As the congregation settled down, all eyes turned to face the Hodja.
He looked at his people and said, ''True believers! I ask you, tell me please if what I am about to say to you, you know already.''
The congregation was silent, for they were not certain they had understood the Hodja's question. At last they stood and answered, altogether, ''We do not know what you are about to say to us. It is impossible for us to know.''
The Hodja sighed. ''Ahh, then, what is the use? What use would it be for me to speak of a subject unknown to you and unknown to me?'' And with these words, the Hodja descended from the pulpit and walked out of the mosque.
The congregation sat for a long while, thinking over the Hodja's words of wisdom. They offered their prayers and then rose and returned to their homes. The whole week long, they spoke of little else but the Hodja's words.
The next week, the congregation was larger than it had been the week before. Everyone wanted to hear what the Hodja had to say, for word had spread of his wisdom. Again the Hodja watched his congregants enter the mosque. He could see the anticipation in their faces and in the way they walked quickly to their places.
The mosque was nearly full. The congregation looked up at the pulpit and the Hodja began. ''True believers, tell me, and tell me truly, if what I am about to say to you, you already know.''
This time the congregation was ready for the Hodja's question. They wished with all their hearts to hear the Hodja's words, and so, without hesitation, they rose and called out as one, ''Yes, Hodja, we know what you are going to say to us.''
The Hodja sighed deeply. He raised his head high. ''Then there is no use in my wasting precious hours in speaking to you. There is, you will agree, true believers, no sense in telling you that which you know already.''
Once again the Hodja descended from the pulpit and walked out of the mosque. The congregants offered their prayers and looked around at one another. Every congregant had questions in his heart and on his lips. Still, all remained silent for a long time. At last they rose and returned to their homes.
The whole week long people spoke of little but the Hodja's words.
The following week, the Hodja stood again in his place. This time the mosque was overflowing. The air inside was thick and hot with anticipation.
''Oh, true believers,'' the Hodja began, ''I ask you to tell me, and tell me truly, if what I am about to say, you already know.''
Everyone in the congregation had rehearsed for this moment. When the Hodja stopped speaking, half the people rose. ''Yes, Hodja,'' they called, ''we know what you are going to say to us.'' And then they sat and the other half of the people stood and said, ''Hodja, how could we ignorant people know what you would say to us? It is you who are wise.''
The Hodja looked solemnly out at the people. He looked at the first group -- the people who knew what he was going to say. He sighed. He looked at the second group -- the people who had called themselves ignorant. He sighed more deeply still.
''A fine answer, my people,'' the Hodja said softly. ''And now I know precisely how to help each and every one of you. Listen closely, true believers.''
Everyone leaned forward.
''The half of the congregation who knows what I am going to say will now tell the other half exactly what that is. For this you have my blessing.''
With that the Hodja nodded solemnly and descended the pulpit. Slowly he made his way out of the mosque.
Afterward the people spoke of the great Hodja's wisdom. The people who said they knew nothing sought the knowledge of those who said they knew everything. There was no need for anyone to trouble the Hodja. And that was ''hak,'' as the people said, or, in our language, that was truly just.