Nasreddin or Nasreddin Hodja (/næsˈrɛdᵻn/) was a Seljuq satirical Sufi, born in Hortu Village in Sivrihisar, Eskişehir Province, present-day Turkey and died in 13th century in Akşehir, near Konya, a capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, in today's Turkey. He is considered a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke. A Nasreddin story usually has a subtle humour and a pedagogic nature. The International Nasreddin Hodja fest is celebrated between 5 and 10 July in his hometown every year.
Origin and legacy
Claims about his origin are made by many ethnic groups. Many sources give the birthplace of Nasreddin as Hortu Village in Sivrihisar, Eskişehir Province, present-day Turkey, in the 13th century, after which he settled in Akşehir, and later in Konya under the Seljuq rule, where he died in 1275/6 or 1285/6 CE. The alleged tomb of Nasreddin is in Akşehir and the "International Nasreddin Hodja Festival" is held annually in Akşehir between 5–10 July.
According to Prof. Mikail Bayram who made an extensive research on Nasreddin, his full name is Nasir ud-din Mahmood al-Khoyi, his title Ahi Evran (as being the leader of the ahi organization). According to him, Nasreddin was born in the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, had his education in Khorasan and became the pupil of famous Quran mufassir Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in Herat. He was sent to Anatolia by the Khalif in Baghdad to organize resistance and uprising against the Mongol invasion. He served as a kadı (an Islamic judge and ombudsman) in Kayseri. This explains why he addresses judicial problems in the jokes not only religious ones. During the turmoil of the Mongol invasion he became a political opponent of Persian Rumi. He was addressed in Masnavi by juha anecdotes for this reason. He became the vazir at the court of Kaykaus II. Having lived in numerous cities in vast area and being steadfastly against the Mongol invasion as well as having his witty character, he was embraced by various nations and cultures from Turkey to Arabia, from Persia to Afghanistan, and from Russia to China, most of which suffered from those invasions.
As generations have gone by, new stories have been added to the Nasreddin corpus, others have been modified, and he and his tales have spread to many regions. The themes in the tales have become part of the folklore of a number of nations and express the national imaginations of a variety of cultures. Although most of them depict Nasreddin in an early small-village setting, the tales deal with concepts that have a certain timelessness. They purvey a pithy folk wisdom that triumphs over all trials and tribulations. The oldest manuscript of Nasreddin dates to 1571.
Today, Nasreddin stories are told in a wide variety of regions, especially across the Muslim world and have been translated into many languages. Some regions independently developed a character similar to Nasreddin, and the stories have become part of a larger whole. In many regions, Nasreddin is a major part of the culture, and is quoted or alluded to frequently in daily life. Since there are thousands of different Nasreddin stories, one can be found to fit almost any occasion. Nasreddin often appears as a whimsical character of a large Persian, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Judeo-Spanish, Kurdish, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, and Urdu folk tradition of vignettes, not entirely different from zen koans.
1996–1997 was declared International Nasreddin Year by UNESCO.
Some people say that, whilst uttering what seemed madness, he was, in reality, divinely inspired, and that it was not madness but wisdom that he uttered.— The Turkish Jester or The Pleasantries of Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi
Many peoples of the Near, Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia claim Nasreddin as their own (e.g., Turks, Afghans, Iranians, and Uzbeks). His name is spelt in a wide variety of ways: Nasrudeen, Nasrudin, Nasruddin, Nasr ud-Din, Nasredin, Nasiruddin, Naseeruddin, Nasr Eddin, Nastradhin, Nasreddine, Nastratin, Nusrettin, Nasrettin, Nostradin, Nastradin (lit.: Victory of the Deen) and Nazaruddin. It is sometime preceded or followed by a title or honorific used in the corresponding cultures: "Hoxha", "Khwaje", "Hodja", "Hoja", "Hojja", "Hodscha", "Hodža", "Hoca", "Hogea", "Mullah", "Mulla", "Mula", "Molla", "Efendi", "Afandi", "Ependi" (أفندي ’afandī), "Hajji". In several cultures he is named by the title alone.
In Arabic-speaking countries this character is known as "Juha", "Djoha", "Djuha", "Dschuha", "Chotzas", "Goha" (جحا juḥā). Juha was originally a separate folk character found in Arabic literature as early as the 9th century, and was widely popular by the 11th century. Lore of the two characters became amalgamated in the 19th century when collections were translated from Arabic into Turkish and Persian.
In Sicily and Southern Italy he is known as "Giufà".
In the Swahili and Indonesian culture, many of his stories are being told under the name of "Abunuwasi" or "Abunawas", though this confuses Nasreddin with an entirely different man – the poet Abu Nuwas, known for homoerotic verse.
In China, where stories of him are well known, he is known by the various transliterations from his Uyghur name, 阿凡提 (Āfántí) and 阿方提 (Āfāngtí). The Uyghurs believe that he was from Xinjiang, while the Uzbeks believe he was from Bukhara. Shanghai Animation Film Studio produced a 13-episode Nasreddin related animation called 'The Story of Afanti'/ 阿凡提 (电影) in 1979, which became one of the most influential animations in China's history. The musical Nasirdin Apandim features the legend of Nasreddin effendi ("sir, lord"), largely sourced from Uighur folklore.
In Central Asia, he is commonly known as "Afandi". The Central Asian peoples also claim his local origin, as do Uyghurs.
The Nasreddin stories are known throughout the Middle East and have touched cultures around the world. Superficially, most of the Nasreddin stories may be told as jokes or humorous anecdotes. They are told and retold endlessly in the teahouses and caravanserais of Asia and can be heard in homes and on the radio. But it is inherent in a Nasreddin story that it may be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.
Whom do you believe?
Taste the same
Nasreddin was the main character in a magazine, called simply Molla Nasraddin, published in Azerbaijan and "read across the Muslim world from Morocco to Iran". The eight-page Azerbaijani satirical periodical was published in Tiflis (from 1906 to 1917), Tabriz (in 1921) and Baku (from 1922 to 1931) in the Azeri and occasionally Russian languages. Founded by Jalil Mammadguluzadeh, it depicted inequality, cultural assimilation, and corruption and ridiculed the backward lifestyles and values of clergy and religious fanatics, implicitly calling upon the readers to modernize and accept Western social norms and practices. The magazine was frequently banned but had a lasting influence on Azerbaijani and Iranian literature.
European and Western folk tales, literary works and pop culture
Some Nasreddin tales also appear in collections of Aesop's fables. The miller, his son and the donkey is one example. Others are The Ass with a Burden of Salt (Perry Index 180) and The Satyr and the Traveller.
In some Bulgarian folk tales that originated during the Ottoman period, the name appears as an antagonist to a local wise man, named Sly Peter. In Sicily the same tales involve a man named Giufà. In Sephardi Jewish culture, spread throughout the Ottoman Empire, there is a character that appears in many folk tales named Djohá.
In Romanian the existing stories come from a versed compilation edited in 1853 by Anton Pann, a philologist and poet renown for authoring the current Romanian anthem.
Nasreddin is mostly known as a character from short tales, whole novels and stories have later been written and an animated feature film was almost made. In Russia Nasreddin is known mostly because of the novel "Tale of Hodja Nasreddin" written by Leonid Solovyov (English translations: "The Beggar in the Harem: Impudent Adventures in Old Bukhara", 1956, and "The Tale of Hodja Nasreddin: Disturber of the Peace", 2009). The composer Shostakovich celebrated Nasreddin, among other figures, in the second movement (Yumor, "Humor") of his Symphony No. 13. The text, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, portrays humor as a weapon against dictatorship and tyranny. Shostakovich's music shares many of the "foolish yet profound" qualities of Nasreddin's sayings listed above.
The Graeco-Armenian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff often referred to "our own dear Mullah Nasr Eddin", also calling him an "incomparable teacher", particularly in his book Beelzebub's Tales. Sufi philosopher Idries Shah published several collections of Nasruddin stories in English, and emphasised their teaching value.
He is known as Mullah Nasruddin in South Asian children's books.
Uzbek Nasreddin Afandi
For Uzbek people, Nasreddin is one of their own, and was born and lived in Bukhara. In gatherings, family meetings, and parties they tell each other stories about him that are called "latifa" of "afandi". There are at least two collections of stories related to Nasriddin Afandi.
Books on him:
- "Afandining qirq bir passhasi" – (Forty-one flies of Afandi) – Zohir A'lam, Tashkent
- "Afandining besh xotini" – (Five wives of Afandi)
In 1943, the Soviet film Nasreddin in Bukhara was directed by Yakov Protazanov based on Solovyov's book, followed in 1947 by a film called The Adventures of Nasreddin, directed by Nabi Ganiyev and also set in the Uzbekistan SSR.
- George Borrow, trans. . The Turkish Jester or, The Pleasantries of Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi (in English) at Project Gutenberg
- 600 Mulla Nasreddin Tales, collected by Mohammad Ramazani (Popular Persian Text Series: 1) (in Persian).
- Tales of the Hodja, retold by Charles Downing, illustrated by William Papas. Oxford University Press: London, 1964.
- The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams
- The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams.
- The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams and Errol Le Cain
- Mullah Nasiruddiner Galpo (Tales of Mullah Nasreddin) collected and retold by Satyajit Ray, (in Bengali)
- The Wisdom of Mulla Nasruddin, by Shahrukh Husain
- The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, jests, and donkey tales of the beloved Persian folk hero, collected and retold by Ron Suresha.
- The Wise Old Man: Turkish Tales of Nasreddin Hodja, told by L(yon Bajar) Juda, illustrated by Tessa Theobald. Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd: Edinburgh, 1963.
- Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin: Naughty, unexpurgated tales of the beloved wise fool from the Middle and Far East, collected and retold by Ron Suresha.