Nasruddin Khodja, known also as Mulla Nasruddin or simply Nasruddin, is the starring character in a vast number of amusing tales told in regions all over the world, particularly in countries in or near the Middle East. Each tale depicts Nasruddin in a different situation, and through his viewpoint they humorously reveal commentary and lessons on various life themes. The great allure of the Mulla Nasruddin tales is that they are funny as well as lesson filled, philosophical, and thought provoking.
According to different sources, Nasruddin Khodja was a philosopher, wise, witty man with a good sense of humour. His stories have been told almost everywhere in the world, spread amongst the tribes of the Turkish World and into Persia, Arabia, Africa, and along the Silk Road to China and India, later also to Europe. Of course, all these stories currently attributed to the Khodja for about 700 years haven't originated from him. Most of them are the product of collective humour of not only Turks but also other people of Islamic and Asian cultures. Nasruddin is known to us under different names in the world. The main variants are: Turks say "Nasreddin Hoca", for Kazakhs he is "Koja Nasreddin"; Greeks call him "Hoja Nasreddin", whilst Azerbaijanis, Afghans and Iranians refer to him as "Molla or Mulla Nasrudin;" in the folklore of Arab peoples in the Middle East and North Africa, he is "Juha". Some spellings of the Arabic form of his first name Nasr al-Din are: Nasreddin, Nasruddin, or Nasr ed-din. The year 1996 was proclaimed "Nasreddin Hoca Year" by UNESCO. He is, now in 2007, 799 years old.
Nasruddin was the label of the most popular character of humour prose narratives in the whole area of Turkish-Islamic influence, ranging from the Balkan area to the Turkish-speaking peoples of Central Asia and in other areas of the Islamic world. He is a renowned personality whose historical existence is still problematical, as the various theories regarding his biography did not succeed to build certain facts. From the 16th century onwards, this personality served increasingly as a point of crystallization for an otherwise formless, popular tradition of aphorisms, epigrams, jokes, jests, and anecdotes of different origins.
Stories credited to Nasruddin Khodja can be found in manuscripts from as early as the 15th century. The earliest story occured in Ebu'l-Khayr-i Rûmî's Saltuk-nâme (1480). According to anecdotes in this book, Nasruddin was a dervish of Seyyid Mahmud Hayrani in Aksehir, in the northwest of modern Turkey. Other anecdotes about him in the Turkish language are quoted in Lami Celebi's (d. 1531) story book Letâ'if. However, there is no exact agreement among chroniclers as to the real identity of Nasruddin Khodja. While Lami Celebi mentions Nasruddin as a contemporary of Sheyyad Hamza (14th century), the decisive influence for subsequent popular tradition, and notably, later European learned discussions, derives from Evliya Celebi, who visited Nasruddin's alleged tomb in Aksehir in the 17th century and quotes an anecdote in which Nasruddin is depicted together with the Mongol ruler Timur-leng, who died later (d. 1405).
In later centuries, Hüseyin Efendi (d. 1880), the Mufti of Sivrihisar, writes in Mecmua-i Maarif that Nasruddin was born in 1208 in the village of Hortu (today Nasreddin Hoca Köyü) in the region of Sivrihisar and died in 1284 in Aksehir, the town to which he had immigrated. According to this source, he was educated respectively in Sivrihisar and Konya schools. He learned fiqh (jurisprudence) and met Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rûmî (1207-1273) in Konya and learned Sufism from him. He followed Seyyid Mahmud Hayrani as his Sheikh. By doing so, he went to Aksehir and married there. He became an imam and, later, a judge there. In this city, his high sense of humour and smart comments, decisions and anecdotes made him a notable and sought after member of the society.
There are two different deed of trustee documents (waqf-nâme) mentioning Nasruddin's existence in the middle of the 13th century in Konya. One of them belongs to Seyyid Mahmud Hayrani in 1257, while the other one pertains to Hajj Ibrahim Sultan in 1266-67.
Nevertheless, there are limited established facts about Nasruddin Khodja's life. It is certain that he lived in Anatolia in the second half of the 13th century. An acceptable fact also is that he was born in Hortu, a village in Sivrihisar in the region of Aksehir in the late 13th century, and then settled in Aksehir city, and later in Konya. His tomb is in the city of Aksehir, near Konya. His grave has an iron door with a huge padlock on it. But if one intends to pay him a visit, there is no need to feel dispirited by the locked door. There are no walls around the grave !!