Statement and Belief

One day, while he was Imam, Nasrudin forgot the text of his sermon and blurted out:

‘Allah created the world in six months!’

Later, a scholar came to correct the mistake:

‘The Qur’an states that it took just six days to create the world.’

‘Listen, brother,’ replied the Mulla, ‘you and I know that that is the case, but there is no way that a flock as illiterate as mine is going to believe that!’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

The World

Literate Donkey

The King grew tired of Nasrudin’s habit of bringing his donkey with him to Court.

‘From this day on,’ he ruled, ‘no illiterate may show his face in my presence. Unless you can teach your donkey to read, Mulla, I command you to keep him out of the palace.’

For three weeks Nasrudin appeared before the King without his beast, but at the end of this time he arrived and led the animal up to the royal throne.

‘Is your mind so feeble that you have already forgotten my decree?’ bellowed the King.

‘With your permission, Sire, I will demonstrate that this donkey can read.’

In need of a little entertainment, the monarch gave his consent. Whereupon Nasrudin produced the Qur’an and placed it on the ground in front of the donkey. Sure enough, the animal leafed through the pages with his tongue and, reaching the end of the Holy Book, the creature began to bray loudly.

‘I trust Your Majesty is satisfied,’ said the Mulla.

‘Not until you tell me how you performed this miraculous act,’ demanded the Sovereign.

‘It was easy,’ said Nasrudin, ‘I trained my beast by covering each page with oats. Each time I offered him the book, he ate the oats and turned the page in search of more. After three weeks, he has come to associate the Qur’an with food. Now he brays because, for all his licking and searching, he cannot find his meal.’

‘This exercise proves nothing!’ replied the King.

‘Forgive me, Majesty, but I must disagree: it proves that one can teach any dumb animal to read.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A funny looking donkey

If I were You

One winter Nasrudin rode high into the mountains in search of firewood. After a day of exhausting work, he finally had enough branches piled on his donkey to return home. But soon, he could stand the biting cold no longer. Thanking God for the fact that he at least had wood for a fire, he set light to the bundles on the donkey’s back. With a bray of alarm, the beast galloped off at full speed.

‘If I were you,’ Nasrudin hollered after the animal, ‘I’d jump in the nearest river!’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

A river in the winter

Peel and All

Nasrudin’s wife watched fascinated as her husband ate his oranges, peel and all.

‘Are you not forgetting to remove the peel?’ she asked as he bit into another piece of fruit.

‘The fruit-seller is a very conscientious man,’ replied Nasrudin. ‘If oranges were meant to be eaten without the peel, he would have removed it before the sale.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

an orange tree

Following Instructions

Nasrudin desperately needed money to pay his debts. One day, he collected feathers from his chicken coop and fashioned them into fans. As it was summer, there was no shortage of people trying to keep cool. Encouraged by success, Nasrudin tied more feathers together that night and returned to the bazaar the next day. As soon as he set up his stall, he was mobbed by the previous day’s customers.

‘These are not fans — they are just feathers!’ they clamoured. ‘As soon as we tried to use them, they fell apart.’

‘Unfortunately,’ replied Nasrudin, ‘I cannot refund your money because you have failed to follow the instructions.’

‘And what might the instructions be?’ demanded the crowd.

‘Take a fan, open it, and move your head from side to side.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

feather fan


Mulla Nasrudin was once employed as an apple-picker. After a whole day of back-breaking work, his boss — a miser — refused to pay the agreed salary.

‘I have no money to offer you, but come back tomorrow and do another day’s work and you may eat as many apples as you like.’

The Mulla returned the next day and went on diligently picking fruit from the trees. At sunset he climbed the tallest tree and began to eat apples with such relish that the miser became alarmed.

‘Why not eat from the lower branches?’ he shouted from the ground.

‘I’m starting from the top and working my way down,’ called Nasrudin. ‘With almost a whole orchard of apples to eat, I’ll need to be systematic.’

The World of Nasrudin Idries Shah, Octagon Press

Apple orchard

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

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