How Long will I Live?

One night Tamerlane dreamt that he was on his death-bed and was destined for the burning fires of Hell. Much troubled by the nightmare, he called his astrologers.

‘How long shall I live?’ he asked each man in turn.

The first told the Emir that he would live for twenty years. The second, that he would live fifty years. The third that he would live a hundred years. And the fourth told the Emir that he would never die.

‘Executioner!’ roared Tamerlane, ‘behead these men. Three have given me too little time and the fourth is just trying to save his own neck.’ Then, turning to Nasrudin he said:

‘You have told my fortune on occasion. What have you to say?’

The Mulla calmly replied: ‘Great Emperor, it just so happens that I, too, had a dream last night in which an angel told me the exact day of your demise.’

‘And what did he say?’ Tamerlane anxiously asked.

‘The angel told me that you would die on the very same day as I,’ replied Nasrudin.

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press


A Cobbler with Wings

When the Imam saw Nasrudin’s scuffed and torn slippers he patted him kindly on the arm:

‘Do not despair, Mulla. The Qur’an tells us that he who is needy in this world will be rewarded in Paradise. Your shoes may be worn and holed here, but you shall wear only the best in Heaven.’

‘In that case,’ replied Nasrudin, ‘I will certainly be a cobbler in Heaven.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A woodcut of shoe making.


One day, Nasrudin’s wife went into the kitchen and lit the stove. She then went to get some water from the well. Re-entering the house, she thought she heard her husband calling for her, but he was nowhere to be seen. Going back into the kitchen, she realized that the screams were coming from the oven. She opened the oven door and Nasrudin rolled out.

‘What on earth are you doing in the oven?’ asked the surprised woman.

‘I was hiding from the call to prayer,’ grumbled the Mulla, patting the flames from his coat. ‘But now you’ve opened the oven door I can hear the voice of the muezzin and am obliged to go to the mosque.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

Mosque in Isfahan

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 Magesty,’ 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,

Once on Dry Land

Nasrudin and his son were out fishing when a whirlwind appeared on the horizon.

‘God,’ pleaded the Mulla, ‘spare our flimsy craft and I will reward a needy man with a camel the size of a house!’

‘Father, how will you find a camel that large?’

‘I will worry about that once we are on dry land.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A fishing boat on the shore

House Calls

Nasrudin was collecting firewood in the mountains. He was cursing himself for having travelled so far from home without having thought to pack anything to eat, when a stranger appeared and cried:

‘My brother is very ill. Where can I find a doctor?’

‘I am a doctor,’ replied Nasrudin, and he was immediately led to the patient’s house. On entering, he was given a large bowl of pulao and a pot of green tea. When he had finished his meal, he turned his attention to the sick man.

‘Cover him with more blankets and place his feet in iced water,’ he told the patient’s wife before leaving the house.

He had hardly gone a few yards when the man caught up with him.

‘So much for your medical advice! My brother has just expired!’

‘That is unfortunate,’ replied Nasrudin, ‘but look on the bright side. If I had not had that pulao, I might have died too.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A donkey with a load of firewood

Different Paths

You are a great mystic,’ said one of Nasrudin’s pupils. ‘Surely you will know why men take different paths through life instead of all following one true path.’

‘Simple,’ replied his teacher. ‘If everyone followed the same path, we would all end up in the same place, the balance of the world would be tipped, and we would all be thrown into the ocean.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

The ocean

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