Mullah Nasrudin Stories

Mullah Nasrudin is a favorite character in stories throughout all of the Middle East. Children in Afghanistan hear Mullah Nasrudin stories just as American children hear Mother Goose rhymes and folktales. Many of the stories teach a lesson while other just tell a funny story. Here are some of the stories that the Nilsens remember from their years in Afghanistan.

One evening a friend of Nasrudin's came to visit him. He saw Nasrudin crawling on the ground looking for something. Nasrudin said that he had lost a valuable coin. The friend knelt down to help Nasrudin look for the money. After they had crawled all over the yard, Nasrudin's friend asked, "Exactly where did you drop the money?" I dropped it in the house," answered Nasrudin, "But we cannot look for the money in there. It's much too dark."

(NOTE: In rural Afghanistan, people use candles and oil lamps to light their homes because there is no electricity. This means that in the evening, it really is lighter outside than in the houses.)

A famous story called "The Three Fridays" tells about Mullah Nasrudin going to Friday services. Because he is the religious leader, he was to have prepared a sermon, but he always procrastinates. This particular Friday, he gets up in front and while stalling for time asks the people, "How many of you know what I'm going to say today?" Of course no one raised a hand because they had no idea. Mullah Nasrudin scoffed and said, "Why should I waste my time on such ignorant people? Go home and come back better prepared next week."

The next Friday rolled around and again Mullah Nasrudin was not prepared. He got up and asked the same question. The people all raised their hands because they did not want to appear stupid. Mullah Nasrudin smiled and said, "Good! Since you all know, then I won't have to tell you. Goodbye. We'll see you when you come back next week?"

The next Friday, the people planned ahead because they did not want Mullah Nasrudin to get away with such a trick. When he asked the question, they looked at each other with knowing looks and half of them raised their hands and half didn't. But again, Mullah Nasrudin got the better of them because he said, "That's wonderful. Those of you who know can tell those who don't know," and he sat down.

The story doesn't say what happened to Mullah Nasrudin the next week, but surely by then he must have been inspired with a sermon.
(NOTE: The Muslim holy day is Friday, so when we lived in Afghanistan we had school on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. We had to take Friday off for the Muslims' Holy Day and Sunday off for the Christians' Holy Day.)

Nasrudin and his wife were in the house eating their supper. They heard a noise in their compound. Nasrudin took his gun and rushed outside. He saw something white moving near his garden. He raised his gun and shot. When he went close to see what he had shot, he discovered that his wife had washed his best shirt and had hung it on a tree to dry. Just then she came running from the house. "Oh, you unlucky man!" she cried. "You have ruined your best shirt." "No," said Nasrudin. "I am the luckiest man on earth. I almost put that shirt on this morning. If I had been wearing the shirt, then surely I would have been killed."

Nasrudin was going into a large inn to sleep for the night. There were many beds all in one room. The thought occurred to Nasrudin that in the dark he would not know who he was, so he tied a balloon to his ankle. While Nasrudin was sleeping, the man in the next bed decided to play a joke. He untied Nasrudin's balloon and tied it on his own ankle. When Nasrudin woke up, he looked at the man next to him. Then he reached out to shake hands and said, "Ah, I know who you are. You are Mullah Nasrudin, but please, tell me who I am."

Nasrudin was out in his neighbor's field one dark night. He was creeping around collecting melons and putting them in a bag. The neighbor came out with a lantern and saw Nasrudin. Of course he accused the Mullah of stealing his melons, but Nasrudin solemnly answered, "Oh no. I'm just keeping the wind from blowing them away."