Nasruddin Mulla : The sufi jester

By Niladri Moitra

August 2001

Rediscover humor with Mulla Nasruddin, the 13th century mystic jester

Mulla Nasruddin was a Sufi visionary who lived during the 13th century in the Middle East. Roaming around the deserts of Arabia, this mystic jester brought humor to the Sufi tradition and life to stoicism. His stories appear in literature and oral traditions from nations in the Middle East to China. Most of them claim this lovable son of the soil to be their own native.

It was Idries Shah who introduced us to the wisdom, wit and charm of this mysterious mentor through his collection of stories. These teaching stories are like koans of the Zen tradition, which reveal the paradoxes of conditioned living with humor.

In one such story, Nasruddin is a magistrate who in his first case agrees with both the plaintiff and the defendant. When the court clerk objects that both cannot be right, Nasruddin says: ”I believe you are right.” Here we are able to see the paradox clearly. In our conditioning, we see things as either right or wrong, black or white. Linear thinking does not allow one to think holistically. Our minds wrestle in the dark dens of logic and lose the gist of life.

According to legend, Nasruddin was blessed with an open mind to carry the message of freedom. He was chosen because he could make people laugh, and his humor was sharp enough to crack even the most rigidly conditioned mind.

Even today, Sufis use these stories as teaching exercises.


Mulla Nasruddin used to carry a door with him wherever he went. When somebody asked him about it, he replied: ”It is just a security measure. Nobody can enter my house except through the door. So I carry the door.”

After his death, his disciples followed his last wish and put the door and its key beside his grave. Though it may appear foolish to some, it is actually a satirical rejoinder to those who confine themselves in their castles in this ever-changing world.

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Comments [ 1 ]


Loved the story.

In the yogic tradition we also use Mulla Nasruddin stories to teach.



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