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.

The election meeting

It was before the elections. The town had invited all the candidates to address the citizens in the city hall.
    Nasrudin was invited, as an exotic local character, to entertain.
    When all three candidates had spoken, the Mulla mounted the platform and said:
    ‘I have come here to offer you my own, special recipe. Make a note of this, and try it on yourselves.’
    He went on to say that certain quantities of honey, garlic and fish were to be boiled together and then eaten.
    Quite a number of people tried the recipe.
    The taste was horrible. Several of them stormed Nasrudin’s house, wanting to know what he meant by such a trick.
    ‘Well,’ said Mulla Nasrudin, ‘I didn’t say that I liked it, in fact I had not tried it on myself. But it seemed such a good idea to me, I wanted to see whether it would work. That’s what election candidates do, isn’t it?’

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

Empty chairs in a meeting room

Friends in High Places

Nasrudin was returning home from market with a cartload of goods. The road was in such poor condition and the sacks on the cart so heavy that the donkey collapsed with fatigue. The Mulla started to curse the animal and then to beat it with a stick.

‘I order you to get up! My supper is getting cold at home!’

The Queen, who happened to be looking out of the palace window, called down to the street: ‘Stop beating that animal at once. Can’t you see it is exhausted?’

‘Excuse me!’ Nasrudin whispered, patting the beast, ‘I had no idea that you were a close friend of the Queen.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

Golestan Palace

Creeping up on himself

Bedar, the Watchman, caught the Mulla prising open the window of his own bedroom from the outside, in the depths of night.
    ‘What are you doing, Nasrudin? Locked out?’
    ‘Hush! They say I walk in my sleep. I am trying to surprise myself and find out.’

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

Shuttered windows in brick house

Ethological reflection

‘Why, Mulla, don’t you spend some time practising higher forms of thought, in order to improve yourself?’
    ‘For the same reason that lions don’t catch fish.’
    ‘Oh, you mean that you are not equipped for it?’
    ‘No, I only mean that I haven’t got around to it yet.’

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

A female lion or lioness drinking from a stream in the Auckland Zoo. Auckland, New Zealand

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