Arabian and Panamanian Tales
  Joha
 


Joha is a legendary figure who lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century). Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim the Nasreddin as their own. His name also is spelled differently in various cultures. In the Arabian Peninsula and he is called Juha, in Algeria, Jeha, in Morocco, Jh, and he is called Jawha in Sudan. Much of Joha's actions can be described as illogical yet logical, rational yet irrational, bizarre yet normal, foolish yet sharp, and simple yet profound. What adds even further to his uniqueness is the way he gets across his messages in unconventional yet very effective methods in a profound simplicity.
Today, Joha stories are told in a wide variety of regions, and have been translated into many languages. Some regions independently developed a character similar to Joha, and the stories have become part of a larger whole. In many regions, Joha is a major part of the culture, and is quoted or alluded to frequently in daily life. Since there are thousands of different Joha stories, one can be found to fit almost any occasion. 
 Joha stories are known throughout the Middle East and have touched cultures around the world. Superficially, most of Joha stories may be told as jokes or humorous anecdotes. But it is inherent in a Joha story that it may be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral — and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.
One Friday Joha mounted the minbar, a pulpit in the mosque where the Imam stands to deliver sermons, and addressed the congregation. "O Believers," asked Joha, "do you know what I am about to say?" "No, we don't," chorused the congregation. Joha paused dramatically, then said: "If you don't know what I'm going to say, then what's the use of my talking?" And he descended from the minbar. The congregation looked at one another in confusion. A week went by, and when Friday came, Joha once more climbed the steps of the minbar and addressed the congregation. "O Believers, do you know what I am about to say?" This time the congregation was not going to be caught napping. "Yes," they all answered. "We know what you are about to say." Joha again paused dramatically. Then he said, "Since you all know what I'm about to say, there's no need for me to say it." And he descended from the minbar. The congregation was bewildered. Finally, they decided that next Friday, one half of them would answer "no" to the shaikh's question, and the other half would answer "yes." A week went by, and when Friday came, the faithful hurried to the mosque. Joha mounted the minbar. "O Believers," he said, "do you know what I am about to say?" "No!" shouted half the congregation. "Yes!" shouted the other half. Joha paused dramatically. Then he said, "Very good. Those of you who know tell those who don't." And he descended from the minbar.
 
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