Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thank God for Hodja! - Sufi humor for saints and sinners

Bismillah.

O son, did you know that it is Allah who make us laugh and cry?
وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَىٰ
And that it is He (Allah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep. (Quran, Surah An-Najm, 43)
So know that and thank God for Hodja (or Mullah Nasruddin Hodja, believed to be Jalaluddin Rumi's contemporary during the 13th century). Below are some of Hodja stories which make me laugh, I hope you will too. Identify yourself in the stories and acknowledge that you could be as foolish as Hodja. To my other readers, many of whom are cultured, sorry if you have already read them before, but remember this blog is for my sons (yet to be born) and for your information I am not even married yet :)

1. Once Hodja was standing by the road near his house. A car came by and stopped in front of him. The man inside the car rolled down the window and asked about directions. Hodja watched him for a while and gave directions."Thank you" said the man and left. After a while he came back to Hodja. Annoyingly he said, "What is all this? I followed all your directions properly and here I am at the same place where I began from." Hodja coolly replied, "Fine, I was just checking whether you could follow the directions. Now I will give you proper directions."
2. Mullah Nasruddin Hodja sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side: "Hey! how do I get to the other side?" "You are on the other side!" Hodja shouted back.
3. Hodja went to the market and bought a large sack full of potatoes. He put the sack on his shoulders, got on the donkey and headed for home. But on the way he met some friends who said, 'Hodja, it must be difficult for you to balance that sack with one hand and guide your donkey with the other. Why don't you tie the sack to the donkey?' 'The donkey has a big enough load to carry with me and doesn't need any extra weight, so I'm carrying the sack myself.'

Significance of Humor
Humor is another means by which the sufi tradition awakens us to the spiritual world. It is a very subtle humor that underlines the detours taken by obstinate soul on its way to its greater destiny. The seeker will take an honest look at his situation, and laugh at his shortcomings. Then, this subtle humor will bring him to consider in a somewhat lighter fashion the knotted situations brought about by his alter ego, because he understands that this alter ego is none other than himself. (From: Institut Soufi de Montreal)

Humor as a catalyst to spiritual awareness is less well understood. Sufi teachers know and use the power of spontaneity and laughter, which can be at least as vital and powerful as any formal technique. The tradition of Sufism includes endless funny stories, usually on and about ourselves. For many of us, laughing at our faults is the first step in being able to release them. One of the great bonuses in learning through humor is that even as you have a good time and doubt that you have learned anything, the lesson penetrate subtly and stay with you, to come alive when the need arises. (From 'Essential Sufism', Edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager)

"If you want special illumination, look upon a human face: see deeply, within laughter, the essence of ultimate truth..."  - Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
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