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Islamic Funnyman

Once, on Si’Djeha street in Marrakesh, I tossed a lump of bread at a boy’s chest. He’d been following me all day, offering me his services as a guide and saying he wanted to be my skirt. After six hours … Read More

By / March 14, 2007

Once, on Si’Djeha street in Marrakesh, I tossed a lump of bread at a boy’s chest. He’d been following me all day, offering me his services as a guide and saying he wanted to be my skirt. After six hours of trying to avoid him, I began to point, laugh and throw things. He quickly ran away. While the usual Middle Eastern harassment got on my nerves, the street name threw me over the edge. Si’Djeha, you see, is but one moniker of a trickster/funnyman who’s spread from Fez to Bukhara, and left his footprints all over Dar-al-Islam. Nasrudin Hoja, as he’s usually called, is a folk figure in the Islamic world, a heretical mullah that knows neither time nor place nor logic. He hangs around Ottoman coffeehouses, wields arms for the Taliban, and complains to Stalin about those grain shortages. While a lot of his stories are simple word games, funny for kids and sold in collections at Islamic bookstores, other tales are dark and often violent, deeply critical of the powers that be. In What’s the Matter with Islam, Irshad Manji claims there’s no native Islamic humor. Nasrudin Hoja calls this as bullshit. Here are two Nasruddin Tales… The Pot (via Wikipedia)

Nasreddin borrowed a pot from his friend. The next day, he gave the pot back to the friend, and also gave him another smaller pot. The friend looked at the small pot, and said, “What is that?” “Your pot gave birth while I had it,” Nasreddin replied, “so I am giving you its child.” The friend was glad to receive the bonus, and didn’t ask any more questions. A week later, Nasreddin borrowed the original pot from the friend. After a week passed, the friend asked Nasreddin to return it. “I cannot,” Nasreddin said. “Why not?” the friend replied. “Well,” Nasreddin answered, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news…but your pot has died.” “What?” the friend asked with skepticism. “A pot cannot die!” “You believed it gave birth,” Nasreddin said, “so why is it that you cannot believe it has died.”

Nasrudin talks to the Commissar (via a Lonely Planet guidebook-filtered through my shoddy memory)

Once upon a time, Nasrudin was fired from his job as a mullah in Bukhara, and had to go work on the grain collective. After several months tilling the fields, he received a visit from the Commissar of Wheat Management, who came all the way from Moscow. “How much wheat, have you grown, comrade Nasrudin?” asked the commissar. “I’ve grown a reservoir of wheat as big as God’s thumbs” The commissar puffed his chest. “Foolish peasant! We live in the Soviet republic! There is no god!” “That’s exactly how much grain there is” Nasrudin responded.

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