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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

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hodja-by-elena-maria-ospina.jpg Assassinations, bombings, suicide attacks, more threats of invasions, the Iraqi and Afghan wars, the death tolls, war-mongering by the USA and Israel with Iran and Syria, Israel’s massacre of Palestinians, sabre-rattling with North Korea, the Sunni-Shi’ite religious factional strife provoked by the Western alliance and Israel, the wanton abuse of power by the USA and Israel, the CIA and the Mossad inciting violence via proxy support for the opposition militias, the innocent detained at Guantanamo and other clandestine American prisons around the world, the appalling silence and cluelessness of mainstream media, the serious problems of global-warming and environmental pollution with first-world governments like the USA who don’t give a damn– these are events of recent years. We have become weary of negative news day-in and day-out.

Below are some stories of the Nasreddin Hodja, one of Islam’s respected philosopher from Turkey. They answer the questions: What are we fighting over? Why are there not more outcries of condemnation from the people? Where is everybody’s God in all this? Do Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush know what torture is about?

Blanket is Gone

Around midnight, the Hodja heard a noise. There were two men quarelling outside. The Hodja got out of bed, covered his back with a blanket, and went to the front door of his house.

Hodja asked them what they were quarelling over. Without answering, one of them grabbed the blanket that covered the Hodja and fled. So Hodja returned to his bed.

“What were they fighting about?” asked his wife.

“They were quarelling over our blanket,” said the Hodja. “Now that they’ve taken it, the fight is over.”

Tamerlane’s Elephant

Tamerlane gave one of his male elephants over to the people of Aksehir, ordering them to take care of it. In addition to wreaking havoc in the town, the elephant was a terrible burden to the people, too poor to get decent food even for themselves. A group of them visited Hodja with a request: Please ask Tamerlane to take the monster back.

“All right,” said the Hodja, “but I have one condition. Twenty of you must come with me.”

But during the journey, since the people were terrified of Tamerlane, one by one they fled. The Hodja, believing that they were following him, entered the Sultan’s tent.

Assuming that the people were right behind him, Hodja briskly walks to the Tamerlane. “The people of our town…” he began, indicating with his hand where he believed the people to be. Then he saw that he was alone.

So he continued, “The people of our town are so happy with the male elephant…They are happy beyond words, but there is a slight problem. The animal is lonesome and unhappy. Please consider giving the people of the town a female elephant as a companion for him.”

“All right,” the Tamerlane says. “I shall do what the people wish.”

Hodja goes back to town. The people who fled gathered around him anxiously. “Please tell us Hodja, what happened?”

“I have great news for you,” beams Hodja. “To keep the male calamity company, the female version is on its way. Thank you! Thank you for your support…”

Hodja and the God

The Hodja was travelling from far away. He got very tired and decided to rest. “Dear God,” he said, “please send me a donkey!”

A few minutes later, he saw a man riding on a horse, leading a young donkey. The man came nearer, stopped beside him and shouted, “You, leprous man! Instead of starving there, come and carry the donkey. It is tired.”

Although the Hodja said that he was also tired, the tyrannical man beat him with a stick and so the poor Hodja took the donkey on his shoulders. Then the man on the horse proceeded on his way.

Everytime the Hodja slowed down, the man beat him. After many miserable hours, they reached the town. The man let the Hodja go without thanking him.

Then the Hodja fell down on the earth and slept many hours. When he awakened he murmured, “Oh, God! I asked for a donkey! What happened? Was it that I couldn’t explain, or that you couldn’t understand?”

Let’s See When the Stick Hits

In the time of Tamerlane, he was very strict and everyone committing a crime was beaten. One day the Hodja was with the Sultan. Tamerlane was shouting: “Beat this man 700 times!“ and “This one 1000 times!” and “This one 1200 times!” and “This one 1500 times!”

Then the Hodja spoke: “Dear Tamerlane, do you know everything?”

“Of course,” shouted Tamerlane angrily.

“No”, said the Hodja. “Here is something which you don’t know. It is the meaning of the number 1500, or the taste of the stick.”

_______________________________

For more stories: Nasreddin Hodja

Drawing of Hodja on a donkey by Elena Maria Ospina of Colombia
Nasreddin Hodja International Cartoon Contest, 1996

Bigotry and Ignorance of Islam (by Charley Reese): Islam, like Christianity, is a universal religion that ignores nationality, race or colour. To become a Muslim, one must profess belief in one God, acknowledge Muhammad as his prophet, recognise the Quran as the word of God, pray five times a day, provide for the poor and, if possible, make a trip to Mecca once in your lifetime. The God Muslims worship is the same God of Christians and Jews. Islam is a religion of peace.

Muslims are commanded to treat Christians and Jews as they would treat themselves. They revere Jesus as a prophet and highly respect the Virgin Mary. The disputes in the modern Middle East are not religious; they are all about secular matters, principally Israeli occupation of Arab lands.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are concerned only with ending Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hezbollah is concerned with ending Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Al-Qaeda is most un-Islamic and has been so labelled by a majority of Muslims.

If you wish to understand Islam, turn off your TV and go to the library.

… And He’s Still in the Dark
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