.
    ‘Why, pray,’ one of them asked, ‘do you wear that net?’
    ‘Merely to remind myself of my humble origins, for I was once a fisherman.’
    Nasrudin was appointed judge on the strength of this noble sentiment.
    Visiting his court one day, one of the officials who had first seen him asked: ‘What happened to your net, Nasrudin?’
    ‘There is no need of a net, surely,’ said the Mulla-Judge, ‘once the fish has been caught.’

The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A fish being caught in a net

A Way with Words

A gang of burglars, awaiting trial, were worried by the severe sentences being handed out in court.

‘We need a man to represent us so eloquently that no judge could convict us,’ said their leader. Remembering Nasrudin’s way with words, he engaged him as their lawyer.

The Mulla appeared in court the next day and delivered a defence so convincing that all in the court-house were sure that the men were innocent. Nasrudin had put so much energy into his performance that he started to sweat. Seconds before the judge ordered the release of the defendants, their counsel could stand the heat no longer. Removing his coat, he asked the guards to lock it in a cell.

‘Why do you want your coat locked up?’ asked the judge.

‘If those men are to be set free,’ replied the Mulla, ‘I want to make sure my coat is in a safe place.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


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