Burnt Foot

An illiterate came to Nasrudin, and asked him to write a letter for him.

‘I can’t,’ said the Mulla, ‘because I have burned my foot.’

‘What has that got to do with writing a letter?’

‘Since nobody can read my handwriting, I am bound to have to travel somewhere to interpret the letter. And my foot is sore; so there is no point in writing the letter, is there?’

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

A Donkey

Offensive Explanations

The King decided to test Nasrudin’s wit.

‘I have thought of a tricky problem for you, Mulla. See if you can offend me in such a way that your explanation will be a hundred times worse than the original faux-pas.’

Nasrudin agreed. Several days later, the two men were out walking when Nasrudin grabbed the King by the beard and kissed him on the mouth.

‘What on earth are you doing?’ spluttered the horrified monarch.

‘Forgive me, Your Majesty,’ replied the Mulla. ‘For a moment I confused you with your wife.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

By James Steakley – photographed in the Theodelinda Chapel of the cathedral of Monza, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5403306

Ask Them, not Me

A man greedy for enlightenment came to see Nasrudin.

‘I have heard that you are a respected sage. What happens in the next world?’

Pointing to the graveyard, Nasrudin replied:

‘I suggest you ask someone over there.’

The World Of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


Nobody’s Fool

Nasrudin was forever being teased by his classmates, who thought him something of a simpleton. One day, one of his peers picked up an old boot from the street and asked Nasrudin what it was.

‘Can you not see for yourself?’ he replied. ‘It is obviously the cover for a boot-shaped scythe.’

The World of Mulla Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

The roof of Hafez's tomb

Can Good Turns Be Accidental?

Nasrudin’s donkey ran towards a pool to drink. The sides were very steep, and it was just about to over-balance and fall in when frogs began to croak loudly from the water.

This so frightened the ass that it reared up, and by this means was able to save itself.

Nasrudin threw a handful of money into the water, crying,

‘Frogs, you did me a good turn. Here is something for you to celebrate with.’

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

Frogs in a pond

A Question of Nature

One day, the Shah of Iran summoned the greatest thinkers and philosophers of the land to answer a riddle.

‘Which came first, the river or the boat?’

‘The boat, Your Majesty,’ said one, ‘for when it was invented, man realised that it could not sail on dry land and had to invent water.’

Nasrudin, who happened to be visiting the Shah’s Court, begged leave to ask a second question:

‘If fish swim all day, what do they do at night?’

Try as they might, none of the philosophers and sages could find a convincing answer, and Nasrudin finally offered an explanation:

‘After a hard day’s swimming, the fish are tired so they climb up into the trees and fall asleep.’

‘Ridiculous!’ clamoured the wise men.

‘Why so?’ asked Nasrudin. ‘Do you think that fish are cattle that they cannot climb trees?’

The World Of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


The Alternative

‘I am a hospitable man,’ said Nasrudin to a group of cronies at the teahouse.
    ‘Very well, then—take us all home to supper,’ said the greediest.
    Nasrudin collected the whole crowd and started towards his house with them.
    When he was almost there, he said:
    ‘I’ll go ahead and warn my wife: you just wait here.’
    His wife cuffed him when he told her the news. ‘There is no food in the house—turn them away.’
    ‘I can’t do that, my reputation for hospitality is at stake.’
    ‘Very well, you go upstairs and I’ll tell them that you are out.’
    After nearly an hour the guests became restless and crowded around the door, shouting, ‘Let us in, Nasrudin.’
    The Mulla’s wife went out to see them.
    ‘Nasrudin is out.’
    ‘But we saw him go into the house, and we have been watching the door all the time.’
    She was silent.
    The Mulla, watching from an upstairs window, was unable to contain himself. Leaning out he shouted: ‘I could have gone out by the back door, couldn’t I?’

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

A cat looking out a window.

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