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Nasrudin the Mullah - A Dinner of Smells

Nasrudin the Mullah (or teacher) is a well-known and much-loved
folk hero throughout the Muslim world. Sometimes he seems foolish, but
really he is wise. Stories like this one are told from China to Africa, and

Once, long ago, a very fine and expensive restaurant stood
on a busy street in a bustling market town.
One day, a poor man passed by this restaurant. He was
tired and hungry, for he had had nothing to eat all day. His
nostrils caught the smell of the delicious food being cooked
inside. He stopped and sniffed, smiled sadly, and began to
walk away.

But he did not get far. The owner of the restaurant came
storming out into the street.
"Come here!" he bellowed. "I saw that! You took the smell
of my food, and you'll have to pay for it!"
The poor man did not know what to do.
"I cannot pay!" he stammered. "I have no money!"
"No money!" shouted the restaurant owner. "We'll see
about that! You're coming with me to the Qadi!
A Qadi is a judge in a Muslim court. Naturally, he is very
powerful, and the poor man was frightened.
"Hmm," said the Qadi, when he had heard the story.
"Well, this is an unusual case. Let me think. Come back
tomorrow, and I'll pronounce the sentence."
What could the poor man do? He knew whatever sum
the Qadi demanded, payment would be impossible.

All night long he tossed and turned, unable to sleep for
worry. When dawn came he said his prayers and, tired and
dejected, made his way to the Qadi's court.
As he passed the mosque he spotted a familiar figure --
Nasrudin the mullah. Suddenly, his heart lifted. For he knew
that Nasrudin was a clever man, who was sure to be able to
think of a way around the problem. He poured out his story,
and Nasrudin agreed to come to the court and speak for him.
The rich restaurant owner was already at the court,
chatting with the Qadi. The poor man saw that they were
friends, and feared the judgment would go against him.

He was right. The Qadi began heaping insults upon the
poor man as soon as he saw him, and ordered him to pay a
very large sum of money.

At once, Nasrudin stepped forward.
"My lord," he said to the Qadi. "This man is my brother.
Allow me to pay in his place."

Then the mullah took a small bag of coins from his belt an
held it next to the rich man's ear. He shook the bag, so that
the coins jingled.

"Can you hear that?" asked Nasrudin.
"Of course," the man replied, impatiently.

"Well, that is your payment," said the mullah. "My brother
has smelled your food, and you have heard his money. The
debt is paid."
And, in the face of such argument, the case was settled and
the poor man went free.

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