The Identity of Mullah Nasser-E-Din and the Jar

 Once upon a time many of the souls in Afghanistan enjoyed the peace and joy of village life. Mullah Nasser-E-Din was a well known wise man throughout the villages, and is the central character in many tales of wisdom throughout Afghanistan, Israel and Turkey.

It is said that one day Mullah Nasser-E-Din went to the public baths. As he strolled through the bath, he thought to himself that it indeed would be lovely to dip into the waters and take off a few layers of sand and dirt. So, in he went and he washed himself from head to toe. As he emerged all clean and refreshed, he noticed that all the bathers were lying on the floor having a bit of a mid-day nap, rending the ceiling and the sky with their snores. He said to himself: “How good it would be to fall into a sweet sleep!” But he thought, what could he do so as not to be exchanged for a neighbor? What if someone stole his identity while he was sleeping. (Here we have a fabulous example of the prescience of Mullah Nasser-E-Din – he knew to worry about identity theft even then!) He took a jar, put his identity into it and fastened it to his waist, and fell asleep.

In the meantime one of the sleepers woke up and saw the jar fastened to Nasser-E-Din’s waist. He coveted the jar, took it, and fastened it to his own waist. After a short time, Nasser-E-Din arose and saw that the jar was not there. He looked around, and lo! There it was, fastened to the waist of someone else. He woke him up and said, “My friend, if I am I, where it the jar? But if you are me, who am I?”


When I first found this folk tale from Afghanistan in Josepha Sherman’s book of World Folklore, , I was completely taken with it. Then I reread it and didn’t get it at all. Then I read it again and thought about all of the ‘things’ that I have that I just wouldn’t really be me without (books came to mind first) and so then I think I got it again. Of course we don’t put our identities in a jar, but oh, do we ever tie them up in other things – possessions, relationships, work … and this little story was a nice reminder for me to just let it go, let it go, let it go …

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