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A 17th-century miniature of Nasiruddin

Nasreddin (/næsˈrɛdɪn/[1]) or Nasreddin Hodja (other variants include: Mullah Nasreddin Hooja, Nasruddin Hodja, Mullah Nasruddin, Mullah Nasriddin, Khoja Nasriddin) (1208-1285) is a character in the folklore of the Muslim world from the Balkans to China, and a hero of humorous short stories and satirical anecdotes.[2] There are frequent statements about his existence in real life and even archaeological evidence in specific places, for example, a tombstone in the city of Akşehir, Turkey. At the moment, there is no confirmed information or serious grounds to talk about the specific date or place of Nasreddin's birth, so the question of the reality of his existence remains open.[3]

Nasreddin 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.[4] The International Nasreddin Hodja festival is celebrated between 5 and 10 July every year in Akşehir.[5]

In 2020, an application to include "Telling tradition of Nasreddin Khoja" in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list was jointly submitted by the governments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.[6]

Origin and legacy[edit]

Claims about his origin are made by many ethnic groups.[7][8] 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,[8] and later in Konya under the Seljuq rule, where he died in 1275/6 or 1285/6 CE.[9][10] It is claimed that the tomb of Nasreddin is in Akşehir, and the International Nasreddin Hodja Festival is held annually in Akşehir, 5–10 July.[11]

There are also opposing views that Nasreddin's origin lies in Central Asia.[12]

The Arabic version of the character, known as "juha" (Arabic: جحا), is the oldest attested version of the character and the most divergent, being mentioned in Al-Jahiz's book "Saying on Mules"القول في البغال—, according Al-Dhahabi's book "ميزان الاعتدال في نقد الرجال", his full name was "Abu al-Ghusn Dujayn al-Fizari", he lived under the Umayyads in Kufa, his mother was said to be a servant to Anas ibn Malik, thus he was one of the Tabi'un in Sunni tradition.[13]

and of them (juha), and he is nicknamed "aba ghusn", and it has been told about him what suggests astuteness and intelligence, although overwhelmingly made foolish, and it has been said that some who antagonize him put out tales about him.

The oldest manuscript of Nasreddin dates to 1571. Some of the stories, however, are in the Philogelos[citation needed] and Aesop's fables.[15]

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.[16] Nasreddin often appears as a whimsical character of a large Turkish, Persian, Adyghe, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Afghan, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Judeo-Spanish, Kurdish, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, Ubykh, and Urdu folk tradition of vignettes.

1996–1997 was declared International Nasreddin Year by UNESCO.[17]

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[18]


A Goha story cloth by Ahmed Yossery (2007) depicting a version of The miller, his son and the donkey, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Many peoples of the Near, Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia claim Nasreddin as their own (e.g., Turks,[19][9][20][21] Afghans,[20] Iranians,[19][22] and Uzbeks).[10] His name is spelt in a wide variety of ways: Nasrudeen, Nasrudin, Nasruddin, Nasriddin, Nasr ud-Din, Nasredin, Nasiruddin, Naseeruddin, Nasr Eddin, Nastradhin, Nasreddine, Nastratin, Nusrettin, Nasrettin, Nostradin, Nastradin (lit.: Victory of the Deen) and Nazaruddin. It is sometimes preceded or followed by a title or honorific used in the corresponding cultures: "Hoxha", "Khwaje", "Koja", "Hodja", "Hoja", "Hojja", "Hodscha", "Hodža", "Hoca", "Hocca","Hooka", "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.[23] Lore of the two characters became amalgamated in the 19th century when collections were translated from Arabic into Turkish and Persian.[24]

The Arabic name "Juha" is the reverse of the Turkish word "Hoja" (spelled in Turkish as Hoca), due to his well known story of riding the donkey in reverse position. Arabs used the word to refer the Turkish scolars and reversed the letters in reference to the famous story of Nasreddin.

In Sicily and Southern Italy he is known as "Giufà", derived from the Arabic character Juha.

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.

Statue of Afanti in Xinjiang, China

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.[25] Shanghai Animation Film Studio produced a 13-episode Nasreddin related animation called 'The Story of Afanti'/ 阿凡提 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 Uyghur folklore.

In Central Asia, he is commonly known as "Afandi". The Central Asian peoples also claim his local origin, as do Uyghurs.

Afandi or Afanti originates from Turkish "Efendi" (Effendi) and this is a title still used to show respect in Turkey. The combination "Hoja Efendi" is used in Turkey very often for the Muslim scholars in modern times as well. The word "Efendi" is ultimately derived from Greek "Authentes" (αὐθέντης) into Turkish. "Nasreddin Hoja Efendi" was shortened as "Efendi" in time. Subsequently "Efendi" happened to be the proper name as "Affandi" in Central Asia for Nasreddin Hoja.


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 in the teahouses and caravanserais of Asia and 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.[26]


The Sermon[edit]

Once Nasreddin was invited to deliver a sermon. When he got on the pulpit, he asked, Do you know what I am going to say? The audience replied "no", so he announced, I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about! and left.
The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time, when he asked the same question, the people replied yes. So Nasreddin said, Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time! and left.
Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question – Do you know what I am going to say? Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "yes" while the other half replied "no". So Nasreddin said Let the half who know what I am going to say tell it to the half who don't, and left.[27]

Whom do you believe?[edit]

Nasreddin Hodja in Bukhara
Nasreddin Hodja in Ankara
A neighbour came to the gate of Hodja Nasreddin's yard. The Hodja went to meet him outside.
"Would you mind, Hodja," the neighbour asked, "can you lend me your donkey today? I have some goods to transport to the next town."
The Hodja didn't feel inclined to lend out the animal to that particular man, however. So, not to seem rude, he answered:
"I'm sorry, but I've already lent him to somebody else."
All of a sudden the donkey could be heard braying loudly behind the wall of the yard.
"But Hodja," the neighbour exclaimed. "I can hear it behind that wall!"
"Whom do you believe," the Hodja replied indignantly, "the donkey or your Hodja?"[28]

Taste the same[edit]

Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two baskets full of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste.
Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.
"You have so much, but you gave us so little," the children whined.
"There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same," Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way.[29]

Nasreddin's ring[edit]

Mullah had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: "Mullah, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mullah stroked his beard and said: "The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here".[30]

In Asian and Caucasus folk tradition and literature[edit]

Uzbeks consider Nasreddin an Uzbek who was born and lived in Bukhara,[25] and stories about him are called latifa or afandi. There are at least two collections of Uzbek stories related to Nasriddin Afandi:

  • "Afandining qirq bir passhasi" – (Forty-one flies of Afandi) – Zohir A'lam, Tashkent
  • "Afandining besh xotini" – (Five wives of Afandi)
Molla Nasraddin cover (1906, #2)

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.[31] The magazine was frequently banned[32] but had a lasting influence on Azerbaijani and Iranian literature.[33]

He is known as Mullah Nasruddin in South Asian children's books.[34][35] A TV serial on him was aired in India as Mulla Nasiruddin.[citation needed]

In European and Western folk tradition and literature[edit]

Some Nasreddin tales also appear in collections of Aesop's fables. The miller, his son and the donkey is one example.[36] 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.[37] In Sephardic[38] culture, spread throughout the Ottoman Empire, a character that appears in many folk tales is named Djohá.[39][40]

In Romanian, the existing stories come from an 1853 verse compilation edited by Anton Pann, a philologist and poet renowned for authoring the current Romanian anthem.[41]

Nasreddin is mostly known as a character from short tales; however, he has also been featured in longer mediums, such as novels and films. In Russia, Nasreddin is known mostly because of the Russian work Возмутитель спокойствия 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[42]). 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.[citation needed]

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.[43] Sufi philosopher Idries Shah published several collections of Nasruddin stories in English, and emphasized their teaching value.


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.[44][45]

In 1964, Richard Williams, a Canadian-British animator, began work on Nasrudin, an animated film based on the character. The film was produced with the help of Idries Shah, for whom Williams had illustrated books about the character; however, tensions between Williams' crew and the Shah family caused Williams to end his relationship with them, causing him to lose his right to use Nasreddin as a character. The unfinished film was later reworked into The Thief and the Cobbler, which had a similarly troubled production history.[46][47][48]


  • Bacha,Mohamed30 Funny Stories of Joha, The Beloved Folk Hero of The East (bilingual English - Arabic)
  • George Borrow, trans. [1884]. 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
  • Watermelons, Walnuts, and the Wisdom of Allah and Other Tales of the Hoca, by Barbara K. Walker, Illustrated by Harold Berson ISBN 9780896722545
  • 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.
  • Kuang Jinbi (2004). The magic ox and other tales of the Effendi. ISBN 978-1-4101-0692-6.
  • The Wise Old Man: Turkish Tales of Nasreddin Hodja, told by Lyon 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.
  • Melayê Meşhûr (The famous Mulla) by Mehmed Emîn Bozarslan, Uppsala: Deng Publishers, 85 pp., ISBN 91-7382-620-0, 1986 (in Kurdish)
  • Once There Was, Twice There Wasn't: Fifty Turkish Folktales of Nasreddin Hodja, adapted by Michael Shelton. Boston: Hey Nonny Nonny Press, 2014
  • Twenty-Four Nasreddins (1986), a collective work (in Russian)


  1. ^ Turkish: Nasreddin Hoca, Ottoman Turkish: نصر الدين خواجه, Nasreddīn Hodja, Persian: خواجه نصرالدین, Pashto: ملا نصرالدین, Arabic: نصرالدین جحا / ALA-LC: Naṣraddīn Juḥā, Urdu: ملا نصر الدین / ALA-LC: Mullā Naṣru l-dīn, Uzbek: Nosiriddin Xo'ja, Bosnian: Nasrudin Hodža, Albanian: Nastradin Hoxha, Nastradini, Romanian: Nastratin Hogea
  2. ^ Hunziker, Sara (2019). Ramona, Mihaila (ed.). Myth, Symbol, and Ritual: Elucidatory Paths to the Fantastic Unreality. University of Bucharest. pp. 357–361. ISBN 978-6-061-61037-2.
  3. ^ Attardo, Salvatore, ed. (2014). Encyclopedia of Humor Studies. SAGE Publications. pp. 108–111. ISBN 978-1-483-34617-5.
  4. ^ Javadi, Hasan. "MOLLA NASREDDIN i. THE PERSON". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Akşehir Belediyesi - Nasreddin Hoca Şenliği". Archived from the original on 17 August 2011.
  6. ^ "Turkey submits four cultural values to UNESCO". Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  7. ^ İlhan Başgöz, Studies in Turkish folklore, in honor of Pertev N. Boratav, Indiana University, 1978, p. 215. ("Quelle est la nationalité de Nasreddin Hodja – est-il turc, avar, tatar, tadjik, persan ou ousbek? Plusieurs peuples d'Orient se disputent sa nationalité, parce qu'ils considerent qu'il leur appartient.") (in French)
  8. ^ a b John R. Perry, "Cultural currents in the Turco-Persian world", in New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Majmu`ah-i Safaviyyah in Honour of Roger Savory, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-1-136-99194-3, p. 92.
  9. ^ a b "Nasreddin Hoca". Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2006.
  10. ^ a b Fiorentini, Gianpaolo (2004). "Nasreddin, una biografia possibile". Storie di Nasreddin. Toronto: Libreria Editrice Psiche. ISBN 978-88-85142-71-8. Archived from the original on 7 April 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2006.
  11. ^ "Aksehir's International Nasreddin Hodja Festival and Aviation Festival – Turkish Daily News 27 Jun 2005". Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  12. ^ Attardo, Salvatore, ed. (2014). Encyclopedia of Humor Studies. SAGE Publications. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-483-34617-5.
  13. ^ الذهبي ميزان الاعتدال (المجلد 1)، ص 326
  14. ^ "ابن شاكر الكتبي "عيون التواريخ" ص 373 وما بعدها
  15. ^ Der Hodscha Nasreddin, Albert Wesselski, sidenote to story 201
  16. ^ Ohebsion, Rodney (2004) A Collection of Wisdom, Immediex Publishing, ISBN 1-932968-19-9.
  17. ^ "...UNESCO declared 1996–1997 the International Nasreddin Year..." Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Hoca, Nasreddin (1884). The Turkish Jester or The Pleasantries of Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi. Translated from the Turkish by George Borrow.
  19. ^ a b The outrageous Wisdom of Nasruddin, Mullah Nasruddin Archived 29 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  20. ^ a b Archived 18 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Mulla Nasreddin Stories. Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  21. ^ Archived 12 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Nasreddin Hoca
  22. ^ "First Iranian Mullah who Was a Master in Anecdotes". Persian Journal. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  23. ^ Josef W. Meri, ed. (2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Vol. 1: A–K. p. 426. ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7.
  24. ^ Donald Haase, ed. (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales. Vol. 2: G–P. p. 661. ISBN 978-0-313-33443-6.
  25. ^ a b Hixarid Fedai. "Mulla or Hodja Nasreddin as seen by Cypriot Turks and Greeks" (PDF).
  26. ^ Idris Shah (1964), The Sufis, London: W. H. Allen ISBN 0-385-07966-4.
  27. ^ Many written versions of this tale exist, for example in Kelsey, Alice (1943). Once the Hodja. David McKay Company Inc.
  28. ^ Widely retold, for instance in Shah, Idries (1964). The Sufis. Jonathan Cape. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0-86304-074-0.
  29. ^ A similar story is presented in Shah, Idries (1985). The subtleties of the inimitable Mulla Nasrudin (Reprinted. ed.). London: Octagon Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-86304-040-5.
  30. ^ garson. ""Did You Lose the Keys Here?" "No, But the Light Is Much Better Here" | Quote Investigator". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  31. ^ Molla Nasraddin – The Magazine: Laughter that Pricked the Conscience of a Nation by Jala Garibova. Azerbaijan International. #4.3. Autumn 1996
  32. ^ (in Russian) Molla Nasraddin, an entry from the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia by A.Sharif.
  33. ^ (in Persian) Molla Nasraddin and Jalil Mammadguluzadeh by Ebrahim Nabavi. BBC Persian. 6 July 2006
  34. ^ Naqvi, Hassan (6 February 2016). "Problems with privatisation". Pakistan Today. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  35. ^ SENSEX (15 February 1977). "Ranga Shankara to provide professional help to amateur theatre companies in Karnataka". The Economic Times. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  36. ^ "The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey".
  37. ^ Migliore, Sam (1997). Mal'uocchiu. University of Toronto Press. p. 100. ISBN 9780802079220. giufa.
  38. ^ Ottoman Legends, Ankara Folklore Convention, Austin Legrasse, Book of Abstracts, p.23
  39. ^, "Djoha – Personaje – Ponte en la Area del Mediterraneo" by Matilda Koen-Sarano
  40. ^, European Sephardic Institute
  41. ^ "Năzdrăvăniile lui Nastratin Hogea".
  42. ^ Solovyov, Leonid (2009). The Tale of Hodja Nasreddin: Disturber of the Peace. Toronto, Canada: Translit Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9812695-0-4.
  43. ^ "The 86 Sayings of Mullah Nassr Eddin". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  44. ^ "Cinema of Uzbekistan list on". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  45. ^ «Большой Словарь: Крылатые фразы отечественного кино», Олма Медиа Групп. 2001г., ISBN 978-5-7654-1735-5, p. 401.
  46. ^ Dobbs, Mike (1996). "An Arabian Knight-mare". Animato!. No. 35.
  47. ^ Dobbs, Mike (1996), "An Arabian Knight-mare", Animato! (35)
  48. ^ Schreck, Kevin (Director) (2012). Persistence of Vision (film documentary (and DVD bonus features)). USA/UK.

External links[edit]