Bektashi humour – repost from ten years ago

Originally posted by at Bektashi humour

In memory of the late Baba Tahir Emini, I’ve been reading up on his sect, the Bektashi. I was aware, from my conversations with him and with others, that they are of a mystical Sufist tradition, preach tolerance, love, and peace, and consider some of the traditions of orthodox Islam regarding the role of women and the use of alcohol to be distractions from the truth. I was unaware that they are also associated with a particular sense of humour, and that there are a whole set of Bektashi jokes told by the faithful about themselves. Some of them don’t translate awfully well, but one of them I feel sure I’ve heard in an Irish version:

One day the Sunni friends of a Bektashi dervish insisted that he go to the mosque to pray the Friday prayer. As he took his seat in the congregation the hodja spotted him. Wanting to embarrass the dervish, the hodja began to lecture on the evils of alcohol. He began describing in detail all of the natural and religious reasons why drinking any alcohol at all is bad. To prove a point that even animals won’t drink liquor the hodja asks “If you put a bucket of water and a bucket of raki in front of a donkey, which will it drink?”

Someone in the crowd answered, “The water of course.”

“Why so?” enquired the hodja.

Unable to hold himself, the Bektashi exclaimed “Why so? Because it’s a donkey!”

There are other jokes that I think could not be told in any other context than an Islamic one:

A Bektashi was in a mosque one day listening to the hodja give a sermon. He was half asleep when the hodja began talking about the pure virgins that awaited the faithful in heaven.

When he heard the word heaven, the Bektashi came to himself and asked the hodja excitedly, “Hodja efendi will wine and raki be served to the faithful in heaven?”

The hodja became furious and shouted back, “You pagan, what do you think heaven is… a tavern?!”

The Bektashi replied likewise, “Hah! What do you think heaven is… a whorehouse?!”

But I am particularly intrigued by the jokes with a certain universailty, but which also presuppose a very close connection between the Bektashi mystic and God, to the point that certain things are expected as of right from the relationship:

One day, the weather grew very hot. Burdened with thirst, a Bektashi dervish decided to buy a watermelon with some change he took out of his pocket. With watermelon in hand, he found a beautiful shade tree to sit under where he proceeded to slice up his watermelon with great appetite. However, after putting the first piece into his mouth, he found it so sour that it was difficult to eat. He began shouting complaints to the Creator, “Alas my God! Are you so stingy that you can’t even put a little sugar in this watermelon. You always bestow favors on Your servants, but never with what is really needed!” Thus swearing, he finished off the watermelon in spite of its tartness and threw the rinds to the side.

After a while he saw a poor waif, half dead with hunger and thirst, approaching. Not wishing to be bothered, the Bektashi sat still and pretended to be asleep. The poor man came close, saw the watermelon rinds and began to eat them. Discreetly, the Bektashi observed the poor man out of the corner of his eye. He saw with astonishment how each time the poor man took a bite of rind he exclaimed, “My God, many thanks to You! You nourish me in spite of everything with this watermelon rind. You have ensured my subsistence!”

Hearing this, the Bektashi became furious and rose up. He shouted, “Enough of this! I ate the inside of that melon even though it was bitter and torturous and believe me, I let Allah know it. But you! You eat the foul-tasting rind and you thank Him for it? It’s this kind of cheap flattery that encourages Him to keep making poor quality watermelon!”

Anyway, my research will continue.