Monday, February 18, 2008

A Nasruddin story from Turkey from the Athenaeum Reading room

Mullah Nasruddin was a local priest (mullah means priest in Arabic) in a small village and was always living in extreme poverty. He was a very mysterious character, probably born in Turkey. No one knew whether he was a madman or a sage because his ways were so unconventional. His mind was so engaged in spiritual pursuits that he never took time to think about his material comfort. The debts accumulated and his credit quickly vanished until eventually he had no alternative but to sell his ancestral home.

Nasruddin’s neighbor was a crooked man with a large, bushy moustache and he knew about his financial difficulties. He thought he could take advantage of the situation. “I want to help you, good neighbor. I will buy the house from you, even though I don't really have any interest in it.” The man offered a pitiful price.
Mullah Nasruddin looked delighted and drew a small piece of paper from the folds of his clothing. “God bless you with long life and healthy progeny for this generous gesture! The house shall be yours, as soon as we take care of this little clause in the contract.”
“What clause?" asked the neighbor, suspiciously.
“Only a very small thing. This house was built by my father.”
“A fine gentleman he was. Always paid in cash.”
“And you see here on the wall of the living room — there is one nail sticking out. My father never had the chance to finish hammering it in. He had a heart attack and died.”
“God rests his soul!” The neighbor looked as contrite as he could.
“I therefore request that I be allowed to keep ownership of that nail, and do whatever I want with it.”
The neighbor agreed but explained that he would have to consult his wife before signing.
His wife raised some serious objections. “Why is he going to keep a nail? What does it mean?”
“He just wants to be allowed to keep and ‘worship’ his nail from time to time. That’s all.”
“He is crazy!”
“Maybe so. But we are getting the house for half its value. So what's the problem if he wants to keep a small nail?”
The wife finally relented, the contract was signed, and Mullah Nasruddin moved out.
A month went by. One evening they heard a knock on the door. It was Nasruddin, with head bowed.
“Oh Mullah, where have you been? We were wondering about you,” lied the crooked man.
Nasruddin explained that he had come to worship his nail and the man agreed to let him into the house.
Mullah humbly walked behind the man, bowed in front of the nail, and put his hat on it.
As he was about to leave, the man questioned him. “Hey, hey, what is that doing there?"
“That's my hat.”
“Yes, but you can’t leave it in my house.”
“’course I can” said the Mullah as he headed towards the door. “It is on my nail.”
Two weeks passed before Mullah Nasruddin’s next visit.
“Ah, good morning Mullah. You have come to take back your hat, I presume.”
“No thank you, my dear friend. I have come to worship my nail.” Once again he bowed before the nail and, his worship finished, he hung a scarf with his hat and turned to leave.
The crooked man was not amused but there was nothing he could do when Nasruddin claimed he was worshipping his dead father’s nail. The man sucked the end of his moustache and persuaded himself that this would be the last time, if only because there was nothing more the mad Mullah could possibly hang on the nail. He slammed the door behind the departing pilgrim and hoped his wife wouldn’t be too angry.
A week later Mullah Nasruddin returned and bowed towards the nail. Before turning to leave he took off his coat and hung it on the nail along with the hat and the scarf.
The wife was furious and she upbraided her husband. “Now look what he’s done. He is taking advantage of our kindness. No, advantage of your weakness.”
“But what can I do?” The unhappy husband chewed at the ragged end of his moustache. “We agreed that he can do whatever he wants with his nail. But fear not, pumpkin, now the nail is full.”
The next day, Mullah Nasruddin showed up again. The man tried to shut the door in his face when he saw who it was, but Nasruddin had already placed his foot inside – nothing was going to stop him worshipping his nail.
“Oh God. You again. I do hope this is the last time!” He tugged at the hair on his upper lip.
“Possibly” replied Nasruddin with his usual benign smile. He entered, dragging behind him the carcass of a cow and as he proceeded to hang it on his nail, the wife went mad with rage, and screamed at her husband.
“Get that out of my house or I’m leaving you!”
The husband protested vehemently, “Mullah Nasruddin, this is going too far. We cannot have that.”
“But you signed the contract, good neighbor.”
“Well, we will see about that. Let us have the council of elders make a ruling.”
Soon an assembly of all the wise men of the village had been convened, and the neighbor explained the situation while smearing the few wisps of his once bristling moustache across his upper lip, as though the sprouts hair offended him.
Mullah simply presented the contract, without uttering a word in his defense.
The wise men studied it carefully, and eventually pronounced that the Mullah was perfectly entitled to do as he wished with his nail. There is nothing in the contract that restricted how the nail should be worshipped. The case was therefore dismissed, and the neighbor went home dejected.
After long arguments with his wife and a sleepless night, he begged Mullah to buy his house back, at a bargain price. Nasruddin agreed and they moved out as quickly as possible.
Mullah was once again was able to enjoy his house and his nail, having made a tidy sum of money.
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