nasreddin_hodja.jpeg Do you know Islam? I’m sure very few people in the West know about this great religion and what little they know, they only know it from Muslim extremists which is not a good source. There is a part of Islam I have just discovered through Efendi’s photographs of his beloved Turkey. It is about Islam’s best known philosopher, Nasreddin Hodja.

Nasreddin Hodja was born in Turkey around 1208. Here are three of his stories:

Walnuts and Pumpkins

Nasreddin Hodja was lying in the shade of an ancient walnut tree. His body was at rest, but, befitting his calling as an imam, his mind did not relax. Looking up into the mighty tree he considered the greatness and wisdom of Allah.

“Allah is great and Allah is good,” said the Hodja, “but was it indeed wise that such a great tree as this be created to bear only tiny walnuts as fruit? Behold the stout stem and strong limbs. They could easily carry the pumpkins that grow from spindly vines in yonder field, vines that cannot begin to bear the weight of their own fruit. Should not walnuts grow on weakly vines and pumpkins on sturdy trees?”

So thinking, the Hodja dosed off, only to be awakened by a walnut that fell from the tree, striking him on his forehead.

“Allah be praised!” he exclaimed, seeing what had happened. “If the world had been created according to my meagre wisdom, it would have been a pumpkin that fell from the tree and hit me on the head. It would have killed me for sure! Allah is great! Allah is good! Allah is wise!”

Never again did Nasreddin Hodja question the wisdom of Allah.

The Slap

Nasreddin Hodja was standing in the marketplace when a stranger stepped up to him and slapped him in the face, but then said, “I beg your pardon. I thought that you were someone else.”

This explanation did not satisfy the Hodja, so he brought the stranger before the qadi and demanded compensation.

The Hodja soon perceived that the qadi and the defendant were friends. The latter admitted his guilt, and the judge pronounced the sentence: “The settlement for this offence is one piaster, to be paid to the plaintiff. If you do not have a piaster with you, then you may bring it here to the plaintiff at your convenience.”

Hearing this sentence, the defendant went on his way. The Hodja waited for him to return with the piaster. And he waited. And he waited.

Some time later the Hodja said to the qadi, “Do I understand correctly that one piaster is sufficient payment for a slap?”

“Yes,” answered the qadi.

Hearing this answer, the Hodja slapped the judge in the face and said, “You may keep my piaster when the defendant returns with it,” then walked away.

Something Wrong With The Honey

Hodja needed a court decree from the judge in Konya. He went to Konya to talk to the judge a few times, but each time he was told to come back later. His friends told Hodja that the judge was a very greedy man and that he would never get his decree unless he bribed the judge.

Hodja listened to his friends’ advice and the next time he went to see the judge, he took along a big pot of honey. He gave it to the judge and got the decree on the same day.

That night, the judge wanted to taste the honey. When he dipped the spoon in the honey pot, he noticed that there was just a little honey on top and the rest was mud.

Next morning, he told the court officer, “Find Hodja and bring him here! There are a few things wrong with the decree and they need to be corrected.”

When the officer gave Hodja the judge’s message, Hodja said calmly, “There is nothing wrong with the decree, but there is something wrong with the pot of honey.”

For a compilation of more Hodja stories, see:
Jeremy Schiff: Hodja
Lale Eskicioglu: Hodja Stories

And while we’re at it, see:
Islam 101
All About Turkey
Muslim Heritage