Literary Reflections

Jokes from Juha, the Everyman Character

About This Resource

A many-named everyman is a mainstay of Muslim humor. Juha, Goha, Mulla Nasruddin, and Nasruddin Hoja are different names for a humorous figure featured in anecdotes in many Islamic societies. There are literally thousands of these jokes, with new ones appearing all the time. They all feature the everyman character who holds a mirror to society’s foibles and falsehoods. His stories often represent deep wisdom in the garb of irony. Just as the main character has many names, these jokes are told in many languages spoken among Muslims, including Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. The photograph shows a statue of Nasruddin Hoja riding a donkey backward.

More traditional humor from the Islamic world can be found in “The Barber of Baghdad” and other tales from The Arabian Nights, a title on the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.

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Goha Gives Thanks to Allah

Goha once lost his donkey. He couldn’t find it anywhere. As he went around the town searching for it, he kept on saying, “Thanks be to Allah! Thanks be to Allah!”

 People were surprised to find him giving thanks to Allah when he had lost his donkey. They asked him: “O Goha, why are you saying ‘Thanks be to Allah’ when you have lost your donkey? Surely that is not something to thank Allah for.”

 “I am thanking Allah,” answered Goha, “because I was not riding it, or I too would be lost.”

 Goha Gives His Son a Lesson About People

Goha had a son who was always worried about what people would think or say. The boy could never do anything because he was always afraid that people might think him foolish. Goha wanted to show his son that it was a waste of time to worry about the opinions of others. He therefore saddled his donkey and told his son that he was going to the neighboring village.

 Goha got on his donkey and asked his son to walk behind him. On the way they passed by some people who pointed at Goha and said, “Look at that heartless man who rides his donkey and makes his son walk.”

When he heard this, Goha got off the donkey and asked his son to get on, while he walked. Again they passed by some people who pointed at the boy and said, “Just look at the boy who has no manners or respect for the elderly — he rides the donkey and lets his old father walk.”

 Goha thought about this, so he decided that both he and his son should now ride the donkey. Again they passed by some people who pointed at the donkey carrying both Goha and his son. “What a cruel man that is!” they said. “He has no pity for his donkey and allows both himself and his son to ride it at the same time.”

 Again Goha gave some thought to what the people had said, so he and his son got off the back of the donkey and both walked behind it. This time, passing by some people, he heard them saying among themselves, “What a couple of fools those two are! Imagine walking when they have a donkey they could ride.”

 This time Goha was at a loss. Finally, after a lot of thought, he said to his son, “Come along, let’s carry the donkey between us.” So they lifted up the donkey and began carrying it along the road. As they were staggering along, some people saw them and burst out laughing. “Look at those two madmen,” they said, “carrying the donkey instead of riding on it!” So they put the donkey down and Goha said to his son, “You must know, my son, that whatever you do in this life, you will never please everyone.”

Source

Johnson-Davies, Denys. Goha. Cairo, Egypt: The British Council and Hoopoe Books, 1993, pp. 20; 34-37. Image: Photograph by Nevit Dilmen of Nasreddin Hodja and donkey at the Ankara Amusement Park, 2007, published under GNU Free Documentation License at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harikalar_Diyari_Nasrettin_Hoca_05981_nevit.jpg.

How to Cite This Page

"Muslim Journeys | Item #153: Jokes from Juha, the Everyman Character", January 18, 2018 http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/153.

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