I have always believed that “stories are meant to put small children to sleep and “wake up” the adults”. As children, we enjoy these tales (fairy tales, fables, anecdotes…), that is, their mystical/fantasy/fantastic element. As we grow older, we realize that many of these stories carry significant and meaningful life lessons. And later, when we get older, we acknowledge these beautiful stories and their messages, but somehow we shrug our shoulders, thinking, “all that is nice and instructive in those stories, but reality is somewhat different.”
I think many make a big mistake here, because the messages of those stories are applicable even today, if you know where and how to apply them, and, of course, if you believe in them.
The booklet “99 Sufi Stories” consists of very instructive and interesting stories, but they are not for children. Not because they are perverse (shame on you if you thought that…and if you didn’t, then shame on me 😀), but because in the wordplay and dialogues of these stories lie deeper thoughts, which often require considerable reflection. So, if you happen to read a story, for example, to your child (or niece or nephew or whoever too young) and he/she says they understood the point of the story, then that child doesn’t need to be sent to primary or secondary school, but can go straight to university, where they will finish undergraduate studies in three years, and doctoral studies in less than a year, and then they will give you lessons on the essence of life, even though you might already have some gray hairs in your beard/hair.
To understand why I wrote something so nonsensical, let’s (try) briefly explain Sufism… which is as simple as if I had to explain to you the concept of Christianity, God, string theory, whether the chicken or the egg came first, what really lies in “Area 51”, why it’s perfectly logical that Keanu Reeves is immortal, or why Serbia is the only country in the world where the dead resurrect both during All Souls’ Day and during elections. In short: the answer will never be accurate, often will not make sense, I will inadvertently offend half of the internet, the CIA will start eavesdropping on me, and there’s a good chance someone will curse me. 😀
In short, Sufism can be interpreted as “Islamic mysticism”. It is, so to speak, a “path” or way of life aimed at unity with God. Those who “practice” this “path” are called Sufis (and some say Sufists) and they are turned to the mystical aspect of religion and wisdom, where it is believed that wisdom is not only acquired from ancient books and scriptures, but also from very learned and spiritual people. And Sufism is not a sect, but simply an aspect of Islam. Many probably don’t know that terms like “dervish” and “fakir” originate from Sufism.
To simplify all this, just as you have Zen, their teachers, and stories and anecdotes, here you have Sufism, Sufis, dervishes, and their stories and anecdotes (“Before you stone him, keep in mind he just tried to simplify. I’m the first to dislike defending him and constantly criticize him, but well, he doesn’t know everything… actually, he knows nothing, but that’s not the topic now” – note from the subconscious).
What many will find interesting and charming is that many of these stories feature the famous Sufi Nasreddin Hodja, a popular jester-philosopher-clumsy, who often appears foolish, but more often “puts” others in their (right) place with his witty and, at first glance, illogical responses. Of course, the stars of the stories are other wise men and famous personalities of that period, such as Ibrahim ibn Adham (who in many ways resembles Buddha in his lifestyle), but there are also stories related to Jesus and Moses.
The stories are short (one to two pages), cute, interesting, and witty. They are very instructive, and you will ponder over many of them, often not so much because of their depth, but because of the simplicity hidden in the answers. And some of them may even sober you up about some things and “put” you in the right place. 🙂 These stories touch upon lessons about pride, arrogance, false modesty, faith, unrealistic expectations, “philosophizing” (in the sense of blathering), “beating around the bush”, how it’s not wise to mock others, and similar topics… in short, there’s something for everyone.
A part of the booklet is dedicated to the prophet Muhammad, through stories and narrations of people of that time who had the chance to meet him and hear his wise thoughts or be actors in his anecdotes.
The last part of the booklet is dedicated to how Sufis perceive Sufism, through their answers to questions posed by students or (also) some anecdotes.
All in all, this is one of those booklets that are quickly read but long and slowly thought about. As in many Zen stories and folk wisdom from our (Balkan) region, you will discover many wisdoms, some of which you might be able to apply immediately to your life. Again, these are not classic religious stories/sermons, but typical humorous anecdotes (this sentence is more for those who might have some fear from a religious aspect. Don’t worry, there’s no reason to be afraid 🙂).
And you, dear reader, do you remember the adventures of Nasreddin Hodja? 🙂
(Originally reviewed: 02/02/2020)
Price of the book in Serbia: Makart | Delfi | Dereta | Laguna
Ratings (and purchasing) on international sites: Goodreads | Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK) | Waterstones | Barnes & Noble | Audible (US) / Audible (UK)