Bektashi Shia-Sufi Teachings Through Liberal Humor

The telling of jokes and humorous tales is an important part of Bektashi Shia-Sufism (faith of the Ottoman Janissaries) culture and teaching. Frequently these poke fun at conventional religious views by counterpoising the Bektashi "dervish" as an iconoclastic figure. For example:

A Bektashi was praying in the mosque. While those around him were praying "May God grant me faith," he muttered "May God grant me plenty of wine." The imam heard him and asked angrily why instead of asking for faith like everyone else, he was asking God for something sinful. The Bektashi replied, "Well, everyone asks for what they don't have."

A Bektashi was a passenger in a rowing boat travelling from Eminönü to Üsküdar in Istanbul. When a storm blew up, the boatman tried to reassure him by saying "Fear not - God is great!" the Betktashi replied, "Yes, God is great, but the boat is small."

An imam was preaching about the evils of alcohol and asked "If you put a pail of water and a pail of rakı in front of a donkey, which one will he drink from?" A Bektashi in the congregation immediately answered. "The water!" "Indeed," said the imam, "and why is that?" "Because he's an ass."

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