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Anecdotes of Molla Nasreddin Hodja (For Children of All Ages)

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Item Code: NAM974
Author: Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 8171513840
Pages: 160
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description

Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. My salutation is also to our Prophet Muhammad sallal-Iahu alayhi wa sallam (S) [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him].

Civilization is often measured in terms of arts and literature and never in terms of might or strength of a nation to subdue other nations. That is why, we never hear about Hun, Scythian and Mongol civilization, despite the fact that savages of the past like Attila the Hun (the barbarian), Genghis Khan and Hulagu Khan were able to terrorize millions and kill hundreds of thousands of people and control vast territories. Fortunately, from very early on wherever Islam made an inroad it was able to either refine indigenous civilization of a nation that was already enjoying a certain level of civilization, or civilize a people that was hitherto drowned in savagery. That is why, it is not difficult to fathom why for nearly a thousand years (7th-17th century C.E. or 1st-11th century A.H.) while most of the European nations were sunk in savagery, Muslim nations in Asia, Africa and Moorish Spain were enjoying fruits of such a lofty civilization that was simply superb. Muslim nations were, therefore, able to breed a multitude of great scientists, philosophers, doctors, mathematicians, astronomers, social scientists, geographers, historians, writers, poets, novelists, linguists, artists and humorists. Nasreddin Hodja (Hoca in Turkish: the letter ‘c’ is pronounced as ‘dj’) was one such Muslim humorist from Turkey (in the 13th century CE), a county not known for arts and literature in the era that preceded Islam.

Writing about elements of humor in Central Asia: The Example of the Journal of Molla Nasreddin in Azerbaijan, H. B. Paksoy writes: “Humor can be considered a branch of the literary traditions of a society. Like literature, humor cannot always be understood without knowledge of the society which produces it. This is a critical point. Some observers claim that in a given culture, country or nation, humor does not exist. This is a rather rash judgment. Rather, the question ought to be: ‘Are we properly equipped to understand the humor of the people we are studying?’... Central Asia has produced humor throughout its history. We can at least begin to understand the nature of this humor through a simultaneous study of history and current events.”

I remember how much I, as a Bangladeshi child, enjoyed reading such stories, especially the anecdotes of Nasreddin Hodja. His stories are well known from the shores of Aegean to the Eastern reaches of Sinkiang, where he is known as “Effendi.” One of his statues adorns a city square in Bukhara, depicting the esteemed Hodja riding his donkey backwards, as told in one of his anecdotes. It should be pointed out here that some variations of the anecdotes exist in the way they are told through time and space. Many a punch lines from his anecdotes have long since reached the status of proverbs. Mark Twain’s Library of Humor of the late 19th century includes a story attributed to Hodja.

As many as 350 anecdotes have been attributed to the Hodja, as he most often is called. Hodja is a title - meaning teacher or scholar (“Hodja” or “Hojjat” literally means “Proof:” e.g., of learning or in Islam). These stories about Molla Nasreddin are enjoyed throughout the world, not just among Turkish speakers where the anecdotes originated. Azerbaijanis and Iranians know this comic sage as “Molla Nasreddin.” Turks and Greeks call him “Hoja Nasreddin.” Kazakhs say “Koja Nasreddin;” Arabs, “Juha;” and Tajiks, “Mushfiqi.” Other spelling variations for Nasreddin include: Nasrettin, Nasrudin, Nasr-id- deen, Nasr-eddin, Nasiruddin, Nasr-ud-Din, Nasr-Eddin, Nasr al- Din and Nasr-Ed-Dine. Molla is also written as Mulla. The many spelling variations for Hodja include: Hoja, Hojja, Hodscha, Hoca, Chotza, Khodja, Koja and Khoja.

The historical Nasreddin Hodja can be considered a populist philosopher, wise and witty man. The stories attributed to him display a biting sense of humor and the anecdotes themselves have satirical qualities that go immediately to the heart of the matter. Molla’s observations involve people from all walks of life, from beggar to king, politician to clergy, and scholar to merchant. His stories often point to an obvious truth which has been taken for granted and usually include an unexpected twist that makes his ideas witty and fresh. Though Molla often appears as a fool, he usually is the one who cleverly exposes other people’s foolishness. Subtleties of his pronouncements may not be apparent at first, but cannot be dismissed off-hand even by the most skeptical.

The stories are eternal; they deal with social issues, which are fundamental to human nature, social injustice, class privilege, selfishness, cowardice; laziness, incompetence, ignorance, narrow-mindedness and all kinds of fraud. Though most of the stories are set in the 13th century teahouses, bath houses, caravanserai and market places, Molla’s observations about human nature are so insightful and told so cleverly that they have the power to amuse and captivate us centuries later. The incidents and characters in these stories illustrate the comic, eccentric and inconsistent aspects of human beings through Nasreddin Hodja’s astute observations.

There is some controversy around Hodja’s birth and death dates. According to most accounts, he was a village Imam (cleric) during Seljuk times, and was born in 1208 C.E. in Hortu village near Sivrihisar in Central Anatolia and died in 1284 C.E. (683 AH) at the age of 76. However, the most reliable document is the date 1383 (796 AH) found inscribed on the wall of his tomb in Aksehir. It indicates that Hodja died before 1393. This latter date seems to agree well with his encounter with the Mongol Emperor Timur.

As a young boy he must have enjoyed a free country childhood and lived in one of the cottages with adobe walls and flat baked earth roofs, typical of this region. He received his early education from his father, the village imam, and went on to study at the madrasa (Islamic school). After working as a village imam for some years, he moved to the town of Aksehir. There he is known to have studied under such notable scholars of the time as Sayyid Mahmud Hayrani and Sayyid Haci Ibrahim. Later he became a professor at the madrasa in Aksehir and served as kadi (Judge).

Nasreddin Hodja was buried in Aksehir, near present day Konya province in the Turkish Republic, in a tomb that symbolizes the absurdity in life, which he had loved to expose while alive. It is protected against the elements by a large diameter ribbed dome, supported by many slender columns. An imposing gate, leading to the area covered by this dome, is most visible. Two rectangular stone posts provide the anchor for the tastefully designed wrought-iron door. The two wings of the ornate gate are tightly shut and secured with an enormous padlock. However, there is no surrounding fence and the gate stands alone on its site. Once his name is invoked, the tradition demands that seven anecdotes from Nasreddin Hodja be told.

Immortalized by his humorous and thought provoking words and actions, Nasreddin Hodja was a man of the people who perceived the world through their eyes. This won him a deep love, which has lasted for centuries. In the pessimistic and strife-torn world of the Middle Ages, Nasreddin Hodja radiated optimism. Yet this certainly did not prevent him from attacking injustice with stinging words. In his accounts he always seeks a peaceful way to get his message across, getting the better of his antagonists without argument or fight.

He loved life, and despite being a man of religion disliked nonsensical debates on religious subtleties. When he was asked about where the mourners should stand when carrying the coffin at a funeral, he retorted, “As long as you are not the one inside it doesn’t matter a jot!”

Nasreddin Hodja never let trivial matters worry him. When a kite seized the liver he was carrying home for supper, he shouted, “You’re wasting your time, I’ve got the recipe!” His affection extended to animals, and in many anecdotes we find him talking to his donkey like a friend.

One day a man stopped him and said, “Hodja, a roasted stuffed turkey just went past.” Nasreddin Hodja replied, “What has that got to do with me?” “But it went to your house,” said the man. “What has that got to do with you?” retorted Nasreddin Hodja.

His optimism is illustrated by one of his most famous stories.

One day a man found him pouring the remains of his yogurt into Aksehir Lake. “Hodja, what are you doing?” the man asked. “I am turning the lake into yogurt,” he replied. When the man laughed at him, he said, “But you never know perhaps it might.”

This endorsement of hope against all odds has remained valid in every era.

Among the things that annoy Nasreddin Hodja most are meanness, bigotry, injustice, corrupt judges, insolence and sycophancy.

My sources for the following retold anecdotes include The Tales of Nasrettin Hoca, told by Aziz Nesin, retold in English by Talat Halman (Istanbul: Dost Yayinlari, 1988); Allan Ramsay and Francis McCullagh, Tales from Turkey (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, and Kent, 1914); Nasreddin Hodja compiled by Alpay Kabacali, illustrated by Fatih M. Durmus and published by NET; and Somnath Dhar, Folk Tales of Turkey (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1989). I have also drawn some stories from the following websites, which are duly acknowledged here.

Towards compilation of this work, I would like to thank Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed for suggesting the need to compile storybooks from Muslim nations so that our children could share their Islamic heritage with other English-speaking children around the world. Without his enthusiasm this project probably would not have materialized. I pray and hope that our children enjoy these stories and share them with their neighbors and friends. Since some of the stories were pulled from websites, it is possible that some spelling and grammatical errors have crept in, which I wish to correct InshaAllah (God Willing) in a future edition.

I am indebted to my good old friend Raja Ahmed for a wonderful job with layout and formatting of the book. May Allah reward him immensely for his help!


  Preface 10
  Chapter One: Some Famous Stories 17
1 Young Hodja 17
2 Allah’s Ways 17
3 You Are Right, Too 18
4 Everyone is Right 19
5 The Debt 19
6 The Mother-In-Law 20
7 The Robe 20
8 A Close Call 20
9 Flour on the Clothesline 21
10 The Lost Shoe 22
11 The Recipe 22
12 Allah’s House 22
13 The Kazan that Gave Birth 23
14 The Forty Silver Ducat Hatchet 24
15 The Criticism of Men 24
16 Forty Year Old Vinegar 25
17 Mortal’s Way 25
18 Old Grave 26
19 The Last Laugh 26
  Chapter Two: Stories from Turkey 27
1 Three Questions (One of Them: Center of the Earth) 27
2 Riding the Donkey Backwards 28
3 What if it Should! 29
4 My Word or the Word of My Donkey 29
5 Try It Yourselves 30
6 Who is Guilty? 30
7 The Moon or the Sun? 30
8 The Gender of the Dove from Noah’s Ark 30
9 A Question on Marriage 31
10 The Minaret and the Old Full Moons 31
11 Ready Cash 31
12 Priceless and Worthless 32
13 So Long As You Are Not Inside 33
14 When I Was Alive, I Used To Take This Road 33
15 Nasreddin the Saz Player 34
16 I, My Own Too, Didn’t Approve 35
17 Expensive Birds 35
18 Miracle 36
19 Last Hope 37
20 None of Your Business 37
21 The Moon in the Well 37
22 Help Yourself My Fur Coat 38
23 You Can Have the Five Piasters 38
24 Thank You, Allah! 40
25 Paid in Proper Coin 40
26 Let the other Half Cry! 43
27 Those Who Know and Those Who Don’t 43
28 Nasreddin and the Wise Men 44
29 Something is wrong with the Jar of Honey 45
30 Let us Not Bother the Wolf 45
31 After the Damage is Done 46
32 If You Don’t Know the Wrong 46
33 Who Needs the Soap More 46
34 With the Luck You Brought 47
35 The Feeling of Finding 47
36 You Will See the Real Storm 48
37 Who is Going to Sell the Pickles? 48
38 They Are Coming to Our House 49
39 Use as Weights 49
40 One Who Pays Gets to Blow the Whistle 50
41 Need a Rooster 50
42 Nothing Changed 51
43 Dead Owner 51
44 Quilts from Snow 52
45 Better To Have it in Our Stomach than in Our Mind 52
46 Can’t You Think of Stepping Down? 53
47 Wherever this Dumb Mule Takes Me 53
48 I Felt Sorry 53
49 Be a Kite for a Year 53
50 They won’t let it come near Their Town 54
51 I Knew You When You Were Young, Too 54
52 I Coughed for Myself and My Sheep 55
53 It Doesn’t Really Matter 55
54 I Was Going to Get Down Anyway 55
55 Every Time I Ride 56
56 You Sure Were Different 56
57 Behind The Mountain 57
58 I Come from the other World 57
59 Only those who Sleep on Rooftops 58
60 Don’t Scare Mules Carrying Pots and Pans 58
61 It will be Heard Tomorrow Morning 59
62 Did Your Husband Have a Head? 60
63 Didn’t Learn How to Land Properly 60
64 Taste the Same 60
65 Your Father can smell My Fantasies 61
66 Duck Soup 61
67 Even I didn’t like it 61
68 Earth’s Balance 61
69 Remembered its Childhood 62
70 Mysterious Ways 62
71 Have it pulled out 62
72 We Would Cook Soup and Serve 63
73 Charge for Ten Days 63
74 To Climb, Hills 63
75 I Asked For Something to Ride on But 64
76 I Finally Did What I Always Wanted To Do 64
77 Run to the Lake 65
78 Out of Embarrassment 65
79 Let Them See How I Trade 65
80 Inexperienced Nightingale 66
81 No Need for So Much Fuss 66
82 Get Himself a Donkey 67
83 Why Are You Here? 67
84 Dividing Seventeen Donkeys between Three Brothers 68
85 Repaying a Debt 68
86 Turban 69
87 Nasreddin and His Neighbor 69
88 Nasreddin - The Economist 75
  Chapter Three: Stories from Azerbaijan 78
1 Reliable Source 78
2 Good Swimmer? 78
3 Secret of Longevity 78
4 Whatever You Say 79
5 As Fast As Sound 79
6 Cat Tale 79
7 The Doctor’s Cure 80
8 Man’s Best Qualities 80
9 Questions as Answers 81
10 The Turkish Bath 81
  Chapter Four: Stories from Central Asia 82
1 Deductive Reasoning 82
2 When You Face Things Alone 82
3 Obligation 82
4 Nasreddin and the Beggar 83
5 Nasreddin Goes Shopping 83
6 Nasreddin’s Visitors 84
7 The Quilt is Gone, the Dispute is Ended 85
8 Wife’s Wandering 85
9 Inshaallah 85
10 Let the Thief Be 86
11 Didn’t We Move? 86
12 Cheap Donkeys 87
13 Fehmi pasha’s servant 87
14 Bitten Ear 88
15 Costly Answers 88
16 How to keep it Going 88
17 Needs 89
18 Fool me once, Shame on You 90
19 The Length of the World 90
20 The End of the World 91
21 Nasreddin Hodja and the Young School Teacher 91
22 Hodja Meets Death 92
23 Assumptions 92
24 A Dependable Standard 93
25 The Interrupted Dream 93
26 Dreams in Detail 94
27 Hens and the Cock 94
28 Donkey Knows 94
29 Riding the Donkey Backwards - I 95
30 Riding the Donkey Backwards - II 95
31 Alive or Dead 95
32 They are Playing Music 96
33 The Burden of Guilt 96
34 Don’t be Silly 97
35 Let us die a Little 97
36 Mirror or Picture 97
37 Smell of the Dream 98
38 Dinner-Party 98
39 Keep the Place Warm 99
40 By the Light of a Candle 99
41 Hodja Breaks Wudhu in the Mosque 100
42 Stones and Dogs 101
43 Hodja’s Head and Feet 102
44 Thief in the Hamam 102
45 Hodja Meets a Tourist 103
46 Hodja and Zurna 105
47 Leave “Inshallah” out of it 105
48 Sharing the Fishes 105
49 Sharing the Pita Bread 106
50 Hodja’s Donkey 108
51 People of the City 109
52 Stone-Soup 110
53 Hodja’s Monkeys 111
54 Fox 112
55 A Spoiled Brat 113
56 Obedience 113
57 One Last Picnic 114
58 Feet for All 118
59 One Who Blows Hot and Cold 121
60 He Who Knows 122
61 Good and Bad People 123
62 You Reminded Me of My Billy-Goat 123
63 There will be no Tomorrow 124
  Chapter Five: Stories of Timur and Hodja 126
1 The Encounter 126
2 Timur’s Elephant 129
3 Tax Collection 131
4 The Archer 132
5 If we don’t Cry, Who Will? 133
6 Ten Akce for Pestamal 134
7 Chickens to the Defense 135
8 Learning is Like 135
9 How Do You Know, It’s Me? 136
10 Timur’s Horse and Hodja’s Fish 137
11 Zummarah 138
12 Timur’s Cure 139
13 Timur’s Portrait 142
14 Patience 143
15 Timur’s Inspiration 144
16 I do not know 144
17 Hodja’s Threat 145
18 Maybe Yes, Maybe No 147
19 The Missing Leg 147
20 Thank God 148
21 Teaching a Donkey to Talk 149
22 Either You Have Never Been Whipped or 150
23 How a Donkey Reads 150
24 Timur’s Price 151
25 Hunting Bears 151
26 Your Truth 152
27 Either the Camel or 153
  Chapter Six: Stories from Sufi Sources 155
  Part 1 155
  Part 2 159

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