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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Not as well known in the Western world, though becoming more so, Mulla Nasruddin stories have kept people laughing for centuries across the wide Muslim world. The beloved figure with his down to earth, “foolish wisdom” approach to life is universally funny. In Meditate With Mulla Nasruddin Stories: Spiritualize Islam To Avoid Bloodshed, author and monk Acharya Mital combines the pithy humor of Mulla Nasruddin with thought-provoking discussions and topics of meditation about spirituality and religion in the modern world. “Laughter is not senseless after all; it can bring transformation,” he asserts. Through an Introduction and 28 chapters, with each chapter addressing a different story, Mital provides the reader with contemplative “food for thought” about the inner spiritual principles each story illustrates and how these can be applied specifically to Islam. “The basic premise outlined in the anecdotes is that spiritual Islam is pitted against the cleric’s Islam.”
My favorite story is “Muslim vs Muslim.” In it, Mulla Nasruddin has been brought before the king to answer charges from seven angry experts (in philosophy, logic, law, etc). He admits that he’s been going about the countryside telling the villagers that these so-called wise men are ignorant and confused. Nasruddin asks that each expert separately answer the simple question: “What is bread?” One says “Bread is food,” another “baked dough,” another “A gift of God,” and so forth. No answer is identical to another. Nasruddin tells the king that once these "wise" men decide what bread is, then they can talk about whether he’s right or wrong. Mital uses this story to discuss the political and religious history of Pakistan and the region, the rise of ISIS, and other forces and factors that foster conflict between the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
I enjoyed reading Meditate With Mulla Nasruddin Stories. Mital tackles a topic with sensitivity which can be controversial for some readers, but what an important topic it is. “The gap between the Muslim and non-Muslim world has never been this wide before,” he writes. “Why so much violence, and how much more?” he asks. Through these funny stories and his thoughts about their inner meanings, Mital challenges readers to find the kernels in the proverbial peaches which can help to bring Islam peacefully into the modern world. A thought-provoking and timely read.