Mullah Nasruddin was sitting in a tea shop when a friend came excitedly to speak with him. “I’m about to get married, Mullah,” his friend stated, “and I’m very excited. Mullah, have you ever thought of marriage yourself?”
Nasruddin replied, “I did think of getting married. In my youth in fact I very much wanted to do so. I waited to find for myself the perfect wife. I traveled looking for her, first to Damascus. There I met a beautiful woman who was gracious, kind, and deeply spiritual, but she had no worldly knowledge. I traveled further and went to Isphahan. There I met a woman who was both spiritual and worldly, beautiful in many ways, but we did not communicate well. Finally I went to Cairo and there, after much searching, I found her. She was spiritually deep, graceful, and beautiful in every respect, at home in the world and at home in the realms beyond it. I felt I had found the perfect wife.”
His friend questioned further, “Then did you not marry her, Mullah?”
“Alas,” said Nasruddin as he shook his head. “She was, unfortunately, waiting for the perfect husband.”
~Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart
Mullah Nasruddin is both a fool and a wise man. He was out one day in his garden sprinkling bread crumbs around the flowerbeds. A neighbor came by and asked, “Mullah, why are you doing that?”
Nasruddin answered, “Oh, I do it to keep the tigers away.”
The neighbor said, “But there aren’t any tigers within thousands of miles of here.”
Nasruddin replied, “Effective, isn’t it?”
~Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart
Once upon a time, Mullah came up with a successful way of making a living: smuggling. Each week, he crossed the border between Persia and Greece with two donkeys, each loaded with a large bale of straw.
As he crossed the border in each direction, the customs officials went through everything, but could find only straw. And yet Mullah was getting richer and richer, and everyone knew it. Week by week, the customs officials became more desperate to find something, but always failed.
Many years later, Mullah retired to Egypt. One of the former customs officials looked him up and asked, “Mullah, we know that you were smuggling something all those years ago, between Persia and Greece. Now that you are safely out of harm’s way, can’t you tell me what it was?”
“Yes, my friend,” said Mullah, “now that you are also free of your responsibilities, I can tell you. I was smuggling donkeys.”
When he was young, Mullah Nasruddin’s father wanted to train him to take over the family business, which in this story was minding the burial shirine of a Sufi saint. Pilgrims usually tipped the guardian of the shrine, and this could slowly amount to a living. For one reason or another, Mullah was not catching on very well, so his father gave him some time to go on a journey to the East with his favorite donkey.
Far from home, Mullah’s donkey suddenly died, and he was so distraught that he buried the donkey, and then sat down and began to cry. And cry. Soon other people began to pass by, and asked Mullah what had happened. But he could only cry.
“This must be the grave of some really great saing!” said one to another, and they sat down and began to pray and meditate. A few weeks later, there was a crowd. One very enterprising and pious person organized to collect money to build a shrine around the grave, where more people could gather.
At this point, Mullah’s father became worried about what had happened to him. After months of searching, he finally found him. Mullah explained to his father what had happened, and his father whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry, my son, the same thing happened to me. That’s how I got into the shrine business.”
Driven by the need to achieve, we often ignore and overwork the inner more instinctive parts of our selves.. If we listened, we might realize that we need to respect certain limits if we want our bodies to stay healthy and so help us fulfill our heart’s desire. Here’s a Sufi story that illustrates this point:
Mullah Nasruddin decided that he would like to get into a new line of work: raising donkeys. He consulted with all the best minds and found that the main expense in the business was food. So he decided that the way to increase his profit margin would simply be to feed the donkey less.
He began to train his first donkey by starting with a normal meal, then slowly, day by day, cutting down the donkey’s ration. At first, it seemed to work. The donkey actually looked better after a few days and Mullah was encouraged, so he gradually reduced the donkey’s food more. However, just as gradually the donkey started to look more and more unhappy, weaker and weaker. Finally it couldn’t even stand. And then it died.
“Too bad,” said Mullah, “If it had just held out a bit longer I would have trained it to live on nothing.”
One day a neighbor found Mullah Nasruddin sitting in a tree in his garden, in the process of sawing off the limb on which he was sitting.
“Mullah, you’d better stop, otherwise you’ll fall down,” said the neighbor, then went back inside his house. Sure enough, Mullah kept sawing, the limb broke, and he fell. Mullah ran next door and pounded on his neighbor’s door.
“O, great one, please forgive me,” said Mullah, “I didn’t know I had a psychic for a neighbor! Could you please predict what will happen to me tomorrow?”
The neighbor tried to deny that he could predict the future, saying that what he had told Mullah was just common sense. But Mullah wouldn’t listen and kept after him. Finally, the neighbor became exasperated and said, “Mullah, for heaven’s sake, for all I care you can drop dead tomorrow!”
The next morning, Mullah woke and said to his wife, “Our neighbor is a psychic and he told me that I would drop dead today, so I have to prepare.” He took his donkey along for company and went to the graveyard, then dug a grave for himself and lay down in it. As the day ended, he was still lying there and thought, “I must be dead now. This isn’t really so bad!”
Then a pack of dogs came by and started harassing his donkey. The donkey began to bray and make a racket. Finally, Mullah yelled from the grave, “You dogs – get out of here! If I weren’t dead I’d get out of my grave and give you a thrashing!”
Mulla Nasrudin decided to start a flower garden. He prepared the soil and planted the seeds of many beautiful flowers. But when they came up, his garden was filled not just with his chosen flowers but also overrun by dandelions.
He sought out advice from gardeners all over and tried every method known to get rid of them but to no avail. Finally he walked all the way to the capital to speak to the royal gardener at the sheik’s palace.
The wise old man had counseled many gardeners before and suggested a variety of remedies to expel the dandelions but Mulla had tried them all. They sat together in silence for some time and finally the gardener looked at Nasrudin and said, “Well, then I suggest you learn to love them.”