The Ecphorizer

More From Mullah Nasruddin
Cheryl Leff

Issue #27 (November 1983)

Beautifying the Earth

One day, as Mullah Nasruddin sat working in his study, his downstairs neighbor's wife came to call, to consult him on a point of Islamic law with respect to the proper mode of dress for women. Now, this neighbor's

...contemplation of the daughter sunbathing in the garden below.

wife was a very vain and foolish woman, who followed slavishly the dictates of every shifting whim of fashion. Her husband had become quite well-to-do just within the last few years, and the wife enjoyed spending his money on all the latest and most expensive Western clothes. This, however, was a terrible waste of money, as she was also irretrievably ugly.

[quoteright]"Can you tell me, please," she asked Nasruddin, "what is the proper way for a modern Moslem woman to dress? These past few years, I have been trying very hard to be liberated and modern, as I heard that that was the thing to be. So I stopped wearing the chador (Moslem veil), and put on Western dress. Now, however, the times are changing. Revolution is in the air, and I am told that Moslem women should resume the chador, as a sign of protest, and out of respect to their faith. Of course I want to be a good Moslem," she hastened to assure him, "but I also have my husband's status to maintain -- how can I show that he is a man of consequence who can afford to buy me a mink stole, if I must hide it under a veil? Please advise me -- what should I do?"

Assuming an expression of great piety, the Mullah assured her that, as a good Moslem, the only proper thing for her to do was to resume the veil. After all, he asked her solemnly, wasn't any sacrifice worth it for her Faith -- even the sacrifice of a mink stole?

"Yes, of course," agreed the lady reluctantly. She then asked him at what times she should wear the chador, and what was the prescribed manner of wearing it.

He assured her that if she were really devout, she should wear her chador at all times, indoors and out; and showed her the proper manner of wearing it: draped over the head, wrapped around the front of the body, pulled securely over the face, and firmly gripped between the teeth, with only the eyes showing.

With her chador thus draped about her, the woman mumbled her reluctant thanks through the folds of fabric obediently clutched in her teeth.

Later that day, the woman's daughter came to call on Mullah Nasruddin, to consult him on the same question. Now this daughter was as beautiful as her mother was ugly, and many of the Mullah's hours of study had been much enlivened by contemplation of the daughter sunbathing in the garden below. So when she, like her mother, asked him whether she should resume wearing the chador, he was forced to advise her, reluctantly, that she should. She then asked him when and where she should wear it, and what was the prescribed manner of wear.

The Mullah hastened to assure her that she need wear it only when she went out into the street, but that, within the confines of her own home -- and garden -- she need not wear the chador. He then demonstrated for her the way she should wear it: wrapped about under the arms, with one end loosely draped up over the head. She thanked him and went on her way.

Later that evening, the Mullah's neighbor, the husband and father of the two ladies, came to call.

"Mullah Nasruddin!" he said. "I understand that you told my wife that she should wear her chador at all times, even in the house, covering all her face and body, and held in her teeth!"

"That is correct," said the Mullah.

"And yet, I am told that you advised my daughter that she need wear hers only in the street, held under the arms and draped only loosely over the head!"

"That is also correct," replied the Mullah.

"But how can both be correct?" queried the neighbor. "Surely this is inconsistent! Surely there can be but one correct way!"

"Surely not!" replied the Mullah. "For True Faith must contain guidance for all men -- and all women -- and all of them are different. So, what is correct must vary for each of them. Besides, the principle is the same."

"And what is that?" asked the neighbor.

"Beautify the Earth to glorify God!" replied the Mullah.

Keeping Away Politicians

One day, when Mullah Nasruddin's neighbor came over to visit him, he complained of a terrible smell around the house.

"Mullah," he said, "it smells terrible around here -- like dead fish."

"It is dead fish," said the Mullah, holding one up. "I have put them all around the house."

"Whatever for?" asked his neighbor, dumbfounded.

"To keep away the politicians!" said the Mullah.

"But Mullah," said the neighbor, "there are no politicians around here."

"Effective, isn't it?" said the Mullah. 

Cheryl Leff laid on us another pearl from that Sage of Shiraz, Mullah Nasruddin.  We are beginning to understand why "Iran" is no longer a nice word in certain quarters.

More Articles by Cheryl Leff

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