Nasr al-Din Khoja
Nasr al-Din Khoja
Biographical Data . Nasr al-Din Khoja (Nasreddin Hoca in modern Turkish) is the best-known humorous character in Turkish-Islamic culture from the Balkans to Central Asia. Like the Arabic jester Juha, Nasr al-Din Khoja was a legendary figure whose historical existence is unprovable. He is supposed to have been active around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, perhaps in Persia.
Comic Figure . Early manuscripts of the adventures of Nasr al-Din Khoja include more than one hundred anecdotes, and by modern times around four hundred had been collected from oral and written sources. Like Juha, whom Egyptians melded with Nasr al-Din into one jokester hero, Nasr al-Din Khoja has various names, including Mulla Nasr al-Din (in Persian), Ependi or Apandi, Efendi (giving rise to the Chinese word A-fan-t’i for trickster), and Nas-tradin (in Greek, Albanian, Serbian, and Croatian). Modern scholarship has shown that tales attributed to Nasr al-Din in the later Islamic tradition may be traced back to the fund of Juha tales that can be reconstructed from early Arabic literature. As this base of tales was augmented, a distinctive character evolved, taking on the dialects, dress, and social contexts of a changing society and its ethnic and linguistic makeup. Juha/Nasr al-Din is a donkey-riding, good-natured member of the vaguely learned class, who mingles Islamic values and folk wisdom. Sometimes rural and sometimes urban, he has attributes of both the poor and the middle classes. Pious humor and sharply off-color jokes have been attached to him. He is a kind of flexible Everyman, underdog, and hero, both learned and stupid, who provides a mirror of everyday life and the concerns of ordinary people.
U. Marzolph, “Nasr al-Din Khoja,” Encyclopedia of Islam, CD-ROM version (Leiden: Brill, 1999).