TAGS:  wise fool, madness, insanity, folly, Arabic, Egypt, Muslim, licence, natural, criticism, ʿuqalāʾal‐maǧānīn, Sībawayh the Egyptian

TYPE:  primary source, book, biography, history

al‐Ḥasan b.Ibrāhīm b. Zūlāq (Ibn Zūlāq) (919‐998) was a contemporary of the historical ‘wise fool’ known as Sībawayh the Egyptian. About 20 years younger, he was an eyewitness to some of the flying barbs and critiques levelled by Sībawayh at corruption or injustice or hypocrisy or pompousness among the elite.

Therefore his short biography of Sībawayh is valuable primary source material on a historial fool in the Middle East, also including attitudes towards madness at the time – it is clear from Ibn Zūlāq that Sībawayh’s fierce excoriation of the powerful was tolerated in large part because of his insanity.

Sources: Ibn Zūlāq, Aḫbār Sībawayh alMiṣrī, Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Saʿd and Ḥusayn al‐dīb (eds) (Cairo: maktabat al‐abḥāṯ al‐ʿilmiyya li‐našr ʿulūm al‐ʿarabiyya, 1933); see also Tillier, Mathieu, ‘Un “Alceste Musulman”: Sibawayh le fou et les Ihsidides’, Bulletin d’Études Orientales, 66 (2017), pp. 117-139, which provides the background to Ibn Zūlāq’s book as well as translations from it in French.

GAP MAP:  there is a relative paucity of material available in Western languages on fools in the Middle East (and beyond); this is therefore a welcome addition.  Bring on more!

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