Mullah Nasruddin, in the words of Amir Khusrow
Updated: May 17
Did you know that the earliest-known written collection of the stories of Mullah Nasruddin was penned by the legendary Amir Khusrow, who is known for his contributions to music, Persian poetry, Urdu language and literature, and mysticism at the court of the Delhi Sultanate?
Mullah Nasruddin: Character, Origins, and History
Mullah Nasruddin (also called Nasreddin or Nasrudin) is a legendary character from Muslim folklore. He is portrayed as a wise fool who uses subversive humor and satire with clever wordplay to expose various aspects of social behavior. Portrayed as a religious man, a simpleton at heart, with modest means, his stories deal with everyday life and human relationships. He is often depicted wearing a distinctive hat, known as a "doppi" or a "karakul," which is said to represent his unconventional and irreverent nature.
He is believed to have been a real person who lived in the 13th century CE in the town of Akşehir, in modern-day Turkey. Likely, the stories of Mullah Nasruddin were originally transmitted orally, through storytelling and performance, during the Seljuk era. Over time, they were adapted and expanded by different storytellers and writers, and they became part of the rich folklore and literary tradition of the Muslim world.
Khusrow's "Tales of Nasruddin" collection consists of more than 50 humorous anecdotes and stories. The stories are told straightforwardly, focusing on witty dialogue and unexpected plot twists.
The copy of Amir Khusrow's "Nasruddin-nama" at the British Library is a manuscript in Persian, and it is part of the library's collection of Islamic manuscripts. The manuscript is dated to the 16th century and consists of 126 folios, or pages, of text. The manuscript is written in a calligraphic script, with decorated margins and headings in gold and blue ink.
Khusrow writes in the preface:
"The tales of Mullah Nasruddin are well-known throughout the world, and they have been cherished by people of all ages and backgrounds. They are full of wit, humor, and wisdom, and they offer a window into the human condition. I have collected these stories in order to preserve them for future generations, and to share their wisdom and humor with a wider audience."
The epilogue reads:
"I have completed this collection of tales of Mullah Nasruddin, and I present it to the honorable and discerning reader. May these stories bring joy and amusement to the heart, and may they inspire the mind with wisdom and insight. I pray that the reader will appreciate the value of these tales and that they will continue to be cherished and enjoyed for generations to come."
Modern-day Significance and Impact
Mullah Nasruddin has been the subject of many books, plays, and films over the years. He is particularly popular in countries where Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu are spoken. His stories are often used to teach children about morality and ethics, with his stories still being part of Pakistan's primary and secondary school curricula. The collection of stories about Mullah Nasruddin is a testament to the importance of storytelling tradition to culture. And perhaps, the Nasruddin-nama makes Amir Khusrow one of the world's first folklorists to recognize the importance of documenting oral tradition. Besides being popular and widely read, the tales are an important part of the literary and cultural heritage of the Muslim world.
This piece has been written by Miss Komal.