Fruits and Thorns

Abu Said lived a long life.
During the early part of his life, he followed the path of the ascetic, dwelling in the desert where he fasted, eating only bitter roots and thorn bushes to stay alive.
In later years, he lived in the city, where he enjoyed melon balls and other fruits dipped in sugar.
Someone once asked, "Which tastes better: the roots and thorns, or the melons and fruits?"
"If you are with God," replied Abu Said, "the roots and thorns are sweeter than melons, but if you are apart from God, even the sugared fruits taste bitter."


Inspired byUnder the Sufi's Cloak: Stories of Abu Said and His Mystical Teaching by Mohammad Ali Jamnia and Mojdeh Bayat



The Angel with the Golden Coins

Nasruddin had a dream. In his dream, an angel was counting golden coins into Nasruddin's hand, one at a time. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… finally the angel had counted out nine coins.
"If you could give me ten coins," Nasruddin said to the angel, "I would be able to pay all my debts."
The angel then looked at him angrily and disappeared. Nasruddin awoke from his dream, and there were no gold coins in his hand.
"Come back, angel! Please come back!" shouted Nasruddin. "I've thought it over, and I'll take the nine!"


Inspired by: This is Nasruddin Tale Type T0199.
Notes: You can read about angels in Islam at Wikipedia.



The Bald Parrot

The grocer's parrot was charming and chatty, but clumsy, and one day he knocked over a bottle of rose-oil. The enraged grocer smacked him on the head, and so the parrot became bald.
The parrot ceased to speak, and the grocer regretted his rash action. He pleaded, but the parrot was silent. He offered him treats, but the parrot said nothing.
Then a dervish came into the shop, his head shaved in pious fashion. The parrot immediately squawked, "Hey there, you! Baldy! Did you also knock over a bottle of rose-oil?"
Thus the parrot began speaking again, and everyone laughed.


Inspired by: The English prose version of Rumi in Tales from the Masnavi by A. J. Arberry, 3.
Notes: The moral of the story in Rumi: "Do not judge holy men's action by your own standard."

You can see this story illustrated by Daniel Dyer on the cover of Debra Katz's Sufi Tales:




Nasruddin and the Gallows

"No more lies!" shouted the king. "From now on, everyone will tell the truth."
The king then built a gallows by the palace gate. "Only those who tell the truth shall enter!"
Nasruddin arrived at the gate.
"Where are you going?" asked the king.
"I'm going to be hanged!"
"That's a lie!" protested the king.
"Correct!" said Nasruddin, "I was on my way to the barber. So hang me!"
Then he grinned. "But you can't hang me, can you? Because then I'd be telling the truth."
Thus Nasruddin persuaded the king to abandon his plan and take down the gallows.


Inspired by: This is Nasruddin Tale Type T0017.
Notes: This is in the genre "liar" paradoxes, like the famous Cretan liars; more at Wikipedia: Epimenides paradox.



The Prisoner and the Prayer Rug

An honest man had been wrongly imprisoned. His wife sent him a prayer rug that she had woven herself with an intricate pattern.
Kneeling upon the rug, the man prayed. Days and months passed, and as he prayed and gazed upon the rug, he finally realized the pattern was a map of the prison.
Committing the map to memory, the man escaped, leaving the rug behind for any other prisoners who could read the signs.
When he emerged from the prison, he found his wife there waiting, sure that someday he would emerge from the darkness back into the light.


Inspired byThe Little Book of Sufi Parables by Nico Neruda
Notes: The story in the book is more elaborate where the man is a locksmith and what is woven into the rug is the pattern of a lock, and with the help of the guards he gets the metal he needs to make a key so that he and the guards can escape. I simplified the story here.


The Lost Key

Nasruddin was walking around his yard, peering down at the ground.
Nasruddin's wife noticed what he was doing and asked, "What are you looking for?"
"I dropped my key," said Nasruddin.
"I'll help you look," she said. Some time passed, and the wife was ready to give up. "Do you have any idea just where exactly you might have dropped it?"
"I dropped it somewhere in the basement," Nasruddin replied, not looking up.
"Then why are you looking for it out here?" she exclaimed.
"It's dark in the basement," Nasruddin said. "There's more light out here."


Inspired by: This is Nasruddin Tale Type T0019.
Notes: In some versions Nsaruddin has lost a ring or other small object, and his interlocutor is sometimes his neighbor, etc. This is one of the Sufi teaching stories that Idries Shah singles out for special consideration in his book The Sufis, which contains a long chapter about the use of Nasruddin stories for teaching purposes. Shah's book is available online here: Idries Shah Foundation.




Nasruddin's New Neighbor

When Nasruddin went to greet his new neighbor, the old man snarled and slammed the door in his face.
After enduring the man's rude behavior for several weeks, Nasruddin despaired. "Oh God," he prayed, "please take this man's life."
That night, God came to Nasruddin in a dream. "This man has been your neighbor only a few weeks, but he has been my neighbor for sixty years. If I can abide with him, you can too."
When he awoke, Nasruddin remembered God's words. "I shall let the man be as he is," Nasruddin decided. "For who am I after all?"


Inspired byThe Little Book of Sufi Parables by Nico Neruda
Notes: In the book, this story is told about the Sufi saint Junaid, but I decided to tell it about Nasruddin.