Mullah Nasrudin, the Rich Man, and the Poor Man

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A long time ago when I was still a Mullah, I lived in a small town, just big enough for a real mosque, with a beautiful mosaic wall. I remember one evening, we had finished our prayers. The stars were clear and bright, and seemed to fill the sky with lights. I stood at the window, gazing at the lights so far away, each one bigger than our world and so distant from us across vast reaches of space.

I thought of how we walk this earth, filled with our own importance, when we are just specks of dust. If you walk to the cliffs outside the town, a walk of half an hour at most, you look back and you can see the town, but the people are too small to see, even at that meager distance.

When I think of the immensity of the universe, I am filled with awe and reverence at a power so great. I was thinking such thoughts, looking out the window of the mosque, and I realized I had fallen to my knees.

“I am nothing, nothing!” I cried, amazed and awestruck.

There was a certain well-to-do man of the town, the kind of man who wished to be thought very devout. He cared more for what people thought of him than for what he actually was. He happened to walk in and he saw and heard what passed. I was a little shy at being caught in such a moment, but he rushed down, looking around in the obvious hope someone was there to see him. He knelt beside me and cried:

“I am nothing! I am nothing!”

At the same time, the man who sweeps the floor, a poor man from the edge of the village, entered the side door with his broom to begin his night’s work. He had seen us, and being a man of true faith and honest simplicity, his face showed that he entertained some of the same thoughts that had been laid on me by the hand of Allah (wonderful is He). He dropped his broom and fell to his knees and said softly:

“I am nothing…I am nothing!”

The well-to-do man nudged me with his elbow and said out of the side of his mouth:

“Look who thinks he’s nothing!”

Ya Haqq!

9 Responses to Mullah Nasrudin, the Rich Man, and the Poor Man

  1. pbsweeney says:

    Hahahahahaha! I love it so much!

  2. Barbara says:

    Dearest Irving, I am having a dense moment…are you relaying somebody elses writing or did this marvelous entertaining story actually happen to you? Whatever it is, it’s a show stopper! Thanks for sharing

  3. Irving says:

    Haha, no dear Barbara, it didn’t happen to me, that is to say, not directly, though it has probably happened to everyone now and then. Mullah Nasrudin is a famous Sufi character and insightful jokester.

    There is a good description of him and a collection of his stories on Wikibooks at this link:

    Ya Haqq!

  4. Julaybib Ayoub says:

    The Nasruddin stories are wonderful. I haven’t heard this one before, many thanks for this gem! :-)

  5. Safa says:

    Far out dear Irving! This beatiful quote just took me to the days when I used to read more of the Late Idris Shah and of course Mullah Nasrudin. Your spiritual anthology and blessed endeavors are much appreciated and duely rewarded, insha’Allah!

    By the way, many thanks for presenting the link to the Podiobook and the new Mathnawi translation, a very unique innovation indeed.

    Love in Haqq!

  6. Achelois says:

    Haha! And I’m nothing either :)

  7. ned says:

    Heheheh — *true* humility calls it as it sees it. False humility just wants to look humble. ;-) Great story, Mulla Nasruddin is my favourite.

  8. UmmFarouq says:

    This is the same Nasruddin who is Nasruddin Hoja, and Arabs know him as “Juha,” yes? These stories are timeless and the lessons taught invaluable.

    Thanks for the post.

  9. Irving says:

    Yes, dear Sister UmmFarouq :) It is the same Nasruddin Hoja, though the spelling is sometimes different. Here is the Wikipedia entry.

    Nasreddin (Persian ملا نصرالدین, Arabic: جحا transl.: Joĥa ,نصرالدين meaning “Victory of the Faith,” Turkish Nasreddin Hoca, Bosnian Nasrudin hodža) was a satirical Sufi figure who lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century), somewhere in Greater Khorasan, under the Seljuq rule. Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim the Nasreddin as their own (Afghans, Iranians, Turks, and Uzbeks). His name is spelled differently in various cultures and is often preceded or followed by titles “Hodja”, “Mullah”, or “Effendi”. Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. In China he is known as Afanti, a folk hero of the Uyghurs (a Turkic people).

    Much of Nasreddin’s actions can be described as illogical yet logical, rational yet irrational, bizarre yet normal, foolish yet sharp, and simple yet profound. What adds even further to his uniqueness is the way he gets across his messages in unconventional yet very effective methods in a profound simplicity.

    Ya Haqq!

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