Two Questions

It came to be that I was a mulla. This was when I was much younger. Now a mulla is an interesting job. A mulla is a teacher, a preacher, and a judge. I studied the Q’uran, and became quite familiar with the Sharia, the traditional Islamic laws, and began my time as a mulla in a little village in a far corner of the country.

Now a mulla is considered a wise man, and for some reason, the villagers considered me one. They would ask me questions concerning aspects of their lives in which I was not expert at all.

“Oh, Mulla Nasruddin, please tell me what I should do about my daughter!”

“I’m sorry, sister, but you must work that out for yourself. I don’t have a daughter, so I cannot tell you anything useful.”

“Mulla Nasruddin! My business is in terrible trouble! What should I do?”

“Brother,you see I don’t have a business, so I cannot tell you anything useful.”

“But you are such a wise man, Mulla Nasruddin! Please help me, please!”

“All right, here’s what you should do…”

“Yes? Yes?” the man asked eagerly.

“Pray to Allah for wisdom.”

He was not so happy with this answer. I think he had already tried that and found that Allah no matter how much wisdom Allah provided, he would not be able to do much with it himself.

Finally the situation got completely out of hand. People began to pester me with questions night and day. I was sleeping in the starlight on my roof, and a pebble hit me on the forehead. On reflection, it was more of a stone than a pebble. I feared it might have done permanent damage. I looked over the edge, and there in the street was a man looking up. “Mulla Nasruddin, are you asleep?”

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“I find it hard to sleep when stones are falling from Heaven,” I said.

“It was only a little pebble, Mulla, besides, I have a question.”

“Brother, it is the middle of the night!”

“My question is very important, or I would not have disturbed you. Please come down and we can discuss it.”

“Just give me the gist of it, and I’ll ponder it on my way down.”

“I need to know, Mulla Nasruddin, should I tell a prospective buyer that my donkey is sick?”

“I don’t need to come down for that one. Of course you should! Honesty is required of you. And as it is also required of me, I tell you honestly that question could have waited till morning; go home!”

So it was, day and night, I couldn’t even brush my teeth without being interrupted with questions. I brandished my miswak, my tooth-brushing twig, but somehow no one was frightened.

Finally I hit upon a solution. Beside my door I put a sign that said in large letters, “Two questions for $100.”

Peace at last! Days went by with no questions; it was lovely. But finally a rich man came to my door with a bag of gold hanging from his belt.

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“Nasruddin!” he called out. I came to the door. “May I help you?”

“You are fortunate today,” he said. “I have plenty of money.”

“You are the fortunate one,”I replied.

“I can afford your two questions,” he said, and raised one eyebrow. I have always wished I could do that.

“So we are both fortunate,” I said .

“Indeed,” the man said. “But, don’t you think one hundred dollars is a little expensive for just two questions?”

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“Yes it is,” I replied. “And what is your second question?”

It turns out the man had a second question. He explained to me in great detail, his problem. H was very fond of roses, and had planted them all around his house, but they never grew. All that ever grew were dandelions.

“Hmm,” I said, “I myself am fond of dandelions, but as you can see, they do not grow here.”

“Why is that, do you think?” asked the man.

“Probably because I never planted any.” I replied. “But to return to your problem, let me restate it. You love roses, but you only grow dandelions. If you love roses so much, why not plant them?”

“No, no , you misunderstand! I plant roses, but only dandelions grow!”

“Ah,” I replied. “Your conundrum is clear. I have heard a solution for this, which involves three hot peppers and the dung of a camel of advanced age.”

“I already tried that one,” he said.

“There is another remedy I have heard for growing roses, but it involves moving to Persia and growing them on the banks of the river Tigris.”

“That would be very inconvenient,” said the man.

“And expensive,” I said, “though you could probably afford it.”

“No,” he said, “I don’t believe that’s a good solution. Do you know any others?” He looked at me hopefully.

I pondered, and pondered, and pondered. He waited patiently. Finally, I had the solution.

“I have a solution!” I said, “But you won’t like it.”

“Oh, I will, Nasruddin, I will! Please tell me.”

“No, I know you will not like it. I don’t think I should suggest it.”

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“Please, O Great and Wise Nasruddin, please tell me.”

“Well, when you put it that way…no, I can’t. I know you won’t like it.”

“Enough, already, Nasruddin, what is the solution?”

I took a deep breath.

“You must learn to love dandelions.”

– – – – – – –

Do you think he liked that solution? You are right, he did not…at first. But a year afterward, he came to visit again, to invite me to see that year’s splendid crop of dandelions.

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