The Mullah Nasir al-Din was a satirical Sufi figure who lived during the Middle Ages in Greater Khorassan. He is remembered for his jokes and humorous anecdotes and the way in which his messages were conveyed in unconventional yet effective methods with a profound simplicity. His stories today are told across a wide variety of regions and have been translated into many languages.
The emaciated horse in this miniature bears much similarity to three illustrated in Mark Zebrowski, Deccani Painting, London, 1983, nos. 104-106, p. 136-137. Several origins have been proposed for the theme of the starving horse. One suggestion is that they have been derived from European engravings depicting Death (Martin, F.R., The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia, India and Turkey, London, 1912, p. 93). Another is that they symbolise the baser instincts within man which the mystic must 'starve' to attain enlightenment (Schimmel, A., Mystical dimensions of Islam, North Carolina, 1975, pp. 112-13).