Nasreddin (Turkish "Nasreddin Hoca", Persian ملا نصرالدین, Arabic: جحا transl.: Joĥa ,نصرالدين meaning "Victory of the Faith", Kurdish: مهلای مهشهوور transl.: Malai Mash-hoor, Albanian "Nostradin Hoxha" or just "Nostradini", Azeri"Molla Nəsrəddin" Bosnian "Nasrudin hodža", Uzbek "Nasriddin Afandi" or just "Afandi", Қожанасыр "Khozhanasir", Uyghur "Afanti" ) is a legendary satirical sufi figure who lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century), in Akşehir, and later in Konya, under the Seljuq rule. Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim the Nasreddin as their own (i.e. 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" (see section "Name variants"). Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes.
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.
1996-1997 was declared International Nasreddin Year by UNESCO.
The "International Nasreddin Hodja Festival" is held annually in Akşehir between July 5-10.
As generations went by, new stories were added, others were modified, and the character and his tales spread to other regions. The themes in the tales have become part of the folklore of a number of nations and express the national imaginations of a variety of cultures. Although most of them depict Nasreddin in an early small-village setting, the tales (like Aesop's fables) deal with concepts that have a certain timelessness. They purvey a pithy folk wisdom that triumphs over all trials and tribulations.
Today, Nasreddin stories are told in a wide variety of regions, 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. Nasreddin often appears as a whimsical character of a large Albanian, Arab, Armenian, Azeri, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Romanian, Serbian, Turkish and Urdu folk tradition of vignettes, not entirely different from zen koans. He is also very popular in Greece for his wisdom and his judgment; he is also known in Bulgaria, although in a different role, see below.
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 and retold endlessly in the teahouses and caravanserais of Asia and can be heard 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.
The anecdotes attributed to him reveal a satirical personality with a biting tongue that he was not afraid to use even against the most tyrannical rulers of his time. He is the symbol of Middle-Eastern satirical comedy and the rebellious feelings of people against the dynasties that once ruled this part of the world.
Some mystic traditions use jokes, stories and poetry to express certain ideas, allowing the bypassing of the normal discriminative thought patterns. The rationality that confines and objectifies the thinking process is the opposite to the intuitive, gestalt mentality that the mystic is attempting to engage, enter and retain.
By developing a series of impacts that reinforce certain key ideas, the rational mind is occupied with a surface meaning whilst other concepts are introduced. Thus paradox, unexpectedness, and alternatives to convention are all expressed. Although there are several books that attempt to put together the many jokes attributed to him, most people encounter his jokes in the context of their daily lives. Often, a Nasreddin joke is told by one party when the other party makes the kind of mistake that Nasreddin had parodied.
Some tales of Nasreddin are also adapted and used as teaching stories by followers of Sufism. This is such a common practice that, given the nature of many of Nasreddin's jokes, multiple interpretations (or several 'layers' of meaning) are to be expected. Idries Shah, a well-known Sufi and writer, published a number of collections of Nasreddin stories (see list below), and suggested that the stories' various layers of meaning have a teaching-effect.
While Nasreddin is mostly known as a character from anecdotes, whole novels and stories have later been written and an animated feature film was almost made.
The oldest manuscript of Nasreddin was found in 1571.
In Europe, Nasreddin can be compared with the German 14th century figure Till Eulenspiegel, published in 1510.
The Russian composer Shostakovich celebrates 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.
For Uzbek people Nasriddin is theirs. In gatherings, family meetings, parties they tell each other stories about him that are called "latifa" of "afandi".
There are at least two collections of stories related to Nasriddin Afandi.
Books on him:
Even a film was produced by Uzbekistan SSR called "Nasriddin Buxoroda" ("Nasriddin in Bukhara")
His name is sometime preceded or followed by a title of wisdom used in the corresponding cultures: "Hoxha", "Khwaje", "Hodja", "Hojja","Hodscha", "Hodža", "Hoca", "Hogea", "Hodza".
In Arabic speaking countries this character is known as "Djoha", "Djuha", "Dschuha", "Giufà", "Chotzas", "Mullah", "Mulla", "Molla", "Maulana", "Efendi", "Ependi", "Hajji. In several cultures his name is just the title.
In the Swahili culture many of his stories are being told under the name of "Abunuwasi", though this confuses Nasreddin with an entirely different man - the poet Abu Nuwas, known for homoerotic verse.