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Mulla Nasruddin is an idiot and a great mystic; he is a fool, a saint, a teacher, and a beggar. He has moments of stupidity, moments of irreverence and moments of wisdom; he snatches victory from the jaws of certain defeat, and sometimes defeat from certain victory. Like all of us, he is a mystery and a paradox.
Perhaps the most compelling character of Eastern folklore, Mulla Nusruddin is the star of thousands, if not millions, of stories, transcending time, nationality and culture. Several countries claim to be the birthplace of the historical figure, who may have lived around the year 1300. By now, however, it matters little whether the actual man was real or not—Mulla has become a part of our human heritage.
Mulla Nasruddin stories have many levels: they are simple jokes, good for a cheap laugh; they are moral lessons, illustrating the pitfalls of human behavior and culture; and they are zen koans, capable of giving glimpses from beyond the veil. Enjoy!
A group of children was playing marbles when they saw Mulla Nasruddin coming down the road. He was riding on his donkey, but facing the wrong way. “Hey, Mulla!” one girl yelled. “You’re sitting the wrong way!”
“No, I’m not,” Mulla said. “I’m sitting the right way. It’s the donkey who’s backwards.”
The next day, the children were playing in the same place. Sure enough, again they saw Mulla riding down the road backwards on his donkey. “What’s the matter, Mulla?” they teased him. “Couldn’t figure out how to make your donkey face forward?”
“Wrong again,” Mulla replied. “Today I am forward, and the donkey is forward too. It’s you kids who are facing backwards.”
Mulla Nasruddin used to go every evening to the tobacco shop, and sit there with the shopkeeper smoking his pipe and talking. One day the shopkeeper noticed that Mulla was starting to grow a beard. Mulla complained about how hot and itchy it was. This became his favorite topic, and every evening he told the shopkeeper more about how much his whiskers troubled him. Finally, one day, the shopkeeper got tired of his complaining and said, “If you hate the beard so much, why don’t you just shave it off?”
“Well,” said Mulla, with a devilish twinkle in his eye, “my wife hates it too.”
After many years of service, Mulla Nasruddin decided to sell his donkey. He got up early and took it to the marketplace. He found a buyer easily, and sold it to the man for 40 dinars. The man immediately stepped up onto a crate and began trying to sell the donkey again. “Look at this beautiful beast!” he shouted. “Such a strong back! Such clean teeth! Such gentle eyes!” and the man went on to describe all of the donkey’s magnificent qualities, showering it with praise.
When the sales pitch ended, a woman offered him 50 dinars for the animal. Someone else said it was worth 60, and a third man offered 65. Mulla’s jaw dropped to see how interested everyone was. “I was an idiot to think it was just an ordinary donkey,” he thought to himself. “It is a marvelous creature, a true diamond…” Then he realized that the bidding had ended, and the donkey was about to be sold.
“75 dinars going once… 75 dinars going twice…”
“80 dinars!” Mulla yelled.
Mulla Nusruddin was very much in love and wanted to get married, but his mother didn’t approve of the girl because she was an atheist. “What can I do?” Mulla told his mother. “I love her, and she loves me too.”
“If she loves you, she will listen to whatever you have to say. Start talking religion to her, and she will believe you.” Mulla agreed to the plan and went off on his date with the girl.
A few days later, Mulla ran into the kitchen and into his mother’s arms, crying like a baby. “What happened?” she asked, wiping his tears. “Our plan isn’t working?”
“You were right,” Mulla sobbed. “I talked religion to her, and she believed me.”
“Then what is the problem?” his mother asked.
“She left me to become a nun!” cried Mulla.
“Every man should have at least one wife,” Mulla Nasruddin used to say. “There are some things that just can’t be blamed on the government.”
Mulla Nasruddin went to the local mental hospital, and asked to speak to the director of the facility. He was shown into an office, and the director stood up and shook his hand. “What can I help you with?” he asked.
“I was just wondering if any of your male patients had escaped recently,” Mulla said.
“Not that I know of,” the director replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” said the Mulla, “someone has run off with my wife.”
Mulla Nasruddin’s friend was about to get married. The night before the wedding, the two friends bought a bottle of wine and went to the riverbank to enjoy it.
“Cheers, old friend,” Mulla said. “Congratulations on one of the happiest days of your life.”
“Are you drunk already?” his friend said. “I’m not getting married until tomorrow.”
“I know,” Mulla replied. “That’s what makes it one of the happiest days of your life.”
After weeks of campaigning, Mulla Nasruddin was infuriated to learn that he had been defeated in the local election. He challenged the results and demanded a recount.
“This election was rigged!” he said to a reporter for the newspaper. “These results say I only got four votes, and I know my friend voted for me fifteen times!”
Mulla Nasruddin was methodically sprinkling bread crumbs all over the house when his wife came up behind him. “What the hell are you doing?” she demanded.
“Keeping away the tigers,” he replied.
“But there aren’t any tigers in these parts,” said Mulla’s wife.
“You see?” said the Mulla. “It works!”
Mulla Nasruddin was in love. After sneaking around for months, he finally asked the girl to marry him. She agreed, and the next day, Mulla went to meet her father for the first time.
“So, young man,” her father said. “I hear that you would like to become my son-in-law.”
“Not really,” Mulla said. “But if I marry your daughter, I don’t see how I can avoid it.”
Mulla Nasruddin was lying on his deathbed. The doctor had said that he had only a few hours left to live, and his friends and relatives were at his side. “Do you have any regrets, Mulla?” one friend asked. “If you are reincarnated in another body, with another life, will you make any changes?”
Mulla furrowed his brow, then closed his eyes, pondering the question deeply. After several minutes, he finally replied, “Yes. If I am reincarnated, I will part my hair on the side. That has always been what I wanted, but my father insisted that I part it in the middle. By the time my father died, my hair had become so used to it that it could not be parted on the side.”
One evening, Mulla Nasruddin went to his favorite tobacco shop. He was gossiping as usual with the shopkeeper and began complaining about his wife. “She’s driving me crazy,” Mulla said. “Her memory is worse than anyone I’ve ever known.”
“Your wife forgets everything?” asked the shopkeeper. “You never mentioned that before.”
“Heck, no,” Mulla replied. “She remembers everything.”
Mulla Nasruddin came home one evening smelling of tobacco and cheap wine. “All you do is drink and gossip,” his wife complained. “Why don’t you practice some higher form of thought and improve yourself?”
“For the same reason that a lion doesn’t catch fish,” Mulla replied.
“You mean because it’s not your nature?” his wife asked.
Mulla shook his head. “No, because I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
Mulla Nusruddin’s best friend, Ricky Wright, had been accused of murder, and Mulla had been in a funk for weeks while the trial proceeded. Wright was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. The only hope left for Mulla’s friend was a pardon from the governor, but, on the evening of the scheduled execution, the pardon hadn’t happened. Mulla came home in the evening and went straight to the cupboard for a drink.
“Directly to the bottle, huh?” complained his wife. “Not even a hello for me?”
“Nag, nag, nag,” said Mulla. He took off his shoes and headed upstairs to take his bath.
“Why can’t you take your shoes off at the door like everyone else?” asked his wife.
“Nag, nag, nag,” said Mulla. While he was upstairs, a neighbor came to the door and told his wife that the governor had pardoned Wright at the last minute.
When the neighbor left, Mulla’s wife ran upstairs to tell him. Mulla had taken his clothes off and was bending over, filling the bath. “They’re not hanging Wright tonight!” she exclaimed.
“Nag, nag, nag,” said Mulla.
Read more Mulla Nasruddin stories: Mulla Nasruddin - 2
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