Nasreddin (Turkish “Nasreddin Hoca”, Persian ملا نصرالدین, Arabic: جحا transl.: Joĥa ,نصرالدين meaning “Victory of the Faith”, Kurdish: مهلای مهشهوور transl.: Malai Mash-hoor, Albanian “Nostradin Hoxha” or just “Nostradini”, Azeri “Molla Nəsrəddin” Bosnian “Nasrudin hodža”, Uzbek “Nasriddin Afandi” or just “Afandi”, Kazakh: Қожанасыр “Khozhanasir”, Uyghur “Afanti” ) is a legendary satirical sufi figure who lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century), in Akşehir, and later in Konya, under the Seljuq rule. Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim the Nasreddin as their own (i.e. Afghans, Iranians, Turks, and Uzbeks). His name is spelled differently in various cultures and is often preceded or followed by titles “Hodja”, “Mullah”, or “Effendi” (see section “Name variants”). Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes.
Much of Nasreddin’s actions can be described as illogical yet logical, rational yet irrational, bizarre yet normal, foolish yet sharp, and simple yet profound. What adds even further to his uniqueness is the way he gets across his messages in unconventional yet very effective methods in a profound simplicity.[who?]
1996-1997 was declared International Nasreddin Year by UNESCO.
Nasreddin lived in Anatolia; he was born in Hortu Village in Sivrihisar, Eskişehir in the 13th century, then settled in Akşehir, and later in Konya, where he died.
The “International Nasreddin Hodja Festival” is held annually in Akşehir between July 5-10.
As generations went by, new stories were added, others were modified, and the character and his tales spread to other regions. The themes in the tales have become part of the folklore of a number of nations and express the national imaginations of a variety of cultures. Although most of them depict Nasreddin in an early small-village setting, the tales (like Aesop’s fables) deal with concepts that have a certain timelessness. They purvey a pithy folk wisdom that triumphs over all trials and tribulations.
Today, Nasreddin stories are told in a wide variety of regions, and have been translated into many languages. Some regions independently developed a character similar to Nasreddin, and the stories have become part of a larger whole. In many regions, Nasreddin is a major part of the culture, and is quoted or alluded to frequently in daily life. Since there are thousands of different Nasreddin stories, one can be found to fit almost any occasion. Nasreddin often appears as a whimsical character of a large Albanian, Arab, Armenian, Azeri, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Romanian, Serbian, Turkish and Urdu folk tradition of vignettes, not entirely different from zen koans. He is also very popular in Greece for his wisdom and his judgment; he is also known in Bulgaria, although in a different role, see below.
Hodja-park in Akşehir
The Nasreddin stories are known throughout the Middle East and have touched cultures around the world. Superficially, most of the Nasreddin stories may be told as jokes or humorous anecdotes. They are told and retold endlessly in the teahouses and caravanserais of Asia and can be heard in homes and on the radio. But it is inherent in a Nasreddin story that it may be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral – and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.
The anecdotes attributed to him reveal a satirical personality with a biting tongue that he was not afraid to use even against the most tyrannical rulers of his time. He is the symbol of Middle-Eastern satirical comedy and the rebellious feelings of people against the dynasties that once ruled this part of the world.
Some mystic traditions use jokes, stories and poetry to express certain ideas, allowing the bypassing of the normal discriminative thought patterns. The rationality that confines and objectifies the thinking process is the opposite to the intuitive, gestalt mentality that the mystic is attempting to engage, enter and retain.
By developing a series of impacts that reinforce certain key ideas, the rational mind is occupied with a surface meaning whilst other concepts are introduced. Thus paradox, unexpectedness, and alternatives to convention are all expressed. Although there are several books that attempt to put together the many jokes attributed to him, most people encounter his jokes in the context of their daily lives. Often, a Nasreddin joke is told by one party when the other party makes the kind of mistake that Nasreddin had parodied.
Some tales of Nasreddin are also adapted and used as teaching stories by followers of Sufism. This is such a common practice that, given the nature of many of Nasreddin’s jokes, multiple interpretations (or several ‘layers’ of meaning) are to be expected. Idries Shah, a well-known Sufi and writer, published a number of collections of Nasreddin stories, and suggested that the stories’ various layers of meaning have a teaching-effect.
In some Bulgarian folklore tales that originated during the Ottoman period, the name appears as an antagonist to a local wise man, named Hitar Petar (Хитър Петър, meaning “cunning Peter”).
In Sicily the same tales involve a man named Giufà.
While Nasreddin is mostly known as a character from anecdotes, whole novels and stories have later been written and an animated feature film was almost made.
The oldest manuscript of Nasreddin was found in 1571.
In Europe, Nasreddin can be compared with the German 14th century figure Till Eulenspiegel, published in 1510.
The Russian composer Shostakovich celebrates Nasreddin, among other figures, in the second movement (Yumor, ‘Humor’) of his Symphony No. 13. The text, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, portrays humor as a weapon against dictatorship and tyranny. Shostakovich’s music shares many of the ‘foolish yet profound’ qualities of Nasreddin’s sayings listed above.
Uzbek Nasriddin Afandi
For Uzbek people Nasriddin is one of their own. In gatherings, family meetings, parties they tell each other stories about him that are called “latifa” of “afandi”.
There are at least two collections of stories related to Nasriddin Afandi.
Books on him:
* “Afandining qirq bir passhasi” – (Forty-one flies of Afandi) – Zohir A’lam, Tashkent
* “Afandining besh xotini” – (Five wives of Afandi)
Even a film was produced by Uzbekistan SSR called “Nasriddin Buxoroda” (“Nasriddin in Bukhara”)
Delivering a Khutba
Once, Nasreddin was invited to deliver a khutba. When he got on the minbar (pulpit), he asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” The audience replied “NO”, so he announced “I have no desire to speak to people who don’t even know what I will be talking about” and he left.
The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time when he asked the same question, the people replied “YES”. So Nasreddin said, “Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won’t waste any more of your time” and he left.
Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question – “Do you know what I am going to say?” Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered “YES” while the other half replied “NO”. So Nasreddin said “The half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the other half” and he left!
Two sides of a river
Nasreddin sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side:
– “Hey! how do I get to the other side?”
– “You are on the other side!” Nasreddin shouted back.
Whom do you trust
A neighbour comes to the gate of Mulla Nasreddin’s yard. The Mulla goes out to meet him outside.
“Would you mind, Mulla,” the neighbour asks, “lending me your donkey today? I have some goods to transport to the next town.”
The Mulla doesn’t feel inclined to lend out the animal to that particular man, however; so, not to seem rude, he answers:
“I’m sorry, but I’ve already lent him to somebody else.”
Suddenly the donkey can be heard braying loudly behind the wall of the yard.
“You lied to me, Mulla!” the neighbour exclaims. “There it is behind that wall!”
“What do you mean?” the Mulla replies indignantly. “Whom would you rather believe, a donkey or your Mulla?”
Taste the same
Children saw Hodja coming from the vineyard with 2 basketfuls of grapes on his donkey, gathered around him and asked him to give them some.
Hodja picked up a bunch of grapes, cut it up into pieces and gave each child a piece.
“You have so much, but you gave us so little,” the children complained.
“There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same,” Hodja remarked.